Tesla, GAF, RGS and now Hanergy: will solar roofs (finally) heat up this year?


Hanergy – maker of beautiful things – showed off its refined CIGS Thin-Film Flat SOLARtile 18.7% efficient product at the CSR Monier Roofing HQ in Rosehill, Sydney, Australia last week. This was coupled with an announcement this morning by the company that it is readying launch of the product in Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, Japan and the United States. Hanergy is currently partnering with the building materials company, CSR Group, to launch the product – found on an Australian partner website here.

Hanergy says the thin film flat SOLARtile might be a better technical fit for the U.S. marketplace with its flat, square, shape meeting local housing standards easier and matching up with the 5 million unit a year asphalt shingle roofing market. The tile uses the “cross bond” structure, where the tile-to-tile interlock is put in the middle of next row’s tile, ensuring waterproofing.

The U.S. residential solar roof market can now anticipate RGS Energy, Tesla, GAF Energy, Sunflare, Certainteed and a bunch of other small shops. And to keep people busy – a helping of Midsummer who just announced a metal solar roof thin film product for the U.S. market.

And with all huff and puff, what we’ve got so far is RGS Energy seeking “alternative strategies“, Tesla’s Buffalo Gigafactory putting out just a few tens of solar roofs as they refine their product, and now Hanergy whose curved solar tile has been in U.S. solar conferences – but not U.S. rooftops – for many years.

First off is the 120 GW/year gorilla in the room – the global polysilicon+wafer+cell+module assembly+distribution+finance+installation supply chain. With solar cell efficiencies still increasing, and the learning curve still aggressively pushing on solar module pricing, there is going to be no let up from the factories of LONGi, Jinko, Hanwha, LG and so many other manufacturers.

It is without doubt that the roofing material industry is bringing some clout as GAF Energy is owned by GAF – North America’s largest roofing company, while Standard Industries (the parent company of both GAF and GAF Energy) is the world’s largest. However, GAF Energy’s “solar roof” product is actually a standard 60 cell solar module with some really nice hardware refinements. And while Hanergy is quite a large company, it has some complex financial challenges to wade through before it can truly challenge the 60 and 72 cell solar module industry.

And reality is, even if these products are a smashing success in their own respects, it will still be a decade before they can take serious marketshare.

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