The world’s largest roofing company just launched a new solar startup – Fast Company

The world’s largest roofing company just launched a new solar startup – Fast Company

Adele Peters

January 15, 2019

If you own a house and replace your roof, there’s a good chance that your contractor may now ask if you want to include solar power–whether you live in Arizona or, say, North Dakota, where solar has been slower to grow.

Standard Industries, the largest roofing company in the world just launched a new startup called GAF Energy that aims to drive adoption of rooftop solar. By targeting roofing customers of Standard Industries U.S. subsidiary GAF, the company believes that it can move faster than other solar installation companies.

“The scale of the roofing industry is an order of magnitude greater than the solar industry,” says Martin DeBono, president of GAF Energy. “GAF Energy can now give those customers a simple option: a roof or a solar roof.”

Customer acquisition is a challenge for other solar installers: Around 5 million homes are re-roofed in the U.S. each year, DeBono says, but fewer than 300,000 get solar power. By offering solar as a standard option when getting a new roof, that could change. The company will sell PV panels that are engineered to install like skylights, so they become a seamless part of the roof, avoiding the risk of leaks that DeBono says are possible if solar panels are attached to a roof on separate racks. (The design looks more like solar panels than Tesla’s solar shingles, but has a similarly low profile.) Installing at the same time as the rest of the roof helps keep costs low.

The company will work with regional installers who, for the most part, aren’t working with solar power now because they don’t have specialized personnel. “We’re taking complicated installation logistics out of the equation for contractors to make choosing solar easier and more convenient,” DeBono says. The startup will also make the permitting and financing process as simple as possible. “Standard Industries saw a chance to shift the conversation around rooftop solar to show contractors and consumers that your roof is valuable real estate that can be put to good use.”