Solar Industry to Triple by 2024
by Richard K. Olson, president & technical director, Tile Roofing Industry Alliance
(Editor’s Note: Richard K. Olson is president and technical director for the Tile Roofing Industry Alliance. The association represents industry professionals involved in the manufacturing and installation of concrete and clay tile roofs in the United States and Canada, and works with national, state, and local building officials to develop installation techniques, codes, and standards for better roofing systems. Olson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
With the White House pushing an agenda for greater clean energy investment through solar initiatives, the roofing community will be challenged to meet their aggressive goals. According to recently released documents, the White House has set the stage to: authorize use of the Defense Production Act to accelerate domestic production of clean energy technologies, including solar panel parts; put the full power of federal procurement to work spurring additional domestic solar manufacturing capacity by directing the development of master supply agreements, including super preference status; and create a 24-month bridge as domestic manufacturing rapidly scales up to ensure a reliable supply of components that United States solar deployers need to construct clean energy projects and an electric grid for the 21st century, while reinforcing the integrity of our trade laws and processes.
The intent is to help provide domestic jobs, reduce energy costs for families, and increase our clean energy presence on the global platform. They have set a goal to triple the use of solar by 2024. For the roofing community, this will create new opportunities to embrace expanding solar markets for those that are able to take advantage. It will require our collective roofing industry to develop the resources and installation adjustments needed to meet these developments.
The patented designs and mounting systems that are in the market have been in place for some time and have evolved to a few leaders that meet the functionality of integration with most roofing systems. Over the years, our industry has worked with numerous mounting system manufacturers to help understand the ability to adapt to our roofing tile products. This includes how to fasten to meet seismic and wind loads, flashings, and tile installations abutting the panels for minimal visibility.
The majority of solar panels are installed by solar installation companies with technicians that have been trained in electrical connections and not for roof system installations. This creates problems, as the routing of conduits, collectors, and panels requires integration into existing roofs without damaging the long-term performance of entire roof assemblies. This can raise issues of contractor warranties on existing roofs, damage, and additional foot traffic over an entire roof during the process. When cladding is removed for solar installs, there are certain precautions and installation needs to ensure the roof is still able to perform as designed.
There will need to be a serious focus placed on the development of training and understanding for how a proper roof system works as an assembly. Very few states require solar contractors to be licensed or insured, opening the door for how to control and monitor the quality of work being performed. When inspections are performed, they are often for the electrical components to meet electrical code safety compliance.
The Tile Roofing Industry (TRI) Alliance is beginning the dialog with existing solar contractors and roofing professionals to help develop potential training courses, hands on training, and how-to videos to provide better installation awareness for concrete and clay roofing tiles. As new manufacturers of components and panels come online, we will reach out to collaborate on identifying proper installation fastening and flashing requirements to properly integrate with our roof tile products.
New products entering the market will be looking to obtain formal code evaluation approvals for use with various roof systems. The more detailed the product approvals, the better the installation process. The complexities of parts coming under the government’s 24-month bridge agreement from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam may take time in order to understand the quality and adaptability into existing solar systems.
We are aware that many states have raised concerns for some form of licensing and look to the industries to help develop the requirements and process. The dangers of electrical components and weather should require a higher certification program for those that do such work.