The unicorn of cheap clean home energy will most likely be found in an affordable solar roof that doesn't look like a solar roof, and that can pay for itself quickly. This startup may have developed it.
With all of the hoopla over Tesla's solar roof offering, which drew a little bit of fire for Musk's claim that it will "actually cost less than a normal roof," it can be easy to miss some of the current and upcoming solar roof contenders, such as SunTegra. But there are other companies innovating in the thin-film, building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV), solar tile, solar blinds, and solar roof sector, such as Forward Labs, which is now taking reservations for its product for 2018.
Forward Labs, a startup based in Palo Alto, California, has developed a standing-seam style solar roofing solution that aims to blend in, rather than stand out. In fact, at first glance, it looks like nothing more than a normal metal roof, and could probably pass muster for even the most conservative HOA covenants, and yet it could provide decades of low-cost renewable energy. And not only that, it's not just a solar tile or panel, but rather a layered system of components that combines a tempered glass surface and solar cells and a concealed racking system into "a brave new roof for our brave new world."
The panels are available in eight different colors, thanks to the company's inclusion of an "optical chromatic cloaking" layer that sits right below the glass and above the solar cells, which is said to produce "solar roofing in any color imaginable, while keeping the solar cell efficiencies high." The company uses monocrystalline solar cells which have a claimed higher energy density than other solar roofing products, reaching 19W per square foot (compared to 11W per square foot for competitor's offering), and according to the company, it could cost up to 33% less than a comparable solar roof from Tesla, while still producing the same amount of electricity.
"Our goal in bringing our solar roof to market was threefold. We aimed to develop an integrated solar roof system that looks great, optimizes energy output, and accelerates the return on investment. Other solar roofs simply do not offer the same return that homeowners expect for their money.
"The way we achieved such fantastic cost savings was fairly simple. We use more affordable materials than our competitors and employ standard manufacturing processes. The roof's installation process is simple and quick—we can install our system in half the time that other companies can. The benefit to homeowners is a return on their investment that cuts the usual solar payback time in half." - Zach Taylor, CEO and Product Architect of Forward Labs.
According to the company website, the non-solar portions of the roof will cost approximately $8.50/sqft, and the solar roof will cost about $3.25 per watt, with a total install time of 2-3 days. With multiple beta installations already in operation, Forward Labs is taking reservations with a $1000 refundable deposit toward pre-orders of its first production roofs in 2018, initially focused in and around San Francisco. In an interesting environmentally responsible twist, the company also states that it is "partnering with emerging asphalt recycling facilities" to deal with the roofs it removes as it installs the solar roof systems.
Find out more at the company website.