By Maciej Cichocki
The end of the Tetris era – roof aesthetics count
Rooftop mounting systems still have the largest share of the residential photovoltaic market. In the case of new or renovated pitched roofs, however, this is not economical. First of all, we need to understand that roof tiles with PV panels on top are completely unnecessary. In addition, rooftop PV systems are often a visual ordeal. The reality is that some photovoltaic sellers are squeezing in as much kW as possible and installers are assembling these Tetris-like systems. The panels are arranged vertically and horizontally, stand out clearly from the roofing and are reminiscent of the block effect of a well-known computer game. We can do better.
Integrated or glued, also known as in-roof vs. on-roof
In the meantime, there has been a significant increase in sales of mounting systems on the photovoltaic market with a focus on aesthetics and roof integration. In addition to new solutions such as Sunroof, there is also a clear commitment by big players in the roofing industry. Both Braas and Creaton have already invested in the PV-integrated systems. Wienerberger, who announced a financial commitment for Exasun, recently joined them. There are already over a dozen different PV solutions for pitched roofs on the market.
Until recently, integrated systems in the premium category were perceived as a more expensive option. Most of them were priced that way too. Today, however, there is more variety on the market. Below you will find my overview of the mounting systems available on the European market, grouped according to the type of PV modules used.
Regardless of the manufacturer, all integrated systems have one thing in common: They are installed instead of the roof covering. The PV system installed in this way does not visually overlap the roofing, but replaces it where it is installed. And that leads to considerable savings in material and transport. For example, a GSE In-Roof mounting system for systems with an output of 10kWp only requires 27 mounting trays of 2.5 kg each. Consider the labor savings for a roofer who would first have to transport and lay 486 tiles with a total weight of 2062 kg (30x more!) In a classic rooftop installation and then install aluminum PV mounting rails over them. No question about it, on-roof systems have their advantages on existing roofs, but they are no longer as economical on newly built or renovated roofs.
Each segment has outstanding leaders. The most numerous groups are brands that offer dedicated PV module roof integration systems and solar roof tiles. Most of them are very similar and their solutions are quite expensive. The best known and most interesting category is certainly the category of PV tiles. This is likely mainly due to Tesla’s brand name, but all solar tiles have a very attractive appearance. In my opinion, one of the most valuable alternatives in this category are the Match Tile and Slate modules.
Solutions like those from Dyaqua offer sensational aesthetics as they are indistinguishable from similar traditional tiles. However, it is questionable whether they will become popular with an actual output of 6Wp and the price of € 7 per Wp. Buildings with a traditional look or monuments are likely to be found where preferred, but common sense tells me that using other forms of PV is much more profitable for our environment and the investor.
During my career at FAKRO, a direct competitor of Velux roof windows, I had the privilege of working with the company in preparation for the integration of the roof window into the Stafier system. The solar tile of this brand replaces at least 6 conventional tiles – a considerable convenience for roofers. It is worth mentioning the number of electrical connections on the roof. The first variants of solar tiles required that each of them be individually connected to the electrical installation. This created a lot of work, additional costs and a completely unnecessary risk of error. The likelihood of an inaccurately executed MC4 connection on a roof with 486 joints (tiles) instead of possibly 27 with in-roof systems is obviously higher and the service that may be required is very difficult.
This is probably why the trend set by Stafier and Braas has apparently also gained recognition from Tesla, which recently released specifications for new solar tiles – wider this time, replacing some smaller ones.
The glass roofs offered by Emergo, Solrif or Sunroof look very similar and only differ in the installation details. The final aesthetic is the main advantage of these systems. The possibility of using so-called dummies for photovoltaically inactive fillings and roof surrounds result in the uniform aesthetic character of the roof. These systems require the purchase of special PV modules made in certain dimensions, appropriate preparation and additional protection of the roof, as well as special assembly. All of these aspects ultimately result in a high price.
In contrast to specialized roofs based on dedicated modules, integrated systems such as GSE In-Roof offer practical and economic advantages in addition to aesthetics. Compared to a conventional PV system that is installed above the roof, GSE saves 18 times as much roofing material, which significantly reduces costs, labor and CO2 balance. Thanks to similar in-roof solutions, classic PV modules can be installed regardless of the manufacturer. Therefore, dedicated production lines and special deliveries are not required. Any subsequent maintenance or repair of the panels, for example after hail damage, can be carried out without problems or the risk of unavailability of a particular module, as is the case with systems with dedicated panels.
Integrated systems differ significantly in terms of the ability to generate electricity. Some manufacturers have decided to produce dedicated modules. The colors, which are more different from the typical color of silicon cells, look more appealing, but produce less energy.
To get 1 kWp systems, you need a roof with an area of:
The simplest system is the one we all know. Every roofer in Europe knows how to install skylights. Therefore, the simplest solar tile systems, Viridian and GSE are in-roof. They allow a relatively simple and aesthetic integration with the roof windows mentioned above and a mounting system that is intuitive for the roofer.
All systems will benefit from advances in photovoltaic technology. However, only the above-mentioned in-roof systems benefit from frequently used modules on the residential and solar park market. And that means their higher availability, economies of scale and competition, which obviously affects the low price of the system.
Check out the following list of pitched roof solar roof solutions mentioned in my integrated PV landscape:
Standard PV modules
Systems that allow the installation of typical PV modules.
- GSE INDACH – GSE integration
- SOLAR STONE – Solar stone
- BRAAS PV-INDAX – Monier
- nD in-roof system – Blue energy systems
- IRTFS – Irfts
- DREIDACH – Tritec
- IntegPV – Solar integration
Dedicated PV modules
Assembly systems with modules that are assigned to a specific system.
- SOLRIF – Solrif
- EMERGO – Emergo
- VIRIDIAN – Viridian solar
- EXASUN X roof – Exasun
- ETERNAL – eternity
- SUNROOF – sunroof
- ROBISOL – Bitile
- AERSPIRE – aerspire
- MEGASLATE – 3s-solarplus
- MORE BEAUTIFUL – Megasol
PV roof tiles
Mounting systems such as PV tiles, PV slate.
- STAFIER / BRAAS PREMIUM – Bull solar
- SOLARSTONE – Solar stone
- SOLINSO – Solinso
- TESLA Tesla solar roof
- CIGS ePower tile – epowertil
- EXASUN X-TILE – Exasun x tile
- MATCH tile – Megasol match
- SMARTROOF – Smart roof
- SUN STYLE – www.sunstyle.com
- Enviro Germany – Surroundings
- Dyaqua – Dyaqua
Solar metal roofs
Mounting systems for integration with metal cladding.
- LINDAB SOLAR – Lindab sun canopy
- ROOF SOLAR – RoofitSolar
- RHEINZINK – RHEINZINK-PV
- KALZIP – Kalzip
- FLISOM – Flisome
- HELIATEK – Heliatek
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