One of the main concerns we hear from building owners when we talk to them about commercial solar is how the installed system will affect the roof.
It is not uncommon to hear, “How many holes will be drilled into my roof, because I don’t want my roof to leak” or “if I can’t stop my contractors from creating leaks by dropping screwdrivers on my roof, how can I trust solar won’t do the same.”
It's as if they feel roofs and solar systems are diametrically opposed, an unholy union that only seems to create more problems than its worth.
The truth is solar and roofs can mutually benefit from each other, if installed correctly. Yes, solar does most often require penetrations to the roof, usually around the perimeter of the system for a majority of flat top roofs, but to be clear, these penetrations are no different than those found on HVAC systems on every commercial roof.
Over the span of many decades, Solar has been successfully employed in every geographic region of the United States using reliable means. Similar to any equipment on the roof, solar uses flashings, or waterproofing devices, that keep the penetrations sealed from the elements.
But here is how solar is different - PV systems can actually protect the roof that it is installed over, acting as a shield from inclement weather. This benefit includes not only limiting the weatherization of roofs by shielding it from the beating it takes from the sun, but also and probably more importantly limiting its exposure to hail, as most modules are rated to withstand at least golf ball size hail due to their tempered glass structure.
But if these reasons are still not enough to move the needle, then the best way to ensure that your roof’s integrity stays in place is to install a new roof at the same time as a solar PV system.
This gives you the added benefit and peace of mind of making the penetrations for solar in lock step with the installation of the roof, keeping the final coating or membrane of the roof in its best condition and ensuring that no leaks can be truly attributed to this new equipment on your roof.
In fact, our development solution at RE Innovations is specifically tailored for solar to be installed with a new roof, whether it be new construction or a reroof project. It is for these situations that our model allows building owners to achieve tremendous financial returns on a solar investment, with a majority of our projects reaching a paybacks of less than 3 years.
So, worry not about how solar can negatively affect the roof. Instead, think of the roof and solar like the two animals pictured above, and how together new advantages can be created. There is no reason why solar systems and roofs can't coexist, in fact I would argue they were made to help each other out, a sort of symbiotic relationship.