Why solar installers should have commercial roofing experience.

Allow me to introduce myself, and the company I work for. My name is Nick Messer, and I work for a company called Prospect Solar, LLC. We founded in 2010 as the sister to a commercial roofing and waterproofing company, Prospect Waterproofing (PW). I am the newest member of Prospect Solar, and I was able to work my way up from a part-time permit runner (more on jobs created by solar later). So far, I have worked on sales, installations, SREC management, website building, and marketing strategies. My formal educational background is in architecture, and my senior year at Clemson was specifically focused on roofing structures and energy efficient technologies-kind of ironic, huh?

We launched our new website this Monday (6/17/2013), and are beginning to broaden our solar community through blogging. We have created this website and the Prospect Solar Blog to help educate our clients and community on the benefits of solar energy, and to join together in advocacy for clean, renewable energy. We believe that solar energy isn’t just an industry, it’s also a movement.

Currently, our company is serving Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland clients of all types and sizes (homeowners, businesses, solar farms, etc). As a start-up solar energy installer, we have a lean, yet sustainable staff that is dedicated to ensuring the success of solar energy. Throughout the course of this blog, you will have a chance to hear from members of our team, each with their own unique experience and observations-but that’s for another day.

So back to the topic of this discussion-how does a roofing and waterproofing company get into solar energy? Well, there are a lot of synergies between the two industries:
We both work on roof tops, whether 2 stories or 20 stories
We both deal with high winds, storm water drainage, and energy efficiency
We both understand the value of safety, oversight, and thorough job training
We both understand the value of protecting the integrity of a waterproof roofing membrane
Both industries work long hours in stressful, detail-oriented environments
Prospect-Solar-Prospect-Waterproofing-Green-Roof-Headquarter

First things first, when working from high rooftops, safety is paramount. Proper training, preparation, and foresight are among the DETAILS that really count in this industry.

Also, a commercial waterproofing and roofing company knows that even the smallest penetration or hole in the roof surface allows water to find its way into a building. Water WILL find a way in if you let it.

That said, it is incredibly important for solar installers to be mindful of their methods of attachment to a roof’s surface. Ideally, preferred methods include ballasted roof mounts on flat roofs. This method of solar installation requires no physical penetrations of the roofs surface, and allows for ballasted trays to hold the solar array to the roof surface even in 90 mph winds.

In situations where a penetration does need to be made, proper engineering and design will minimize the total number of roof anchors. In addition to thorough design measures, the installers in the field need to be mindful of how they secure the solar equipment through penetrations, and be extremely THOROUGH in their flashings and sealant applications. Proper inspection by solar installers and roofing professionals is also an industry-best practice. Solar energy is an investment in your home or business, and that investment should absolutely be covered, as well as your roofing/waterproofing warranty.

What does roofing have to do with energy efficiency?
A lot.

The energy efficiency and environmental contribution of roofing materials such as themorplastic polyolefins, or TPO, has been recognized by commercial roofers for years (TPO is also made from recycled substrates). Even before the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program came on board in 1993 from the US Green Building Council, facility owners have been paying extra attention to their roofs, the materials they are made out of, and more specifically, the Solar Reflective Index, or SRI. A higher SRI rating essentially means that more heat and light from the sun is being repelled from roof, as opposed to being absorbed into the facility and increasing HVAC energy costs. Having a roof that has a high solar reflective index can reduce a buildings energy cost on average of 25% as attributed to cooling to counter the intensity of the sun’s light and heat.

Prospect-Solar-Prospect-Waterproofing-Solar-Installers-Virginia Sound familiar, right? As solar installers, we aim to absorb that sunlight through photovoltaic modules, and in turn produce clean energy from the rooftop of the facility, lowering the energy costs of the business.

When combined with the abilities and knowledge of commercial roofing companies, solar installers have an opportunity to integrate photovoltaics into green roof applications– or Green Roof Integrated Photovoltaics (GRiPV). This style of solar energy system combines with “green” or “vegetative” roof for a very unique opportunity. The solar array is secured to a tray that is ballasted by engineered soil and plants.The solar panels provide shaded protection for these plants that require little sun and warmth to extend their growing season. In return, the vegetative roof surface provides natural cooling of the solar modules, allowing them to work more efficiently.

So, in recap, what is the synergy between solar installers and commercial roofers?

Solar installers can provide roofers additional solutions for facilities to further offset their electrical costs
Roofers and waterproofers can guarantee that the solar installers have properly sealed all holes to avoid water leakage
Solar installers and roofers both work to further safety precautions, and share valuable resources such as training, standards, and experience
This ultimately makes a safer work environment, and gives customer’s peace of mind and lowered overhead costs
When both solar installers and commercial waterproofers combine efforts to make buildings more energy efficient, such as with green roofing, facilities can not only save money on their energy bill but can also enjoy environmental benefits and green marketing opportunities.
Well, gang, that’s it for my first blog. I hope you have enjoyed it, and I certainly welcome your feedback and input. We want this to be an educational opportunity for our community, not a sing-songy sales pitch. Subscribe to our blog, and give us your thoughts!