Print 38 comment(s) - last by Keeir.. on May 16 at 3:10 PM

Move over screws and racks, new adhesive mounted panels are gaining steam

DailyTech recently reported on the growing interest in solar power, both public and private, being fueled by enterprising startups like Sungevity.  However despite current methods of streamlining installation and reducing costs via optimizations, the installation process remains costly, slow, and has some undesirable side effects.

Panel installation typically involves drilling holes in the roof, compromising its integrity.  Racks are affixed to these holes using bolts, and the entire process is rather time-intensive.  The end result is big installation bills and a headache for the customer.  It's also a hassle for the installer, who has to use special tools and could be making more money off a more efficient installation approach.

Well a logical answer has arrived in the form of DRI Energy, a solar-power roofing contractor, operating out of California.  Instead of racks, DRI Energy simply applies a strong roofing adhesive, to hold the panels in place.  The seemingly common sense approach seems to work.  The company shows in a video that 2.25 kW of its proprietary Lumeta solar panels can be installed in only 35 minutes by two of its solar engineers, a process that would normally take hours.

Shorter installations mean that costs drop greatly, and installers are able to perform more installations per day, making more money overall.  As most roofing installers regularly use the same adhesives used to affix the panels, the move opens the doorway to installations by roofers not specially trained in solar installation, possibly further dropping the cost.  Further, no racks also means no holes in the roof, a plus for many customers. 

Unfortunately for now the method is only compatible with DRI Energy's special panels.  However, given the commercial benefits, other companies are likely to quickly follow in suit.  After all the move seems common sense, and well worth the time to design slightly modified panels to work with the improved installation process.

DRI is based out of Irvine, California and installs solar panels in nine western states.  It is a rather large company with seven regional offices in the states of California, Washington, and Nevada.  The company also offers rack mounted systems, in addition to the new adhesive-mounted ones.

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By soxfan on 5/12/2008 12:07:48 PM , Rating: -1
I wonder if this company has taken into account the difference in coefficient of thermal expansion of the adhesive, the underlying roofing shingles, and the overlying photovoltaic (PV) panels. If the adhesive expands and contracts at a significantly different rate than the roof or the PV panels, failure (due to cracking of the adhesive or the panels) is highly likely.

By noxipoo on 5/12/2008 12:10:31 PM , Rating: 2
maybe it's just me, but i'd think this company has engineers and QA to test obvious things like this.

By afkrotch on 5/12/2008 12:20:14 PM , Rating: 5
Ya, that explains the great track records of Firestone tires on Ford Explorers, Xbox 360 early versions, Sony batteries, and the gamut of other products put to market.

By Ringold on 5/12/2008 2:21:50 PM , Rating: 2
Nonsense. Those, and adhesive failures, are features. ;)

By Oregonian2 on 5/12/2008 2:37:44 PM , Rating: 3
I suspect there are more products without the problem than a list of those that do.

By FITCamaro on 5/12/2008 3:08:41 PM , Rating: 1
A lot of the issues with Firestone tires were attributed to people not properly maintaining their tires. Also people going too fast on tires only rated to certain speeds.

By afkrotch on 5/12/2008 3:55:15 PM , Rating: 2
Also a lot of issues were not attributed to improperly maintained tires or going to fast. The whole point of Firestone recalling the tires.

Not to mention, a company is usually builds tires over specs, just in case. How many other tires out there are improperly maintained and users go over it's rated speeds? Yet, it's just Firestone/Bridgestone that had exploding tires.

By winterspan on 5/12/2008 5:21:21 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I'd bet in most (all?) of those cases, you'd have to assume the problems had more to do with cutting corners on design/materials/manufacturing/testing for cost savings, than deficiencies in their engineering and Q&A staff.

By theapparition on 5/13/2008 8:33:51 AM , Rating: 2
Specifically in the Firestone issue, it was intentional underinflation of tires by Ford.

If you looked at the sidewall of the tire, it said to inflate to 35psi. Ford found that with the Explorer it was too likely to roll over, so their solution was to run the tires at ~25psi. You'll see this inflation pressure in the user manual and on the door.

The lower pressure caused the tire to flex more and break the tread bonds due to cycling. Where Firestone was liable, was because they knew about this cycling issue and didn't convey the information.

By MrBlastman on 5/12/2008 12:53:23 PM , Rating: 2
Well I think the guy brings up a good point.

Nontheless, I am waiting to see a guy use this technology to stick panels all over his body and walk around a crowded street shooting electricity out of his arms a la Big Trouble in Little China (can't forget the pointy straw hat) shouting: "I am the powa man!"

By Funk Phenomena on 5/12/2008 2:24:29 PM , Rating: 2
Classic movie, lol.

By OxBow on 5/12/2008 1:27:16 PM , Rating: 2
It sounds like in the article that they're using standard roofing adhesive which is quite flexible and has a great track record, in general, these days.

If they were squirting some off brand liquid nails, you'd probably have a point, but the new stuff is pretty amazing. Not saying that failure isn't possible, and it wouldn't meet the wind codes for my area of Texas, but for most applications I'm sure it's ok.

By Spuke on 5/12/2008 5:00:43 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder what wind speeds the adhesive is rated to. We occasionally get wind speeds up 70 mph where I live and I would rather not have my solar panels flying through a neighbors window.

By GlassHouse69 on 5/12/2008 6:09:11 PM , Rating: 2
a roof needs to drain. ice can build up under crap. I wonder if this impedes anything if some just glues gunk to raw tile. would be cool if they were mini tiles that matched shingle patterns.

By MightyAA on 5/12/2008 6:47:36 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, I was wondering that too. Looks like it would impede the drainage to the roof drains. This causes puddling and ice damming. Furthermore, the application would probably void your roof manufacturer warranty. On top of this, the rack normally angles the panels to maximize solar angles (which your roof probably isn't designed for).

Cutting corners to save cost often aren't the best ideas... but I do like it better than ballast type racks.

By Bruneauinfo on 5/12/2008 7:14:55 PM , Rating: 2
we've obviously not done a lot of roofing here. i know i haven't. but what little i have done i'm assuming the point of roofing cement on roll roofing, for example: it's gooy and maintains its gooiness even after it dries. i'd assume roll roofing (which is basically the same type of material as shingles) expands and contracts differently than the wood sheathing to which its attached. the cement helps compensate for this.

so how does the conversation go from solar panels being glued to a roof to exploding tires??? :/

By Sethanus on 5/14/2008 3:23:58 AM , Rating: 2
A way to increase the speed of install (it may not be much, but it would make handleing and installing easier) is to have rectangular grease paper panels with a lip for easy peeling off of the back of the solar pannel(maybe 6 or 9 for a pannel that size).

After watching that vid it looked like they wasted a minute or a minute and a half trying to peel the backing off each pannel.

my 2 cents worth

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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