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Why We Need to Start Thinking of Metal Roofing When We Think About Solar Power

S-5! Solar Roof
March 7, 2023 at 9:00 a.m.

By Cass Jacoby.  

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is ushering in a new boom for solar in the U.S. Learn why metal is closely following behind and why it is key to intelligent adoption of solar power.  

Clean energy legislation in America has significantly fluctuated over this past year. Often, it felt that although we were close to reaching an agreement, the 177th Congress would never pass a climate bill. However, in August we saw some headway as the United States passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the country’s largest investment in clean energy.  

An amended version of the Build Back Better Act, the IRA serves as a companion reconciliation bill to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Notably, the IRA authorizes $369 billion in spending towards clean energy and climate action, which includes investment tax credits up to 30 percent for solar PV systems for the next 10 years, along with tax credit adders for fulfilling other requirements. 

In an exclusive interview with RoofersCoffeeShop® Mark Gies of S-5!® explains everything you need to know as a roofing contractor about the IRA. As a mechanical engineer and business development manager with 33 years of industry experience and 13 years specifically focused on solar, Mark is uniquely positioned to speak to how the IRA’s incentives to adopt more solar panels can affect solar roofing. 

Mark explains that the journey to grow solar reaches back decades but has been expedited by more than just government incentivization, and is also due to technological growth. He says the growth of solar PV can be attributed to a combination of concerns about climate change and environmental reasons in addition to the fact that it is becoming more financially attractive.  

“Along with federal incentives, more and more states and utilities are providing incentives. Federal, state and utilities – it really makes it worthwhile – and you get a much quicker payback,” says Mark. “It’s financially prudent now, but the exact ROI is still contingent upon each state and what's going on, as far as public policy and utility incentives. Going forward, it will continue to improve, and it's getting there sooner than later.” 

One state-level trend is solar mandates, which ensures new buildings have solar or solar-ready construction before occupancy. Mark says that while you would think these solar mandates would have a big impact on the construction industry, the answer is surprisingly, no. Why? Primarily, he says, constructing a building then installing solar is still a sequential process with surprisingly intra-step planning and coordination.  

Most roofing substrates have too short of a service life to support the lifespan of a solar system without needing to be replaced. This results in the building- or home- owners’ needing to disassemble and reinstall their solar systems during midlife, often utilizing two different contractors. Additionally, not too many building owners are chomping at the bit to replace their 10-year-old roofs, which still have some life left, on top of investing in solar panels.  

“Part of our message at S-5! is to explain why metal roofs are the best platforms to install solar. A rooftop solar system is expected to last 30-to-40 years or more. So why would I put it on a roof that will only last half the life of the solar system?” says Mark. “For rooftop solar, the host platform for mounting solar modules is the roof. Viewed holistically; the solar + roof is one single system and a single asset, so it makes sense for the platform to be something that outlasts the solar. With a service life of 50 to 80 years, only metal roofs can do that.” 

Metal roofing and solar panels have always been the favorite pairing of S-5! Thirty years ago, their founder, Rob Haddock invented a clamp for standing seam roofs that doesn’t penetrate the metal and allows for solar to be installed right onto the roof — even without rails.  

“We are very passionate about educating, about innovating, and about doing it The Right WayTM to help these industries grow, including solar,” says Mark. “People build a roof, and then want solar, but they don't make the connection — considering the two together as a single asset: ‘Well, I better think about what type of roof makes sense to mount solar.’ That's the insight we're trying to impart. We're also trying to get the metal roofing industry to educate about the superiority of their products by saying, ‘Look, if you ever want to do solar, you should put it on a metal roof.’" 

It is becoming increasingly apparent that homeowners, building owners and contractors alike need to shift their perspectives to viewing the rooftop and solar together as a single asset. But further than just a need to see the roof and solar as two parts of one system, there is a greater call for synergy between the metal and solar industries. Mark sees an incredible opportunity with solar and metal to work better together, innovating, educating and seizing the opportunity presented with solar and metal while offering better sustainable options to roof owners.  

“When it comes to service life and sustainability, it matches up. It’s just the best platform for rooftop solar. The rooftop is just a huge part of solar,” says Mark. “It’s a perfect storm for putting solar on metal roofs and making the decision to choose a metal roof. In the end- the roof + solar owner is the winner.” 

Learn more about S-5! in their RoofersCoffeeShop® Directory or visit www.S-5.com

About Cass  

Cass works as a reporter/writer for RoofersCoffeeShop, AskARoofer and MetalCoffeeShop. When she isn’t writing about roofs, she is putting her master’s degree to work writing about movies and dancing with her plants. 

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