NEW YORK AREA STARTUP BEATS ELON MUSK TO MARKET WITH SOLAR ROOFING
Attractive and Efficient Standing Seam Metal Roof With Integrated Solar Panels  In Beautiful Color

TROY, N.Y. (09/14/16) — A startup solar company has launched a Kickstarter campaign for what they’re calling “the Ferrari” of solar roofing.

solar-roofing-elon-mus
Via permission from Forward Solar

“This is clean energy for those with a little extra in the bank,” said Zach Taylor, Product Architect at Forward Labs in Troy, N.Y. “All of the big breakthrough technological innovations start as luxury items, then they become everyday necessities. The iPhone was $600 when it first came out — it was the Ferrari of phones. It’s now in the hands of kids in middle school.”

Yesterday, Forward Labs launched a Kickstarter campaign, effectively beating Elon Musk’s goal of being first to market in the Solar Roofing category. Their initial goal of raising $50,000 in the next 20 days will be to help bring a high-end, attractive, efficient solar roofing system to the market. The campaign asks donors to finance a “stunning Year in Review” photography book that will document the company’s first year in business as they refine and bring their new solar roofing product to the public, gauge market interest, and meet with investors. Also included are two reward levels labeled “Early Adopter Club” memberships that include a first right to offer and an onsite consultation with pledges of $750 or more for “Zone 1,” covering the Boston-Washington Corridor, and pledges of $500 and upwards for “Zone 2” outside that corridor.

The Forward Roofing System is a stunning, elegant solar solution, fully integrated with metal roofing. The highly efficient custom photovoltaics are laminated onto the southern facing portions of the roof. Other sections of the roof that do not face the sun are covered in equally attractive metal of matching color and style, rendering a solar solution that is nearly indistinguishable from other portions of the roof.

Providing an aesthetically pleasing solar roofing product to the public may prove to be an important step toward mainstream adoption of this renewable energy. It seems to be working as Forward Labs has already collected pre-orders ahead of their online campaign.  The first of which came from the owner of a local solar supply company in Troy.

“The solar panels on the market today are ugly.  There’s no nice way to say it. They are a blemish to the architecture of the house and it’s not a product people are really too interested to showcase on their homes,” Taylor said. “We wanted a panel that was functionally a little bit better — not only in how it looks, but how it works as well.  Where other panels lose efficiency, this product has been designed to produce more power in matching weather conditions.”

The Forward Roofing System is also designed to be more efficient than standard rooftop solar panels in that it is more functional in both summer and winter conditions.  All solar panels are less effective when their temperature exceeds 80 degrees. The Forward Roofing System is designed to optimize air flow velocity between the roof deck and the panels, keeping them cooler than a typical rooftop solar panel.  While snow tends to accumulate on shingled rooftops and cover standard solar panels, the design of Forward’s form factor sheds snow in the winter leaving continued exposure to those needed rays from the sun.

The Forward Roofing System comes in a palate of eight carefully selected colors (Almond, Slate Grey, Sky Blue, Dark Bronze, Patina Green, Sherwood Green, Colonial Red, Charcoal Grey) and is designed to be installed on sloped roofs that are visible from the ground.

“Metal roofing dates back to the ancient Greeks and it is architecturally relevant for most suburban, rural, and historic districts in the United States,” Taylor said, noting that the Forward Roofing System is in the same style as the roof on the White House.

A HIGH PRICE FOR BEAUTY

At this stage, there is a high price to beauty. The cost to install a Forward Roofing System is roughly twice the cost to install standard solar panels capable of providing about 90 percent of a home’s total energy needs. The cost to cover a 2,500 square foot Center Hall Colonial home with a Forward Roofing System would be about $48,000 while standard solar roof paneling would run about $26,000.  As the Forward Roofing System is two parts in one, there is a price for both the roofing and a price for the solar array. Taylor notes that the cost of typical rooftop mounted solar panels does not include the cost of the actual roof, which is typically covered in asphalt shingles. (The roll form metal portion of a Forward Roofing System costs $7.50 per square foot, while the solar energy output costs $7820 per kilowatt.)

In spite of higher upfront costs, Taylor said the Forward Roofing System is gaining in efficiency more rapidly than standard solar panel technology. These gains are owed to the optical layer that gives the roof its color.  While they shed snow in the winter, run cooler in the summer, the panels of the Forward Roofing System also make better use of the suns rays throughout the day.

“So what this optical layer does is, it lays the framework for further work. Just as microprocessors keep getting faster, the same function of optimization will be seen in these panels in the years to come,” Taylor said.

MANUFACTURE SOLAR IN THE U.S.?

Currently, Forward Labs is making their prototypes with parts made in China and Korea and hand assembled in Troy, N.Y.  The solar cells themselves are not made in the United States at this point, but Taylor said Forward Labs could manufacture their entire product here at this price point if enough orders come in.

“If we get enough orders I can do this right here in the U.S.,” Taylor said. “The profit margin inherent in our pricing model will help us continue iterations of our product that are increasingly efficient and at a lower price point.”

FROM BEL AIR TO BANGLADESH

While Forward Labs has its sights set on wealthy customers in the near future, Taylor believes his company’s integrated metal and solar panel roofs will eventually be affordable enough to become ubiquitous in developing countries.

In a similar trend, technologists readily agree that land lines have been leap-frogged in developing countries, with the majority of use being captured by the cell phone industry. Taylor sees the same nations skipping over traditionally powered electric grids and going straight for off the grid solutions like solar.

“We see all these developing countries that have metal roofs,” Taylor said. “They already have roll forming machines and the technical laborers who know how to install metal roofing. Once you realize that, it becomes more obvious that our design isn’t just superior, but inevitable and, most importantly, needed. The affordability of materials and labor is there. The costs will come down over time. What’s needed is someone to put these pieces together and have them scale effectively.”

FIND FORWARD ROOFING SYSTEM ON KICKSTARTER

To find the Forward Roofing System on Kickstarter, search for “Solar Roofing” by Forward Labs, or click the following link:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/935448961/solar-roofing/