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How the world’s largest roofing company rolled out solar shingles for your home

The solar shingles from GAF Energy—a winner of Fast Company’s 2022 World Changing Ideas Awards—can be nailed directly to a roof.

How the world’s largest roofing company rolled out solar shingles for your home
[Photos: GAF Energy]

The new solar shingles from GAF Energy, a spin-off of Standard Industries, the world’s largest roofing company, can be nailed directly to the roof like ordinary shingles. Since the roofing industry is 20 times larger than the solar industry, the company hopes the shingles—the winner of the energy category of Fast Company’s 2022 World Changing Ideas Awards—can speed up the switch to renewables through its vast network of roofers. “We should be able to dramatically increase the adoption of solar by leveraging roofing economics and roofing scale,” says Martin DeBono, president of GAF Energy.

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Fall 2019

The team pitched the idea to GAF executives, even though “we had no idea if they would work or if they would be manufacturable,” DeBono says.

Winter 2019

The new shingles had to be waterproof, fire-safe, and strong enough to walk on, yet transparent to let in light, which meant experimenting with hundreds of materials.

[Photo: GAF Energy]

Summer 2020

Designers tried to disguise the wire channels in an early prototype, but then embraced the tech aesthetic. “We decided to own it,” DeBono says.

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Fall 2020

The team tweaked the design so it could be manufactured cost effectively, and started “torture testing” to ensure the panels could survive on a roof for 25 years.

[Photo: GAF Energy]

Summer 2021

Pilot installations proved the shingles performed as expected—and because solar cells are slightly larger than standard shingles, they also turned out to be faster to install.

Fall 2021

The new solar shingles got certified by Underwriters Laboratories, so they can be installed on homes as a roofing and solar energy product.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley

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