Observations and Lessons Learned From Installing Residential Roofing-Integrated Photovoltaics

Jeffrey Cook, Sushmita Jena, Minahil Qasim, Eric O'Shaughnessy

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Building-sited solar photovoltaics (PV) could play a key role in decarbonizing the building sector either through racked and mounted PV or through Building-integrated PV (BIPV). BIPV is installed into the building envelope itself, with solar cells and/or modules forming the outer layer of a building structure, thus transforming a single-purpose structure into one that serves the dual purposes of the building envelope and electricity. BIPV can be applied to building roofs, facades, awnings, pergolas, windows, skylights, balustrades, and other external surfaces. Given BIPV products vary widely, the focus of this research is residential roofing integrated PV (RIPV), where solar is incorporated into or otherwise replaces the roofing material. Previous research suggests that residential RIPV could reduce customer acquisition, labor, supply chain, and equipment costs. These products have yet to realize these cost savings and deployment remains significantly less than conventional rooftop PV as a relative share of the addressable market in the US. One potential barrier to broader residential roofing integrated PV deployment may be higher costs relative to conventional rooftop PV, primarily because the design and installation of these products is still evolving. Here, we explore residential RIPV cost-reduction opportunities by analyzing installation processes. Our study documents residential RIPV installations at 2 reroofing sites and the equivalent of 9 new construction sites in California through a methodology known as time and motion study. We also conducted interviews with subject-matter experts to identify barriers and solutions to maximize these products' market penetration. Our time and motion study breaks the RIPV installation process into four steps: 1) staging, unloading, and roof preparation; 2) fire resistant underlayment(s) (synthetic material laid between roof shingles and roof deck); 3) flashings and PV installation; and 4) wiring and monitoring. We measure the time required for each step in terms of worker-hours, representing an hour of labor from a single worker. We further normalize process time by dividing worker-hours by kilowatt (kW) of system capacity. The most time-intensive step was flashings and PV installation, taking around 2.4 worker-hours per kW on average and accounting for around 60% of the process time for an average installation. The total installation process took on average about 6.4 and 3.5 worker-hours per kW at the reroofing sites and new construction sites, respectively. For comparison, a previous time and motion study documented a time of 6.9 worker-hours per kW for conventional rooftop PV. The shorter RIPV installation times are consistent with previous studies suggesting that RIPV could be installed faster than conventional rooftop PV. The time and motion results and feedback from interviewees provide insights into potential residential RIPV cost reduction opportunities. Several interviewees suggested that these products would be more efficient if PV installation was more fully integrated into the roofing/construction industries, which currently use separate supply chains and skillsets. Further integration could reduce supply chain delays and labor force redundancies. Future research could explore specific ways to integrate these industries to help realize the cost savings potential of RIPV.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages32
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-85230


  • BIPV
  • PV
  • residential
  • RIPV
  • roofing integrated
  • solar
  • United States


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