„Solar tiles are about aesthetically pleasing roofing materials“
Solar roof tiles have been known in the PV industry for some time now, yet they lead a niche existence. How would you assess the interest from solar customers?
Ulrich Nelskamp: We had the online search patterns of potential prospective customers investigated. The results showed that there is a great deal of interest in solar roof tiles. Measurements have shown that it was about ten times higher than for our classic roof products. Although it is not possible to estimate from this evaluation how many prospective customers are actually planning to install them or whether this is purely an interest in information, it can nevertheless be said that people are looking for PV in forms other than conventional, mostly mountedsolar installations.
To what do you attribute this?
On the one hand, Tesla's marketing campaign, who took over Solar City with their photovoltaic bitumen shingles and intend to spread them in the US. Tesla made a great announcement about this, but it was poorly implemented in Germany. The bitumen shingles commonly used in America are almost unknown here when it comes to building houses. Tesla's product was not adapted to the requirements of the German market. On the other hand there is the desire of building owners and planners for aesthetic solar systems, where the focus is not only on economic efficiency.
At least, it got people talking about it…
Sure. And since we provide smart products to the German and European market, that helped us. It has created a gap in the market, where we can offer aesthetic roof-based systems to solar customers. With our system G10PV we are opening up a new customer base.
How much of your turnover is generated from solar products?
As you know, we have a variety of systems on offer. And that includes solar-thermic and roof-based products that combine PV and solar-thermal. In 2000, we first got interested in solar; and in 2008, we brought our first product to market. Today, solar products make up about two or three percent of our business.
Talking of prices: How much would a customer have to expect to be paying for a roof covered in your PV roof tiles?
If we are talking of the end customer, that is to say the customer of the solar engineer, roofing contractor or master carpenter, a rough estimate for a kilowatt of our G10PVs would come to a net price of 2,300 euros. Of course, that is more expensive than a simple on-roof system, which can also be had on the classic end customer market for 1,300 euros per kilowatt. But: With our system you get the look of a professionally built tiled roof and the cladding as well.
Where have you built the most projects so far?
By a wide margin in single family homes; all were installations of less than ten kilowatts. Only a few outliers were different. We mostly sell our G10PVs in Germany and the Netherlands. In Alkmaar, we installed the solar tiles across the façade of a supermarket. The building has a conventional roof-top solar array on the roof. It was important to the owners to demonstrate, and quite openly so, that they care about the environment. In Alkmaar, we combined conventional flat G10 tiles and the solar versions all in one façade.
So far, it has been mostly private customers who decide to have their roofs covered in solar roof tiles. How can you make the leap into the commercial market?
We need the architects and building societies on board. They are key target groups for us. Awareness in the Netherlands seems to be growing particularly strongly, because they have different building regulations. And construction trade fairs there are much more focused on design and towards professional customers than here in Germany. There we have had a great response to our G10PVs.
The interview was conducted by Heiko Schwarzburger.
Ulrich Nelskamp is a solicitor and has been managing partner at Dachziegelwerke Nelskamp in Schermbeck since 2014. He is in charge of sales and marketing.
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