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PATH Case Study

Something New Under the Sun


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The rooftop solar panels are invisible from the street.

"The county building inspectors were not too familiar with solar technology and asked a lot of questions. However, their inquiries were based on wanting to learn more about PVs since they see solar as an up-and-coming technology. Overall, they were supportive and interested in gaining experience with the technology."


"The PV system we chose for WillowCreek is manufactured by GE and comprised of 48 GEPV-055 modules, engineered to produce 2.4 kilowatts during ideal conditions. GE designed the system

specifically for each house based on its orientation, roofing type, and our request that no solar panels face the street. Design and layout took less time than the county's building permit process."

"The size of our PV system was based on the estimated daily load requirements of the home. We used energy-efficient appliances, HVAC, windows, and lighting, and improved fiberglass insulation [R-38 in ceilings and R-13 in walls] throughout the home, which cut the daily load and avoided having to install a larger, more expensive PV system."

"Another important design consideration is making sure your PV designer uses solar data specific to the area where the PV system will be installed. These steps will help control your expenditures on solar equipment and ensure you get a properly sized system."


PV roofing systems are usually ready to install once they're delivered. Depending on the type of product, they can be installed by a roofing professional or an electrician; however, they must be wired to the house power supply by a licensed electrician.

"Installing an integrated PV system just requires some coordination between trades, mainly involving the roofer and the electrician. We chose an electrician to install the PV systems and incorporated the installation into the construction schedule. We try to control our projects right down to the day and integrate everything we can to avoid construction delays."

"We installed normal roofing felt over the entire roof and then we laid down composition shingles in the area where the PV system would be installed. Next, we laid a couple rows of roofing tiles--either concrete or mission tiles, depending on the floor plan elevation--on the bottom edge of where the PV system would be, to act as a stop for the solar panels to rest against. We then interconnected each module, or set of integrated panels, to create the larger PV array. Once the entire system was installed, the roofing tiles were laid. Although the PV panel slightly complicates the area of the roof that contains the PV array, we worked with our roofing contractor to ensure proper tie-in between the roofing tiles and the PV system. We used only flat tiles on the elevations where the PV systems were installed."

"Training basically consisted of bringing all the players together and figuring out how it was going to work. We tried our system on the model homes first and found that it worked well. Besides working with the electrical and roofing contractors to coordinate the installation, we also had to manage minor issues with the plumber regarding the placement of roof penetrations for things like vents and exhaust fans. Since each house is oriented differently, there are individual adjustments that need to be made depending on the placement of the panels."

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Like standard PV systems, integrated photovoltaic (PV) solar systems convert sunlight into electricity, but are designed to blend seamlessly into most roofing materials to minimize their visibility from the street. The design team working on WillowCreek strategically placed an integrated PV system on the rooftop of each home without sacrificing architectural integrity or "curb appeal." An integrated PV system significantly decreases what some homeowners might consider an unsightly detraction from the architectural appeal of their homes.


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Content updated on 5/18/2009

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