Solar Energy Solutions on a Standing Seam Metal Roof – Crystalline Panels Versus Thin Film Laminates

I think as a designer, you’ll agree that a standing seam metal roof is a choice location for a solar rooftop photovoltaic application.

The real issue is which one of the two most popular solar rooftop photovoltaic (PV) technologies you will recommend for your project—the more traditional crystalline photovoltaic array or the more flexible PV laminate thin film systems. No matter what your decision, a standing seam metal roof will be the best platform you can specify for either PV roof technology, particularly since a metal roof is the only conventional roofing material with a life expectancy equal to or longer than both the crystalline and thin film technologies.Crystalline solar panels.

At first blush, you might be tempted to ask which PV system is cheaper or which produces more power based on manufacturer specifications. Try not to be lured into that thought process. Your first question really should be—where is your roof?

Available space, climate, sunlight and design aesthetics—not just price and product output may dictate your most suitable photovoltaic choice for a standing seam metal roof.

For example, if your structure is in an area of bright, continuous sunlight, then I’d suggest you consider mounting crystalline panels on your metal roof. And if you’re trying to maximize the solar capabilities of a small roof area, you’ll probably find that crystalline panels will perform better than thin film laminates.Solar PV laminate on Englert metal roof.

On the other hand, if your roof is in a lower sunlight area, either because of climate or shade cast by trees and adjacent structures, then I think you’ll find thin film laminates will probably deliver more power. And if you have plenty of roof space, then thin film will probably deliver better results for your money.

Be aware however, there is no apples-to-apples comparison for pricing for these two technologies when they are installed on a standing seam metal roof. A crystalline system will require framing and clamps that attach to the seam of the metal roof. This will take more time and cost more than an adhesive-backed photovoltaic laminate which can be applied directly to the metal roof panel. However, it takes more laminate material to produce amounts of energy comparable to a crystalline configuration. Consequently, more connections must be installed with the laminate system, adding more cost to your project. I think you’ll find this cancels out any substantial installation savings from the simple peel and stick laminate process.
Thin film PV laminate on Englert metal roof.
Many metal roofs today are available with cool roof coatings that are Energy Star approved and LEED compliant. These designations indicate the metal roofs have high solar reflectivity and emissivity that can keep the interior of a building cool in the summer. In sunny, warm weather conditions, we’ve found that the panels of a crystalline system mounted on a standing seam metal roof further reduce the heat factor by shading the metal roof surface. But dark blue photovoltaic laminate applied directly to the metal roof panels does not have that same ability.

In addition to productivity and cost, I’d like to bring to your attention some other performance characteristics you might wish to consider when choosing between crystalline and laminate systems.

Thin film PV laminates can be easily applied to curved metal roof surfaces however; they cannot be applied to metal roof panels with striations or embossing. Unlike crystalline panels, thin film laminates can be walked on without risk of breaking and they will capture the sun’s energy throughout the day even during cloudy low light conditions. In contrast, crystalline panels mounted on a standing seam metal roof will capture higher more intense amounts of energy from the sun during peak sunlight hours but not in cloudy conditions.
If you are concerned about aesthetics and maintaining the appearance of a traditional metal roof surface you may want to select thin film laminates instead of crystalline panels for your metal roof. Crystalline panels mounted on a sloped metal roof are much more noticeable from ground level then PV laminates. When applied directly to a dark colored standing seam metal roof, PV laminates are hardly discernible. Consequently, you’ll find that PV laminates are less noticeable and more aesthetic when mounted on metal roofs that are dark blue, dark green, black, dark bronze, charcoal gray, etc. and more visible when mounted on metal roof coatings that are red, white, light gray and tan.

Either way, crystalline panels or thin film laminates mounted onto a standing seam metal roof will get the job done. They are both wise and effective choices for energy savings.

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