Yorkshire start-up adds effective flexibility to solar roofing

As businesses seek to cut costs and reduce their carbon footprint, more and more are turning to solar roof panels to help cut their energy bills.

Retrofitting traditional solar panels to existing buildings can pay for itself in less than five years. But not all buildings are suitable for them.

The problem? The weight. Traditional black glass panels weigh around 15kg/square metre. With the average warehouse reaching 31,600 square metres in 2020, according to a survey by Savills, that’s an extra 475 tonnes which would often require additional structural support.

“Thirty or forty years ago when these sheds were designed, nobody was thinking that in 2023 we might want to add on glass solar panels at 15kg/square metre,” said Keith Bradley, founder and CEO of Bradclad Group, whose start-up subsidiary SolarBond Ltd specialises in lightweight solar panels.

Keith Bradley

It isn’t only that older buildings aren’t designed to carry that much extra weight. Even newly built warehouses can see increased costs to ensure they can bear such a roof load.

With a weight of less than 3kg/square metre, SolarBond’s offering – semi flexible, slimline solar panels that can be glued on to the roof, enables retrofitting to a far wider range of older building stock, and reduce the build costs of new stock.

In developing the product offer, SolarBond, based in Thorp Arch, Wetherby, faced two challenges:  fixing the slimline modules to existing profiled metal roofing, and keeping costs down to be more competitive with traditional glass panels.

Neither the colour coat metal roofs nor the solar panels are designed to have things stuck to them.  The SolarBond team approached adhesive consultants to find a solution.

“After they stopped laughing, and said we could not have chosen two more difficult materials to stick together, we persisted. And now we’re able to stick the product to all sorts of things, including coated metal roofs.”

The adhesive makes installation far simpler than traditional glass panels, which are bolted on.

“That’s another USP,” says Keith Bradley. “We don’t penetrate the skin of the roof with screws or bolts -we are using glue.”

Finding solar panel manufacturers who can bring costs down to the 5-year ROI demanded by finance officers was another challenge – but one the firm has now solved.

Thanks to rapid developments in solar technology, flexible solar panels such as the SolarBond modules are far more efficient and competitive than they were even a few years ago.

The panels will continue to pay for themselves long after the 5 year ROI –  after 25 years the panels will still be operating at 80% efficiency.

“The potential for this across Yorkshire alone is huge” says Keith Bradley.  “We are already receiving sizeable enquiries from continental Europe and beyond.