One Industry's Solar "Pivot" ...

An interview with John G. Schehl of RISE at Solar Power International 13 - 10/22/2013Another local group that we stopped by to chat with at the Solar Power International 13 show was the National Roofing Contractors Association, NRCA, which is headquartered out in Rosemont. You might well ask "what is Green Tech about roofing contractors?" ... but this is one of those feel-good stories, where an industry that was pretty much as blue-collar as they get has been able to pivot on a technological wave, and train many of its members to be highly-skilled technicians for the solar energy sector.

The dynamic here is pretty obvious: most solar arrays end up on the roofs of buildings. And, initially, these installations were being done with little regard to roofing parameters, creating unfortunate situations of the solar panels' mountings producing serious roof leakage on the buildings where they were installed. The folks at NRCA took this very seriously, and responded with the development of RISE, the Roof Integrated Solar Energy program, which trains and certifies roofing professionals with the CSRP (Certified Solar Roofing Professional) exam and accreditation.

Here are a couple of things from their site about the program:

Solar Energy Installers certified by RISE take an integrated approach to rooftop solar energy, installing photovoltaic systems using construction practices designed to preserve the integrity of the roof and ensure the performance of the photovoltaic system.

...

Founded by the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing (Center) and National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), Roof Integrated Solar Energy (RISE) Inc. was created to provide a means of evaluating and certifying solar roofing professionals to support the widespread use of rooftop solar energy.

Mission: RISE evaluates and certifies solar energy installers for knowledge about critical roof system construction and maintenance practices necessary to support successful rooftop solar energy installations based on principles regarding the installation and maintenance of rooftop solar energy systems without adversely affecting roof system performance and service life. RISE also provides the public with tools to identify skilled rooftop solar energy professionals.

Governance : RISE is overseen by a board of directors composed of representatives of key stakeholders from the roofing and solar industries who have a working knowledge of successful rooftop solar installation and maintenance. The efforts of the RISE board of directors are supported by the RISE staff and strategic partners dedicated to providing an effective and efficient certification program for the roofing and solar industries.

Perhaps I'm a bit cynical about industry associations, but I find it quite refreshing to see an organization like NRCA react to the situational conflicts that were arising with the solar industry (conflicts in that the latter's installations were messing up the roofs) with this sort of foresight. Instead of going head-to-head with solar, they saw an opportunity to create growth situations for their members, and set up a program where it was going to be the roofers who would be the ones doing the solar array installations, and upgrading the entire public face of their industry.

In this interview with John G. Schehl, the Executive Director of RISE, he notes how their CSRP certification, and the guidelines developed to go with it, were soon picked up by building associations, fire departments, and even international regulatory groups:

One has to admire the vision of the NRCA in taking a long view on renewable energy, figuring that solar wasn't going to "go away", and pushing forward with a program that would not only benefit their members, but boost the entire roofing industry. As Mr. Schehl notes, the trend is now for the solar manufacturers to design specific systems for installation by CSRP roofers, even to the point of integrating the solar elements into roofing systems that are being built in new construction. As so many of the "trades" are being swept into history by new technologies, it's nice to see the story of one that grabbed that bull by the horns and is riding it into the 21st century.




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