In the new Roofit.solar production facility near Tallinn, the innovation that may break through as the people’s choice of renewable energy solutions, is gathering real momentum. Founded only three years ago, the company Roofit Solar Energy produces metal roofs with integrated solar panels. At the same time, it remains invisible that the roof produces electricity. The thin photovoltaic layer which produces electricity is installed within the roof panel and the panels are joined with each other under the roof sheeting between the battens. The company claims that the installation of the new solar roof is as easy as the installation of a standard metal roof.
Thin and durable panels
Comparisons with the iPhone are invited by its black colour and smooth surface. Roofit.solar panels are thin like a smart phone but extremely durable owing to steel and tempered glass. In the USA, Tesla plans to start electricity-producing roofing tiles, and Elon Musk as an innovative visionary is the best promoter of the “solar roof” concept globally.
In comparison with Tesla, Roofit Solar Energy can already demonstrate specific advantages and success stories. First, the panel solution for metal roofs is three times cheaper today than Tesla’s offer and Roofit is prepared to take on larger contracts.
‘I recently had a phone call with a Norwegian who wanted to buy our roof because he has a problem – he had too many Tesla electric cars in the family and not enough capacity to charge all of them. This is why he wondered how to make his house produce electricity,’ says Helen Anijalg, Marketing Director of Roofit.solar with a smile. The problems people have these days!
But speaking more seriously, she says that when she first heard from her husband Anders Anijalg, co-founder of the company, that someone has invented a nice-looking roof that produces electricity thereby solving two basic human needs – energy and shelter – she wanted to become part of creating the success story.
As it happens, this unique technology was born out of personal need. Namely, Andri Jagomägi, researcher at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), had spent years researching and testing solar panels. When he started planning to build his own house, he realised he wanted to have both a standing seam metal roofing and solar panels. It is then that he realised that such a product did not exist anywhere in the world, but that it was totally possible to produce! In 2016, Jagomägi founded the company and, in 2017, the first Roofit.solar roofs were installed in Estonia.
The background of the co-founder, Andres Anijalg, is even more interesting; one could say he comes from the opposite side of the renewable energy sector. For over a decade, Anijalg used to work for Estonia’s largest energy producer Eesti Energia, where he led a project taking the Estonian knowledge of oil shale to Jordan. On the basis of that knowledge, an oil shale electricity plant is being built in the Middle East today.
‘Whilst developing the Jordan project, I witnessed the revolutionary development of solar energy, where one of the most expensive ways to produce electricity became the cheapest one. The cost of producing kWh of solar power fell 6-7 times in a short period. I have no doubt whatsoever that the sun is the future of energy production and I am really pleased to help develop it in a unique way in Estonia,’ says Andres Anijalg.
Today, the company is looking for new investors and capital in order to expand production and conquer export markets. ‘We are an industrial enterprise, but also a startup, and our product is easily scalable. In addition to increasing production capacity, we need to create software in order to export the electricity-producing metal panels and other roofing supplies that would come from local resellers,’ explains Helen Anijalg.
What is the cost of all this beauty and innovation?
What is the cost of all this beauty and innovation? Helen Anijalg emphasises that it is not more expensive than constructing a new roof and installing separate solar panels. The company can calculate the approximate payback period for each client on the basis of the (geographical) location, the angle of the roof and the cost of electricity.
‘A regular roof will never reach a payback time, whether you wait 100 years or not. In Germany, a Roofit.solar electricity-producing roof has an average payback period of 4-5 years, in Estonia it is about a decade. Electricity bills are reduced and one can earn from selling electricity into the grid. Estonia actually has the same amount of sunshine as northern Germany or northern France, the payback period is mostly based on the local electricity price and the background system,’ says Helen Anijalg.
Therefore, to claim that Nordic countries have no sun is not true! The Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, and also British, German and Polish interest in the product is already remarkable and the distribution network is under active development. There are daily inquiries from all over the world, from Africa to Australia and mostly from countries with a lot of sunshine.
The electricity-producing metal sheets developed in Estonia have already won a significant amount of competitions and awards. At PowerUp! – the biggest competition for startups and energy industry entrepreneurs from Central-Eastern Europe – the company won a national competition and, in the European round, the Clean Air Challenge Award, which acknowledges the best European startup helping to maintain clean air. Roofit Solar Energy is the only Estonian company to be listed by the German Energy Agency among the top 100 energy startups in the world. They will be recognised at the World Energy Congress in Abu Dhabi this autumn.
In 2018, Roofit Solar Energy won the competition “Environmentally Friendly Product 2018”, organised by the Estonian Ministry of Environment. The global energy corporation ENGIE awarded the company the top prize at the competition of retrofit solutions, which will be followed up by developing a new electricity-producing panel with insulation. Roofit.solar metal roofs are architecturally speaking a solution that suits many geographical areas and gives people the opportunity to produce renewable energy themselves. ‘We bring energy democracy to the people, so that they could participate in renewable energy production and personally contribute to environment protection’, adds the founder of Roofit Solar Energy, Andri Jagomägi.
Aesthetical and powerful panels
The roof panels come in three different sizes:
- For example, the small 545 x 1640 mm weighing 11 kg and the largest 545 x 2270 mm weighing 16 kg.
- The smaller produces 110 W and the larger 160 W.
- The metal sheet thickness is 0.5 mm, but the final product is 4 mm thick.
- The standard colour black is the most cost-efficient material. For a full roof the production will depend on roof size and the location/ roof angle, for example 100 m2 roof will be ca 15 kW.
Published in Life in Estonia September 2019