Luma Resources Finds Innovative Road Ahead, Through Solar-Power Shingles

When I hear roofing and sheet metal, I don’t think about technological innovation. But Luma Resources, a Rochester Hills, MI-based startup that sprung out of the now 60-year-old roofing company Allen Brothers, is using its expertise in that business to put solar energy into more homes.

Rather than finding ways of affixing solar panels to existing roofing structures, Luma has developed roofing shingles that are the solar power-generating cells themselves (see the picture below). The company was born when a solar company approached Allen Brothers about making its product stronger for residential use back in late 2006, says Luma president Robert Allen. The team quickly got to work, patented a solar shingle prototype, formed Luma in 2007 to commercialize the product, and made a big splash at the International Roofing Expo in 2008, where it won the best new product award.

“Solar has been in the test tube,” Robert Allen says, “but not really in the hands of contractors that could be able to come up with practical solutions to take it out of a test tube and put it on a roof. There had to be a marriage between the lab and the field.”

The solar shingle units, which were developed by Luma CEO Gary Allen, can scale for large or small residential projects. Luma can even build custom units for bigger commercial applications, like, for example, a project at a junior college in Hawaii, Allen says. Each kit uses thin-film solar photovoltaic solar cells (but can fit other solar collector technology), consists of 60 shingles, and contains the necessary connecting parts for easy installation. Luma is the first to market with a building-integrated photovoltaic system, Allen says. “Our product is a plug and play,” he says.

The firm is

Winston, Santa Cruz, CA 12kW

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