SolarCity-owned mounting company Zep Solar targets UK, starting with commercial rooftops

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Zep Solar, the US rooftop PV mounting systems specialist backed by SolarCity, will launch its products into the UK market later this year, the company has told PV Tech.

On a visit to the company’s recently opened office in Milton Keynes in the English county of Buckinghamshire, PV Tech spoke to Chad Medcroft, vice president of Zep’s global applications and Joanne Ferriter, managing director of Zep’s UK division. The company was acquired by SolarCity in October 2013 and the opening of the UK office has apparently led to some industry rumours that the parent company will also be looking to hit the UK soon, but Zep’s reps in the UK refused to be drawn on the speculation.

According to Medcroft and Ferriter, Zep Solar is currently conducting pilots for a UK version of ZSPeak, a snap-together mounting solution for East-West orientated commercial rooftop PV which was launched in the US late last year. The firm expects that to then move into full production before long, the pair said.

ZS Trap, a commercial mounting system for metal trapezoid roofs – which are fairly common for commercial properties in the UK – will be piloted from August and through September, leading to a “full ramp sometime in October or November,” Medcroft said.

The company is also active in the residential market globally. In addition to the US, Zep Solar is also partnered with Japanese trading company Marubeni for household PV mounting systems in that market. In the UK, Zep Solar plans early pilots in that sector at an unspecified timeframe later in the year, but hopes to have the product rolled out around autumn, possibly to coincide with the Solar Energy UK show (disclosure: Solar Energy UK is hosted by PV Tech’s publisher, Solar Media).

Zep Solar made its name adding simple innovations to in order to reduce labour and materials costs to its systems, including the Zep Groove, a standardised groove cut into rooftop mounting frames. According to Medcroft, this makes the frames interchangeable from commercial to household scale. Ferriter added that so far, Zep has formed an initial strategic partnership with Hanwha Q Cells to make its PV modules compatible with Zep’s frames and mounting. However, outside the UK, more than 20 modules are classed as 'Zep-compatible' and the company looks likely to repeat this approach in Britain in future.

Zep’s offices are located in a new town development just a few miles north of London that has been planned and built up over the past few decades and is known to be actively encouraging international tech companies, including renewables, to be based there. Chad Medcroft and Joanne Ferriter said that Zep is looking to recruit more staff and expand its base.

“It’s fair to say we’re going to be expanding and adding more personnel in our office soon,” Medcroft said.

The UK government has often spoken of a desire to stimulate activity in the commercial rooftop sector, even as the Conservative government sworn into office in May this year appears to be unsure of how to handle renewable energy, announcing policy reviews amid reports that dedicated funds for clean energy may have gone over budget. This has so far not deterred other international players in solar from taking the UK seriously, with Japan's Solar Frontier recently opening a London office to target all segments, including commercial rooftops.

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