Tesla, best known for their innovative electric cars, and SolarCity, the leading US rooftop installer, have ventured into the green building market with their new integrated solar roofing products. Panasonic is to produce the solar cells, Tesla is to construct the glass tiles, and SolarCity is to handle the installations. The venture is dependent on a successful shareholder vote on November 17th to approve the $2.2 billion acquisition of SolarCity.
Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, introduced the new product line recently and the launch has created significant buzz. The key differentiator with this new technology is the integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) design in the glass shingle. This breaks from past technology that required you to install a PV module directly onto your home’s existing roof shingles. In this way, cost efficiencies are found since the solar shingles are part of the original construction process rather than a costly add-on that the owner needs to justify over a period of many years.
The aesthetic improvement of the design is part of the anticipated excitement surrounding the product launch. Consumers have shown an interest in integrated solar shingles for many years and a number of companies have tried to design a shingle to satisfy this market. “I think there’s quite a radical difference between having solar panels on your roof that actually make your house look better versus ones that do not, I think it’s going to be a night-and-day difference,” Musk said prior to the launch.
A few attributes of the Tesla glass tile that were touted at the launch are its strength and durability. Musk conducted a test comparing the Tesla glass shingle to three shingles commonly used in home construction. When dropping heavy weights on all four, the Tesla glass shingle, comprised of quartz, was the only shingle to withstand the force of the weight. According to Musk, the Tesla glass shingles have a “quasi-infinite lifetime.” The additional draw for consumers is choice in design for their home. The new product line, due to be released to the market in 2017, is available in four different styles. Tuscan glass tile resembles the traditional Tuscan roof shingle, the slate glass tile offers the appearance of real slate tiles, while the textured glass tile and smooth glass tile both offer the homeowner a sleek, modern looking roof.
While two factors were not addressed at the launch: the solar efficiencies that the glass shingles create and the price of the new technology, Musk stated that the new roofing tiles offer a “lower cost than a traditional roof when combined with projected utility bill savings.”
In addition to the solar shingles, Musk also unveiled the Powerwall 2, an upgrade which will have enough storage capacity to run a two bedroom house (14 kWh) for a day. If it is hooked up to solar power generated from the roof, you could have enough electricity to go off of the grid. Your investment cost for the Powerwall 2 is $5,500.
Elon Musk has outlined a clear direction for Tesla with this launch. It is the company’s hope that consumers realize the synergy created by Tesla’s cool electric vehicles, their beautiful solar power generating roofing tiles, and their power storage products and incorporate them into their lifestyle.
By: Brian J. Mellett