Tesla – s Solar Roof 2017: Solar Shingles Reimagined, EnergySage

Tesla’s solar panel roof: solar glass tiles are the fresh solar shingles

If you’ve found it difficult to stay up to date on the future of Tesla Motors and SolarCity in latest months, you are not alone. Numerous industries (solar, electrified vehicles, and ridesharing, to name a few) worldwide are commencing to feel the influence of a merger that could significantly alter growth plans for manufacturers and executives across the globe. Now the concept of an integrated solar glass shingle – the Tesla solar tile – is on everyone’s mind.

We had already heard about Tesla’s plans for total clean energy integration – a one step carbon reduction process that involves pairing solar panels with your Tesla electrified vehicle . Now for the latest: thanks to a surprise appearance of Chairman Elon Musk in SolarCity’s 2nd quarter earnings call that lead to a very anticipated Tesla solar roofing product launch at the end of October, we’ve now seen the future of PV roofing and the future of Tesla. One thing is certain: building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) are going to be a part of Tesla Motors – or should we say Tesla Energy’s – future.

What’s the latest news on the Tesla solar roof? (updated August 2017)

Tesla had begun taking orders for their solar roof tiles as of May, 2017. Timeline information suggested on Tesla’s websites suggested that installations would begin in June on the west coast embarking in California. Fresh information on Tesla’s website as of the beginning of August showcased this switch in language:

“When will my Solar Roof be installed?

Initial trial installations are accomplish and undergoing evaluation, customer installations are about to begin and will ramp up through 2017.”

Elon Musk exposed that he and another Tesla executive have already had the roof installed on their respective properties and the language switch implies that those at the top of the wait list will begin to have their systems installed as soon as this month. Tesla’s roof installations will be administered by SolarCity, it’s newest asset. It is unclear when the roof product will be available nationwide tho’ some estimates suggest it will be mid 2018.

Tesla has also exposed a standard solar panel product that it will begin producing in two thousand seventeen in addition to its solar roof – a black Panasonic solar panel with no mounting apparatus. Tesla has launched a calculator that provides estimates for its solar roof and has released the pricing information of $21.85 per square foot. To compare the cost of the Tesla solar roof to a traditional solar system, check out our price comparison or checkout the pricing analysis by Consumer Reports.

Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) vs. Building-Applied Photovoltaics (BAPV): what are they?

Even before the latest Musk upheaval, building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) technology has been garnering attention as part of solar’s gradual expansion into broader markets like sustainable roofing design and green building.

A building in Spain with a side solar facade. This type of solar building is known as BAPV where the solar module is retrofitted rather than included in the original construction.

Simply put, BIPV substitutes materials of the building envelope with photovoltaics. This is in contrast with traditional rooftop solar installations, which entails fastening a PV module to a building separately. The purpose of BIPV is to integrate installation as part of a construction project, rather than a separate post-construction addition. In theory, this would result in significant savings by reducing labor and installation costs and eliminating the need for separate racking equipment. With BIPV, solar becomes an efficient building material rather than a luxury add-on.

Often confused with BIPV is building- applied photovoltaics, or BAPV, which refers to solar that is retroactively integrated into a building. While BAPV is much more common than BIPV in today’s day and age, BIPV is truly the ideal script for cost efficiency – hence why Elon Musk named it Tesla’s next stir.

The Tesla/SolarCity solar panel roof: what you need to know

A view of Dow Powerhouse solar roof shingles on a U.S. home. Dow cancelled their solar shingles product line this past June.

Many stakeholders had agreed that solar installation needed to be rebranded as an aesthetic and technical improvement that could be a part of a home renovation rather than a hefty module that is drilled onto your rooftop. That sentiment was punctuated in Elon Musk’s late October launch of Tesla’s fresh roofing product which will aim to bring solar further into the mainstream by removing any sort of visual setbacks homeowners may fear. “ I think there’s fairly a radical difference inbetween 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,” said Musk in a statement before the product’s official launch. Two months later he unveiled the tangible roofing product, using a crowded, suburban event in California to demonstrate that his panel design is so seamlessly integrated that an entire audience of press needed to be told the house they were looking at even had solar installed.

Tesla solar glass tile and roofing product materials

Much of what we had expected for the roof product is what we got on October twenty eight – the only surprise was the appearance and the use of a supposedly unbreakable glass apparatus. With the SolarCity’s acquisition expected post November 17’s big merger decision, Tesla is beginning to leverage the fresh resources available to them. Other than SolarCity’s massive installer workforce – which will be doing more building and less installing in the future – the asset most significant to Musk’s solar glass roof will be Panasonic’s incredible panel efficiency and the durability of the tiles and shingles being made. Musk demonstrated in the launch the strength of his fresh roofing product, testing intense weights on three common roofing shingles as well as his own. Sure enough, the Tesla roof was the only one that could withstand the weight and pressure. “It’s made of quartz” explained Musk. “It has a quasi-infinite lifetime.” Tesla is now stating on its website that its solar roof has an “infinite warranty” because of the strength of the roof glass.

This shingle and roof durability will be a large selling point for homeowners who are looking for more value added than just the benefits of a clean energy roof type. In a sense, Tesla wants to make inroads into both the solar industry and roofing industry and suggest competitive advantages in both. Solar panel warranties are often a yam-sized selling point for homeowners who are worried about the longtime production value and durability of their solar panel systems. Musk seems on a mission to put those concerns to bed and reach a broader audience than solar power ever could before.

The four roofing types unveiled at Tesla’s solar roof launch: Tuscan Glass Tile (left), Slate Glass Tile (middle left), Textured Glass Tile (middle right), Sleek Glass Tile (right)

The fresh roof will be suggested in four model designs: Tuscan glass tile, slate glass tile, textured glass tile and slick glass tile. This versatility and choice for homeowners will certainly switch the consumer practice of “going solar.” Musk’s BIPV innovation can be described with two improvements that both are focused around choice:

  1. Going solar no longer requires any perceived drawback in the appearance of large panels on your roof – homeowners can make solar as a roof styling improvement if they so choose.
  2. Solar can now be fully integrated and customized to match the texture and appearance of your roof – it can now be thought of as an integration rather than an addition where a homeowner chooses what fits their aesthetic preference.

Solar roofs vs. solar panel shingles vs. solar glass

However it might keep Musk up at night, Tesla will not be the very first company to launch a solar roof product . Development of solar roof tiles and solar shingles (most famously by Dow) has been evolving for many years, and a number of companies have taken a stab at designing a versatile, subtle rooftop solar medium that could be considered a genuine roofing material rather than a module add-on.

According to Fresh York Installer Suntegra, three out of four homeowners would choose an integrated solar system. The common types of BIPV to date are the following:

  • Semi-transparent solar glazing that can substitute windows and skylights
  • Solar cell membranes that can be integrated into a roofing design (what Tesla has mirrored with solar roof glass)
  • Solar panel shingles: also referred to as solar tiles, solar roof shingles are a versatile photovoltaic product made with lithe lean film cells, placed above a roof’s dew point. Solar shingles were suggested by Dow before the company went bankrupt in 2015.
  • Solar facades for sun-facing sides of buildings (typically only used for BAPV)

For Musk, the real innovation is the production of a solar system that truly is considered a roof model. While the four forms of BIPV (listed above) have been around for some time, the concept of a totally solar roof has not yet been successfully brought to market. What’s standing in Musk’s way? The real solar efficiency of these Tesla glass shingles and the price are two major factors that were only ambiguously addressed by Musk in the launch.

However nationwide estimates are still unclear, Tesla has said their roof will cost $21.85 per square foot. The plain context is that the roof will be very expensive compared to any common roof installation but will be competitive in terms of long term net benefit when the energy savings are factored in. Ultimately, the solar roof is a premium product made of quartz and is virtually unbreakable – it’s possible that Tesla’s solar roof will be a solar option for the top 1-5% and not the majority of prospective homeowners.

Another determining factor for the roof product’s success is efficiency. Musk shortly touched on this in the product release when he mentioned that the glass material shielding the solar cell results in a very minimal efficiency drop for the photovoltaic shingle. But in an industry where a fresh record for PV efficiency is announced almost every month and the cost of solar is directly tied to how well a solar panel produces electro-therapy, the real numbers on what this glass shingle can achieve will be crucial. Musk’s enthusiasm is contagious and he certainly has a history of audacious ventures grounded in revenue, but his entrepreneurial vision has its boundaries. The Tesla/SolarCity solar roof could succeed, but it will unequivocally shoulder excellent adversity.

Fresh BIPV, More Innovation, Same Musk

At the end of the day, solar roofs are not going to be a seamless product integration for Tesla. And yet, the concept certainly has the feel of the Tesla brand. Many had been questioning how Musk could possibly give solar panels the exquisite Tesla feel when they usually stick out, often contrasting with a roof’s design. The solar roof and the sleek glass roof tiles emerge to be just the response Musk was seeking for Tesla’s entrance into the solar industry.

Tesla and its esteemed chairman have a long way to go to affirm their status as a real player in both the solar PV and green roofing industries. How they will make this roof concept cost-competitive and how they will effectively absorb the financial turmoil of SolarCity are two big hurdles for the clean energy behemoth. But for now, Musk has done his job. The world’s interest is piqued and millions of homeowners are already anxiously anticipating Tesla Energy’s fresh solar product coming to market in 2017. For those solar shoppers who are wondering what a rooftop solar installation would cost them today, check out our Solar Calculator to get a free personalized estimate.

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