Tesla has started manufacturing its solar roof tiles
Tesla has reportedly begun manufacturing its much anticipated solar roofs tiles at the company’s Buffalo, New York factory.
According to Reuters, Tesla started production in December, and is now in the process of surveying the homes of people who placed a $1,000 (£800 in the UK) deposit on the product last year. Installation in the US was originally due to start in the summer of 2017, but was delayed despite being installed on the homes of more than a dozen Tesla employees, including Elon Musk.
The solar roof is designed to look like it has been made with regular shingle tiles, and Tesla claims its product would cost less than that of an ordinary roof installation when you take the power generation into consideration.
A number of industry voices have said, however, that more details are needed to substantiate Tesla’s claims. Major UK roofing contractor Bracknell Roofing said Tesla’s roof tiles could cost double that of a normal re-roofing project, whilst Ars Technica has pointed out that the economic attractiveness of the product very much depends on factors such as utility costs and property tax.
Regardless, the Tesla tiles are a crucial part of the company’s vision for a fossil-fuel-free home, and one of the most assured steps yet to redefine the aesthetics of solar panels. The company is still taking deposits on its website.
What is Elon Musk’s Solar Roof?
Elon Musk’s Solar Roof is a Tesla-manufactured solar-powered roof comprised of glass tiles embedded with photovoltaic cells (the technology that converts photons to electricity). Musk unveiled the Solar Roof in late 2016.
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Part of the cachet of Tesla’s Solar Roof is that the tiles are designed to resemble regular roof tiles, offering an attractive alternative to current solar panels. “Most roofs look terrible,” Musk told reporters. “When you have this installed on your house you will have the best-looking roof in the neighbourhood.” Musk also pledged that the Solar Roof would be more durable and a third cheaper than a regular roof, when electricity savings and tax credits were factored into considerations.
The tiles will be sold through SolarCity, an energy storage company that was incorporated into Musk’s Tesla in 2016.
Is the Solar Roof operational?
Yes. In August 2017, Tesla announced that it had finished the first installations of its Solar Roofs, albeit all of them onto the homes of Tesla employees, including Musk himself. Sort of like when the local amateur dramatics society puts on a play, and the audience is rammed with immediate family members. Except they’re on the payroll. Tesla maintains, meanwhile, that this soft-launch approach permits the company to streamline the sales and installation process of products before they hit the market.
Speaking of operational, there’s also a 100% Tesla-powered house touring its way across Australia as we speak. The “house” is in fact a tiny design studio being carted around by a Model X, which will allow visitors to learn how to set up their own Tesla solar and energy storage systems. The miniature abode is powered by a 2kW solar system and Powerwall, which generates and stores solar energy ready for use day and night. As if that wasn’t nifty enough, the entire system can be controlled via the Tesla app.
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Predictably, they don’t come cheap. Costing $65,000 (£50,000) for an average 3,000 square foot roof, they’re definitely a big investment. But that’s an investment that will pay off, argues Musk, citing the roof’s “infinity warranty” (most roofs in the US need replacing after 20 years).
As mentioned above, Musk initially pledged that Tesla’s Solar Roof would be a third less expensive to operate than a regular roof, taking into consideration both electricity savings and tax credits.
Does it come in any other colours?
This might sound like an inane question, but it really does. The “black glass smooth” and “textured” will be the first variants available, but SolarCity has announced the imminent release of “Tuscan” and “French slate” tiles. That gives you a pretty sound idea of Musk’s target market, then.
Is there a bigger picture?
Within the Tesla realms, yes, there most certainly is. Introduction of the Solar Roof could ramp up consumer interest in Powerwall, Tesla’s home-energy storage device. The product could be used in conjunction with the Solar Roof, harnessing solar energy and storing it ready for use. The duo of Tesla products would allow consumers to power their houses day and night, all the while reducing their carbon footprint.
However, some commentators have expressed a lack of interest owing to the products’ hefty price tags (the Powerwall starts at £5,900). Musk’s Solar Roof won’t be the Next Big Thing until it becomes more financially accessible to the wider public; “For now, this roof is just another of Musk’s expensive toys for rich, green people,” said Christopher Helman in Forbes. Great for the planet, less so for consumers’ bank accounts.
We will update this page as and when we discover more about Tesla’s Solar Roof.