Elon Musk unveiled SolarCity’s glass solar roof panels at the end of last year. Less than a year later, the company has been consumed by Tesla and the first tiles have been fitted onto houses and are generating electricity.
Designed to look like any old roof tile the panels are able to capture sunlight and convert it into electric energy. In a Tesla earnings call, Musk said the initial installations have happened on the homes of Tesla employees – including his own and co-founder JB Staubel’s.
Tesla Buyers can customize the design in order to fit with their specific housing design
This is just the first step for Tesla, though. Pre-orders for the technology started in the US during the second quarter of this year and those who take the leap are offering a lifetime warranty. Installations on early adopters’ houses are due to start before the end of 2017 and could be available outside the US in 2018.
Prices depend on your need and Tesla has created a calculator using data from Google Sunroof, a 2015 project that used 3D modelling to determine how much solar output houses can generate. This calculator factors in the cost of a 14kWh Powerwall – an optional extra that can be installed with Solar Roof panels – and state taxes. The ‘energy value’ number is calculated over 30 years, which is the length of the warranty covering power production from the tiles. Tesla is offering an “infinity warranty” on the tiles themselves.
Tesla claims the typical homeowner should expect to pay $21.85 per square foot.
“Solar Roof is more affordable than conventional roofs because in most cases, it ultimately pays for itself by reducing or eliminating a home’s electricity bill,” Tesla said previously. “Solar Roof tiles are more than three times stronger than standard roofing tiles, yet half the weight. They do not degrade over time like asphalt or concrete. Solar Roof is the most durable roof available and the glass itself will come with a warranty for the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first.”
The panels were announced in an event on October 28, 2016, on a set once used for the TV show Desperate Housewives at Universal Studios, LA. At the time, the billionaire explained that the roof – which is made entirely out of solar cells – also integrates products from his electric car company.
Musk’s solar roof uses two types of tiles — solar and non-solar. Each of the tiles is made from glass and is designed to be a “more attractive way” to introduce solar panels to more homes. The chairman of the energy-focused company initially announced his firm would be developing the new roofs during SolarCity’s earning call in August 2016. Instead of installing a new roof and solar panels – or modules – separately, the whole roof will have solar power capabilities.
Tesla Buyers can customize the design in order to fit with their specific housing design and there are four options available: Tuscan Glass Tile, Slate Glass Tile, Textured Glass Tile and Smooth Glass Tile. The latter more closely resembles current solar panels, while the former looks remarkably like traditional roof panels.
The roof and battery technology could potentially open a whole new market for the company, making solar power a key component for new and existing houses. The new venture will work alongside Tesla’s current installations of solar panels on existing roofs.
Towards the end of last year, Tesla announced it was teaming up with Panasonic to manufacture solar panels and modules. The two companies entered into a so-called, “non-binding letter of intent” under which they will collaborate on the production of photovoltaic (PV) cells, based at Tesla’s (formerly SolarCity’s) factory in Buffalo, New York.
The International Renewable Energy Agency produced a report earlier this year that predicted up to 13% of the electricity generated around the world could be done by 2030 through solar power. Countries such as Brazil, Chile and South Africa are some of the most attractive markets at the moment for solar power.