This Solar Roof Could Change How we Install Solar

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This Solar Roof Could Change How we Install Solar

This Solar Roof Could Change How We See Solar

Solar panels are widely regarded as one of the best ways to propagate green energy, with some experts suggesting that solar on every suitable roof in the United States would produce about 1,432 terawatt-hours (Twh), or about 39% of the total electricity usage in the USA. That’s a big deal considering solar produces about 77.56% less C02 per KwH of electricity. While solar is largely seen as a great option, especially in sunny southern states where homeowners can actually earn money from installing panels on their roofs, many avoid it, not because of the costs, which have fallen rapidly (By more than 75%) in the past 15 years, but because of another fact. Solar panels are ugly, and homeowners who are conscious of curb appeal and retail value actually avoid them.

Now, ElonMusk has another idea. Musk is the CEO and the mind behind ventures such as Tesla (the company not the man), SpaceX, Solar City, and others and he’s more than qualified to present his latest idea. In fact, it is an idea that has already been created in other forms. His concept of creating same-form-factor roof tiles that collect solar power could revolutionize the solar industry by making it more cost effective to install solar than to not.

A few years ago, solar roadways were all over the news when a small crowdfund raised the money to put their same-form factor road tiles into production. Now those panels are actually being installed in experimental locations around the USA, primarily to light up at night and melt snow off the road to reduce costs elsewhere rather than to generate electricity.

Elon Musk’s idea is similar, take a solar panel and change how it looks, make it stronger, and then market it as something new.

Solar Roof, also known as Solar Tiles deliver the same solar generating capacity as traditional ‘ugly’ tiles, and according to Musk, will be comparable in cost to installing a new roof. That’s a big deal for an industry that has largely required homeowners to invest in extras towards their rooftops.

However, they aren’t perfect.

While aesthetic, the panels are estimated to be about 2% less efficient than Solar City’s existing panels. That will reduce their electric output substantially over the course of a 25-30 year lifespan. While most homeowners will install substantially more panels on a roof when covering their entire roof that likely won’t make a difference, it is a consideration. Most solar panels are also installed slightly above the roof so that they have ventilation. This is a simple matter of economics because solar panels lose efficiency as they heat up, and with no ventilation under the panel, they could heat up quite a bit.

Tesla is actually well known for over promising and under delivering, especially on their first few models.Their PowerWall disappointed many at first, although the Powerwall 2 (which costs roughly $5,500 with an installation cost of $1,000) is doing much better.

Elon Musk’s Solar Tile roofing options are also high end, with slate, terra cotta, shingles, and a smooth finish available. These will cost much more than simple asphalt shingles, which like many of Tesla’s other products, will neatly cut out all but the middle and upper class from purchasing them. Although customers will likely be able to lease and take out payment plans on their solar tiles like with SolarCity’s existing solar panels, the overall cost will likely be quite high.


Tesla intends to have Solar City begin the production of Solar Tiles and Roofs in 2017, when they would go on the market. For now, they offer a lot of pros, including that many homeowners will be more likely to upgrade knowing that it won’t negatively affect the curb value of their home. Other than that, there’s no real benefit for those without the budget.

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Proliferate writer, sesquipedalian, techie, Apple fangirl (don't judge),tree hugger, yogi, tea drinker, zombie hunter. Into philotherianism & philomathy. Love my job. Visit me on Google +

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