Reasons Not to Get Too Excited About Tesla’s New Solar Roof
Elon Musk is poised to make a big announcement about Tesla’s solar roof on Friday. Be skeptical, very skeptical.
Even after deception and misdirection, Elon keeps us coming back for more.
The solar roof started life as a stunt back in October 2016, when the Tesla CEO unveiled a rooftop of solar tiles at Universal Studios’ Desperate Housewives set. They looked real, but turned out to be nonfunctional props.
The goal at the time was to convince shareholders that they should let Musk acquire SolarCity, the leading rooftop solar installer, founded by Musk’s cousins and owned in part by him. The solar roof illustrated the potential riches that could be unlocked by combining Tesla engineering expertise with SolarCity’s mastery of the rooftop solar market. Shareholders said yes, overwhelmingly.
Fast-forward three years, and Musk is still baiting and switching with the solar roof. On Wednesday’s earnings call with investors, during which he had plenty of legitimate achievements to share, Musk decided to tease yet another solar roof launch. It would be an “official product launch” scheduled for the following afternoon.
The next day arrived, and Tesla watchers and journalists looked on, but no word came from Tesla about any official product launch. As 3 p.m. Pacific approached, Musk tweeted that he actually meant Friday.
Since Thursday’s announcement turned out to be a dud, Greentech Media instead compiled a list of reasons to remain highly skeptical of this product until proven otherwise.
Nobody has made a solar roof work at scale
A little context on solar roofs: Many have swung at them, and nobody has hit it out of the park. Solar roofs as a category have not earned the benefit of the doubt.
The mainstream solar industry has achieved massive cost reductions via commodification and mass production. Solar roof tiles essentially reject that industrial success story, starting all over again at very small scale. Making matters worse, they historically have delivered worse efficiency in terms of converting sunlight to electricity. Solar roofs require a customer to pay more for a less effective product simply because it looks cleaner.
At the same time, roof tiles replace an existing roof, so they narrow the market to homeowners who either need a new roof or are willing to pay to rip up a perfectly good roof and replace it with photovoltaic tiles.
Finally, installation of these tiles is more demanding in labor and skill than a basic solar panel install. The contractor must execute at the level of a professional roofer, preventing leaks and ensuring decades of durability.
Those three challenges — unit cost, addressable market and labor demands — have sunk plenty of companies’ dreams so far.
Take Dow Chemical, one of the largest companies in the U.S. This industrial giant tried to make its Powerhouse solar roof brand work, installing around 1,000 units before giving up in 2016. The brand resurfaced years later in the hands of long-time installer RGS Energy, which improved efficiency by about 50 percent and partnered with actual roofers for installation.
That could be a success story, but it’s also a Hail Mary. RGS stock trades for pennies, and its board of directors recently voted to abandon its legacy rooftop solar business because it was losing too much money.
Others are trying solar roofs that don’t require painstaking tile-by-tile installation. In 2017, roofing company GAF launched a solar offering that sits flush on the roof; it spun off GAF Energy as its own company this year, and says it has installed hundreds of systems. Startup Forward, Inc. is commercializing a metal seam roof that generates electricity.
If any of them delivers solar roofs at real scale, they’ll be the first.
No really, solar roofs inflict business carnage
See Eric Wesoff’s definitive list of the firms that went bankrupt or otherwise suffered from their quest to make solar roofs.
Tesla hasn’t made the solar roof work, either
Tesla lovers could counter the preceding points based on the company’s history of defying expectations. Nobody made electric cars sexy until Tesla did; what’s to stop the company from succeeding at solar tiles where others failed?
To rebut that argument, look no further than Tesla’s own track record. The company has been taking 1,000 customer deposits for years, and yet seems to have delivered only a few dozen roofs, and at great expense relative to conventional solar.
The product webpage admits this, sort of: “Initial trial installations are complete and customer installations are underway with plans to ramp up in 2019.”
But Musk went further on the investor call, explaining that, all this time, the product was never ready for mass production.
“Versions 1 and 2, we were still sort of figuring things out. Version 3, I think, is finally ready for the big time,” he said. “And so we’re scaling up production of the Version 3 solar tile roof at our Buffalo Gigafactory. And I think this product is going to be incredible.”
The charitable reading here is that Tesla ceaselessly iterates to make its technology better. But Musk’s statement also reveals the company was taking customer dollars and overhauling customer roofs with a product the CEO later admitted was insufficient.
A credibility gap has haunted this product since Tesla’s original launch from Halloween 2016. Musk’s assertions aside, no evidence has emerged to suggest this situation has changed for the better.
Tesla is not a roofing company
Roofs offer little margin for error. They must keep their customers safe from the elements and persist through decades. Botched installations produce very expensive side effects.
Unlike other solar roof companies, Tesla has opted to go it alone and assume the mantle of roof installer as well as technology supplier. This requires building out a workforce entirely unrelated to Tesla’s core business of manufacturing electric cars.
It’s possible, to be sure. But Tesla showed in the strained launch of the Model 3 that when the going gets tough in the car business, the energy division has to get out and walk.
“For about a year and a half, we unfortunately stripped Tesla Energy of engineering and other resources and even took the cell production lines that were meant for Powerwall and Powerpack and redirected them to the car, because we didn’t have enough cells,” Musk explained on the earnings call.
“We had to do it, because if we didn’t solve Model 3, Tesla wouldn’t survive,” he added.
Subordinating nonessential operations to ensure the company’s survival is a sensible tactical move. But it clarifies where solar stands in Tesla’s stack of priorities. Roofing is an even less established priority for the company. When homeowners choose between a roofing specialist and Tesla, they should keep that in mind.
Tesla’s solar track record doesn’t bode well
The roofing play was a stretch back when SolarCity was at the height of its powers; even then, it meant mastering a different line of work. But in three years under Tesla’s management, the residential solar market leader withered to a shell of its former self. In the second quarter of this year, Tesla installed only one-tenth of the solar capacity that SolarCity deployed in its busiest quarter.
That decimated entity is supposed to handle installation for the decidedly more complicated and time-intensive solar tiles.
At the same time, Tesla has diverged from the rest of the solar industry by trying to put as little effort into sales as possible. The gamble is that lowering customer-acquisition spending will improve margins, even if revenue drops. Tesla finally halted its nosedive in solar installations last quarter, but has yet to prove passive sales can drive meaningful business over time.
Against that backdrop, the solar roof asks more of both customer and installer. It’s hard to see Tesla make a serious go of it without repudiating the most recent iteration of its protean solar strategy.
And if conventional rooftop solar proved so hard for Tesla, why would a more complicated version turn out better?
Tesla Solar Roof | Is It Worth It? | YSG Solar
exciting news in the Solar Industry with a recent announcement from Tesla. New designs and further improved developments of Tesla‘s Solar Roof Tiles V3 are forthcoming and will be available for your home sooner than you might expect.
What’s New With Tesla Solar City?
Tesla Motors and SolarCity are doing big things in the energy industry. This third iteration of their solar roof tiles are said to look more like the standard roof and less like a typical solar panel installation. Although the first solar roof tiles were originally announced back in 2017, they weren’t made public until the second version of the solar roof tiles were released in 2018.
In Tesla’s 2019 shareholder meeting, CEO Elon Musk discussed the near completion of Solar Roof Tiles V3. He explained his difficulties developing this product to “look good and to last for 30 years” but now they feel more confident with the developed V3 product.
Musk explained that the newly developed tiles will have a shot at being a comparable price to a shingle roof in addition to helping lower the customer’s utility cost. Shingle roofs typically cost as little as 4 per square foot which means the Tesla Solar Roof tiles could be a huge game changer in the solar panel market. if the match up.
During the launch of the product, Tesla does not suggest ordering an all-solar roof, instead recommending 35% of the roof be covered with solar tiles at a price of 21.85 per square foot. Tesla said the solar roof tiles take roughly the same time as tile roof installation. typically 5-7 days. If these hopes come to fruition, Tesla will have seriously impacted the solar roof market.
However, a report from Electrek explains that a customer paid 35/square foot of solar tiles instead of the announced amount of 21.85 per square foot, far above what was promised during the shareholder meeting.
Ultimately, the price of solar roof tiles will depend on the size and condition of your roof. As noted by EnergySage, a customer in Northern California who installed the solar roof gave details of their project. The installation ended up costing 100,000, which includes roof replacements and three Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries. Subtracting these additional costs, the solar roof and roof replacement came in at around 70,000. The system produces 10 kilowatts (kW) of power, keeping the customer’s home off the grid 80% of the time.
Tesla Solar Roof: What is it?
The Tesla solar roof is a building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) product that has the look and functions of typical roof shingles. With the Tesla solar roof, property owners can have a modern pitched roof look mixed with shingle tiles. Tesla’s solar glass is made with tempered glass that is 3 times stronger than the standard roofing tiles.
In fact, Tesla is so confident in their solar glass technology that they have infinity and lifetime warranty for their tiles. The glass material shielding the solar cell results in minimal efficiency drop for the photovoltaic shingles but there are no real numbers to indicate exactly how much the efficiency is improved.
One of the main complaints associated with solar panels is the aesthetic, with many property owners of the belief that they are visually unappealing. Musk believes that Tesla’s solar roof is going to be a night-and-day difference in changing the visual aspect and creating a more appealing product for consumers. The Tesla Solar roof will be offered in four different designs: slate glass tile, textured glass tile, Tuscan glass tile, and smooth glass tiles, as shown below.
Tesla Solar Roof: Is it worth it?
Tesla’s Solar Roof seems very visually appealing since it will likely blend in to the look of your current roof tiles. There’s no doubt that Tesla is one of the first in the industry to aggressively pursue this roof approach. The sleek glass roof tile will attract many customers, making for the perfect introduction of Tesla into the solar industry.
If you have the money to pay for the premium price glass tile technology and love the look of the Tesla Solar Roof, then this product may give you the perfect reason to go solar. However, if it’s too costly there will always be other options. Although you may not find regular solar panels as appealing in a visual sense, they are a lot cheaper and will give you all the same savings and benefits as the Tesla Solar Roof.
Regardless of your opinion on the Tesla Solar Roof, switching to solar isn’t just about looks. There are many more positive aspects, like decreasing fossil fuel emissions and saving on your electricity bills. Take a look at quotes for a standard solar panel system and see the price differences for yourself. Always compare and research several different companies for better and competitive prices.
Of course, if you don’t have time to research, reach out to YSG Solar today. Just give us a call at 212.389.9215 and we will figure out the solar process for you in no time.
By Kasey Liu
Tesla Solar Roof: Is It Worth It?
Many homeowners intrigued by the idea of using their roof to generate power are turned off by the look of the ugly black solar panels they’d need to install. Though renewable energy is surely good for the planet, solar panels aren’t known for their curb appeal.
That could change soon. In October 2016, the CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, announced his company’s plan to acquire SolarCity, a solar panel company, and to start manufacturing and selling solar roof tiles that would be much more attractive than the traditional solar panels. “The key is to make solar look good,” Musk said.
But beauty comes at a price, and it’s a high one in this case. Tesla estimates that replacing an average 3,000-square-foot roof with a Solar Roof could cost 65,550. Is that money a homeowner will make back over time? Read on for everything you need to know about Tesla’s Solar Roof:
How does the Tesla Solar Roof Work?
No more boxy black panels! Tesla’s Solar Roof looks just any other roof, with no hardware to be seen.
Tempered glass tiles replace traditional roofing materials. Two styles are available as of June 2017: “Textured” (black tiles that resemble asphalt shingles) and “Smooth” (gray tiles for a streamlined look). Two more styles will hit the market in 2018: “Tuscan” (a terra cotta look) and “Slate.” The solar panel tiles are mixed with non-solar tiles on the roof; while the solar ones cost more than non-solar, the two are indistinguishable from each other after they’re installed.
Are Tesla roof tiles available?
Tesla is currently taking 1,000 deposits for the first two styles; delivery, which started on June 1, is rolling out from California across the country.
How long will it take to install a Tesla Solar Roof?
According to the company, five to seven days—about the same as installing a traditional roof.
How durable is the Solar Roof?
The tiles may be made of glass, but they couldn’t be much tougher. Tesla’s warranty covers them for the lifetime of your house—or infinity, “whichever comes first.” The tiles get the highest possible ratings for hail, wind, and fire; according to Tesla, they’re “three times stronger than standard roofing tiles.”
Will I save money with Tesla’s Solar Roof?
A lot of variables are involved. But there’s a handy calculator on the Tesla site where you can enter your address to find out how many dollars worth of energy your Solar Roof will generate over 30 years (it estimates the average price of energy in your area and adjusts for inflation). A chart deducts the estimated cost of your Solar Roof, including materials and installation, and the Powerwall battery, which stores electricity generated by the roof during the day (so you’ll have power when the sun’s not shining). The chart then factors in the current 30 percent Solar Investment Tax Credit to end up with the “Net earned over 30 years.”
To determine what percentage of your roof tiles needs to be solar, the calculator considers the size of your roof and the average amount of sunlight your neighborhood gets. You can even customize the calculations by entering the average amount of your monthly electric bill so the calculator can take your power usage into consideration.
As for that federal tax credit for residential solar installations, the clock is ticking: The tax credit is being phased out, dropping to 26 percent in 2020, 22 percent in 2021, and zero after that.
Is the Solar Roof really worth it?
According to Tesla, a typical homeowner could expect to pay 21.85 per square foot to replace a 3,000-square-foot roof with a Solar Roof that’s 35 percent solar tiles—for a total of 65,550. (That price is before tax credits; also, it’s possible that a roof might need to be 70 percent solar tiles.)
That puts the upfront cost of the Solar Roof higher than a traditional roof, but Tesla asserts that the price tag is more than offset by the value of the energy the tiles generate. The amount saved in electrical bills will often—eventually—be more than the cost of the roof. And, as Tesla says, the homeowners will “benefit from a beautiful new roof that also increases the value of their home.”
An article in Consumer Reports in May 2017, “Doing the Math on Tesla’s Solar Roof,” investigates Tesla’s claims. Author Paul Hope describes the online cost calculator and writes, “If Tesla’s math is correct, it seems that in many cases the roof would more than pay for itself in electricity savings over the 30-year life of the warranty.” But he then points out that “Tesla’s calculator relies upon some important assumptions and predictions that delve deep into the economy of residential solar power in the U.S.”
After crunching the numbers for three houses in different parts of the country, Hope concludes that “for some houses, the potential savings do seem to make a lot of sense—again, assuming Tesla’s projections are accurate.” But homeowners must consider other factors, such as how they’ll finance the initial cost—if a loan is required, what will the interest costs be? Then there’s the question of how long they’ll be in their current home (30 years certainly isn’t typical), when they last replaced the roof, and how effective the Solar Roof will actually be (Hope reminds us that Consumer Reports didn’t run its own tests).
As for your own situation, your house’s location and other factors also have a bearing. The solar calculator at Google’s Project Sunroof will tell you how many hours of usable sunlight your home gets in a year. Overhanging trees and large adjacent buildings also affect feasibility.
All in all, you’ll need to run the numbers and weigh your options before making a decision. The benefit to the environment can’t be calculated in dollar signs—but it’s surely undeniable. And your shift to clean energy might well inspire others in your community to follow. As global warming escalates, a snowball effect could only be a good thing.
N.B.: If you’ve been thinking about converting to solar energy, get the basics by reading Hardscaping 101: Solar Panels Pros and Cons. And read about more roof options at:
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Tesla solar roofs can now be preordered; CA installations start in June
Elon Musk, habitually behind schedule, announced on May 10 that anyone can now preorder a Tesla Solar Roof—a roof made of shingles with built-in solar cells.
Musk had previously said preorders would open in April, and promised the product would cost less than a conventional roof if you factor in the energy savings.
But there’s no set price for a Solar Roof; Tesla has released a price calculator that estimates the cost, which depends on the size of your home and your energy needs.
Tesla’s site says it will start installing Solar Roofs in June, first in California and later “rolling out to additional markets over time.”
You’ll have to fork over 1,000 today to get your name on the preorder list.
This article, written by Harrison Weber, was originally published on VentureBeat, an editorial partner of GreenCarReports.
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Why Tesla’s new solar roof tiles and home battery are such a big deal
On October 28, Tesla unveiled its new solar roof tiles. Few of us in attendance, if any, realized the solar roofing tiles were actual functional solar panels until Elon Musk said so. Sure, it’s a neat trick, but what’s the big deal?
Why does it matter that Tesla is making a fashion statement when the point is green power and a future where we aren’t so dependent on fossil fuels?
I’ve heard from some people suggesting that this is nothing new, because of other similar previous projects, including Dow Chemical’s canned solar shingle project, for example. Others are wary of Tesla’s ability to sway consumers with a solar solution that sounds like it’ll still be quite expensive in terms of up-front (or, with payment plans, deferred but net) installation costs. Still others aren’t clear on Tesla’s goals with this product, or how it fits into the company’s overall strategy relative to its electric vehicles.
It’s easy to dismiss the aesthetic import of how Tesla’s tiles look, but it’s actually important, and a real consideration for homeowners looking to build new homes or revamp their existing ones. The appearance of the tiles, which come in four distinct flavors (Textured Glass, Slate Glass, Tuscan Glass and Smooth Glass) is going to be a core consideration for prospective buyers, especially those at the top end of the addressable market with the disposable income available to do everything they can to ensure their home looks as good as it possibly can.
As with other kinds of technologies that are looking to make the leap from outlier oddity to mainstream mainstay, solar has a hurdle to leap in terms of customer perception. Existing solar designs, and even so-called attempts to make them more consistent with traditional offerings like the above-mentioned Dow Chemical project, leave a lot to be desired in terms of creating something that can be broadly described as good-looking.
It’s like the VR headset — Oculus and Google can make claims about their use of fabric making their headsets more approachable, but both are still just options somewhere along the curve of things with niche appeal. Neither is very likely to strike a truly broad audience of users as acceptable, and neither are solar panels that don’t succeed in completely disguising themselves as such.
Tesla has been referred to as the Apple of the automotive world by more than a few analysts and members of the media, and if there’s one thing Apple does well, it’s capitalize on the so-called “halo effect.” This is the phenomenon whereby customers of one of its lines of business are likely to become customers of some of the others; iPhone buyers tend to often go on to own a Mac, for instance.
For Tesla, this represents an opportunity to jump-start its home solar business (which it’ll take on in earnest provided its planned acquisition of SolarCity goes through) through the knock-on effects of its brisk Tesla EV sales, including the tremendous pre-order interest for the Model 3. It’s strange to think of halo effects with big-ticket items, including vehicles and home energy systems, but Tesla’s fan base shares a lot of characteristics with Apple’s, and because they’re already purchasing at the level of an entire automobile, the frame of reference for what constitutes a valid halo purchase is actually appropriate.
Tesla, like Apple, scores well with customer satisfaction and brand commitment, and that’s something that no one trying to sell a solar home energy system at scale can match. As strange as it sounds, “buying a roof because you like your car” might be the new “buying a computer because you like your phone.”
Benefits beyond basic solar
Tesla’s solar tiles claim to be able to power a standard home, and provide spare power via the new Powerwall 2 battery in case of inclement weather or other outages. Musk says that the overall cost will still be less than installing a regular old roof and paying the electric company for power from conventional sources. But Musk’s claims about the new benefits of the new solutions don’t end there.
Tesla’s tiles will actually be more resilient than traditional roofing materials, including terra-cotta, clay and slate tiles. That’s because of the toughness of the glass used in their construction, according to Musk, who demonstrated the results of heavy impact from above, using a kettlebell as you can see in the video below.
This should make them theoretically more resistant to potential damage from elements like hail, or even debris like fallen tree branches. In fact, Musk also said at the event that the roofs should far outlast the standard 20-year life cycle common for roofing materials used today — by as much as two or even three times. Fewer roof tile replacements means more value, provided that’s not already factored into his estimates of the up-front cost.
There’s also the possibility that the new tiles could become more efficient than existing solar panel options. Though in their current form, Musk says they achieve 98 percent of the efficiency of regular panels. He said that the company is working with 3M on coatings that could help light enter the panel and then refract within, letting it capture even more of the potential energy it carries to translate that into consumable power.
A new kind of ecosystem
The announcement of Tesla’s solar tiles does not guarantee a sweeping solar power revolution; far from it, since Tesla says it won’t start installing the product in any consumer homes until next year, and a lot can happen between now and then. But Musk also said with full confidence that he ultimately expects the Powerwall to outsell Tesla cars, and easily so.
Solar roofing, Powerwall and Tesla cars taken together represent a new kind of ecosystem in consumer tech, one that carries a promise of self-sufficiency in addition to ecological benefits. Tesla has already tipped its hand with respect to how it intends to make vehicle ownership a revenue generator for its drivers, rather than a cost center. You can see how it might eventually do the same for solar power using solar tile roofs combined with Powerwalls installed in series, giving homeowners surplus power generation and storage with a few different potential options for monetizing the excess (including, say, acting as a supercharger station for other Teslas, or selling back to the grid).
It’s tempting to look at Tesla’s unveiling last week and think that it’s more of an incremental development in the home solar industry. But it’s more likely a step toward a future where individuals have more direct control over power generation, leading to a big difference in how we think about renewable energy.