Solar Shingles: Turn Your Roof a Power Source (5 Brands)
In the U.S., residential solar installations have been continuously increasing during the last few years, reaching 1GWDC in the Q4 of 2021.
This solar energy adoption is driven by many factors, such as the cutting-edge technologies that are being developed, like instance solar shingles.
Out there in the market, there are many solar shingle manufacturers. To help you decide which brand and product is best for your needs, we chose 4 different solar shingle companies as an alternative to Tesla solar shingles. For each brand, we will check out the products they offer, breaking down their characteristics and more importantly let you know if a solar shingle might be a good match for you.
Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made from our affiliates through links in this article. (Learn )
At are solar shingles and how do they work?
Solar shingles are basically solar cells that convert the sun’s radiation into usable electricity, but also, they work as the roofing material for your home. These roofing solar cells are commonly shaped into shingles or tiles which are seamlessly arranged to provide structural support for the house roof and other types of buildings.
Using solar shingles allows you to have a roof that achieves two functions: generate clean energy and give your home, office or any other of your buildings, an aesthetic look.
Solar shingles or tiles are made of solar cells that are commonly manufactured using semiconductor materials, such as monocrystalline silicon and copper-indium-gallium selenide. The cells are assembled in bands or strips to form the shingle or tile shape.
In addition, since solar shingles are quite thin, this allows them to have greater flexibility and be lightweight.
How do solar shingles work?
Solar shingles or tiles perform as roofing material for your home. The main idea is to combine the solar cells with the roof sheathing rather than mounting solar modules on top of the shingles.
Solar shingle’s basic principle works just the same as with conventional solar panels. In other words, the PV cells absorb sunlight in order to produce a flow of free electrons, which results in generating an electrical current that can power electrical equipment. The difference between solar shingles and solar panels is mainly their construction.
Why should you choose solar shingle technology?
In order to help you analyze whether choosing solar shingles for your photovoltaic system is the right option, we summarize and list the pros and cons of having them:
- Perfect solution for those cases in which a roof replacement is required.
- Elegant and sleek design provides a futuristic look to your roof.
- No obstructions from solar panels will be visible on the roof.
- No external wiring that could be exposed to damage and cause potential hazards.
- No weak spots on the roof from roof penetrations as with conventional solar systems.
- Higher upfront costs and lower return of investment (ROI) than conventional rooftop solar panels (unless roof is to be replaced).
- Solar shingles generally have less energy efficiency than standard solar modules.
- Few companies perform solar shingle installation.
What is the average cost of solar shingle technologies?
The amount of money you are going to pay for installing solar shingles in your roof is going to depend on your energy usage, the conditions, and age of your roof, the solar shingle manufacturer, and other factors.
However, the cost of going with solar shingles can go anywhere from 20,000 to 70,000 whereas Tesla’s solar roof is generally located in the high-end scenario.
Reviews of the best solar shingle brands
Tesla’s Solar Roof
Elon Musk presented the Solar Roof back in 2016. Since then, the product has gained huge popularity across the U.S. and other countries.
It’s clear that the Solar Roof provides a futuristic and sleek look for homes and other types of buildings. Although, the Solar Roof is quite an expensive product and still not as efficient as conventional solar panels.
Tesla’s Solar Roof consists of a rooftop built with solar shingles that contain solar cells. There are two types of shingles used in the final product design: the active ones, those which produce electricity, and the inactive ones, which just act as a roofing material. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using the Solar Roof.
- Aesthetics: Solar Roof offers 4 different styles of tile. All have a modern and distinguished looking design.
- Durability: It is claimed to be resistant to hail, wind, and fire, as well as to mechanical forces. Solar Roof is backed by ANSI standard tests.
- Warranty: Offers a 25-year tile and power and weatherization warranty.
- Renowned brand: Who is not excited to have a product of a brand like Tesla? Claimed to be one of the leaders of a zero-carbon emissions future.
- High upfront Cost: Compared to building a new roof or replacing an existing one plus adding a regular solar system mounted on the rooftop, it can be 2 to 3 times more expensive to buy the solar roof of Tesla. Depending on the complexity of your roof, you could end up paying a total of somewhere between 40,000 to 70,000 to install the solar shingles.
- Low ROI: Depending on many factors like your energy usage habits, the size of the system, your location, and others, the solar roof may have a very low payback in a 25-year lifetime compared to conventional solar systems. In some cases, it could simply be not economically viable.
Considering the previous facts, it would be interesting to look for possible alternatives to buy and install solar shingles. Let’s check out some of them.
CertainTeed Solar Shingles
Another important brand that has been leading the roofing technology in the US for a long time is CertainTeed. It offers two different product alternatives related to solar shingles.
- Apollo Shingle ll: This design has solar shingles that can be installed in a new or existing asphalt shingle roof. The result is a combination of regular asphalt shingles and active solar shingles.
- Apollo Tile ll: This product offers a more integrated design by using tiles that are embedded to a new or an existing concrete tile roof.
In both Apollo Shingle II and Apollo Tile ll systems, 14 high-efficiency monocrystalline silicon solar cells are used in every tile/shingle with a power rating of 70 watts per piece. The conversion efficiency of the shingles and the tiles are 17.2% and 17.8% respectively. In addition, both have an operating temperature that can go anywhere between.40˚C and 90˚C.
Both systems are relatively easy to install, they are placed directly into the roof sheathing using standard deck screws, just as conventional asphalt and concrete tiles are installed.
Their weight is much less than conventional tiles at three pounds per square foot. over, they are long-lasting withstanding up to 250 pounds per square foot. Also, they are waterproof and can resist high wind velocities of 140mph.
Apollo II provides all-black solar shingles which look like suitable solar stripes or bands placed over the roof.
On the other hand, Apollo Tile II matches the profile of flat concrete tiles. These tiles look like black solar laminate with a custom-colored frame that can complement a wide variety of earth-toned concrete tile colors.
The cost might change depending on your energy requirements, the difficulty of installation, your roof inclination, and roof age. However, some estimations are shown in the following table.
These figures are estimated and subject to changes depending on the specifics of the project, which can elevate the costs by 25%.
CertainTeed offers a 25-year limited power warranty claimed to be all-encompassing. The coverage includes 25 years on installation workmanship, PV cells, microinverters, and mounting system. Also, comprises 12 years on optimized inverters, 10 years on wind, and 5 years on data monitoring hardware.
Suntegra Solar Shingles
Another important player in the solar roofing industry is Suntegra, which claims to give a 2-in-1 roof and solar solution by providing solar cells that generate electricity and a roofing material that protects your home or building. It gives installers a cutting-edge way to integrate solar directly into the sloped roof of a house, commercial building, or carport.
Additionally, Suntegra products are regarded to be constructed with 50% fewer materials than conventional rack-mounted PV systems and thus, they might be an alternative to adjust efficiently to your budget.
- Suntegra shingles: Like the Apollo ll system, Suntegra also includes a solar shingles that are placed on a new or existing roof composed by asphalt shingles.
- Suntegra tiles: Similar to the Apollo tile design, this system integrates to the existing concrete tiles that are inserted in combination with inactive concrete tiles. They can also be used when a new roof is to be built.
The solar shingles of Suntegra offer 3 different models with a range of power output between 105W and 114W. All of them use 24 monocrystalline cells per piece, capable of achieving an electrical efficiency from 15.9% to 17.2%.
On the other hand, Suntegra tiles have lower efficiency than the shingles, ranging from 13.9% to 15.1%. Also, the tiles have 16 monocrystalline cells per piece.
Both tiles and shingles have a maximum wind rating of 130mph and a maximum static load rating of 112 pounds per square foot or 5,400Pa. In addition, the temperature operating range is the same as the Certainteed product (between.40˚C and 90˚C).
Both Suntegra shingles and tiles offer a low-profile, all-black, and pleasing-looking. They are characterized for being a discrete installation, almost hidden and barely noticeable from the ground level, which makes them an elegant design for any home or building.
Just as we did with the CertainTeed shingles and tiles, estimations on the cost are shown in the table below, which are subjected to variations depending on the conditions of your roof, energy requirements, and location.
For both shingles and tiles, Suntegra offers a 10-year product warranty and a 25-year power output warranty.
Forward Solar Shingles
In the few recent years, Forward startup company has had significant growth in the solar shingles market. Forward offers an engineered integration of the roof and the solar cells by the means of state-of-the-art technology and a unique aesthetic that matches the classical U.S. home.
They offer their star product called Forward Metal Solar Roof, claimed to be a cost-effective and efficient solution that harvests a great amount of clean energy while it gives a sleek and futuristic appearance using shining metal standing seam type of roof. The system comes in 8 different possible colors to cover all requirements.
It has a non-solar portions cost of 9.75 per square foot and a 3.75 per watt cost related to the solar parts, which are quite competitive compared to the previous brands mentioned. Also, it has a weatherization warranty of 30 years.
The product is claimed to achieve an energy density of 19 watts per square foot while having an excellent thermal performance by the means of a passive ventilation system, which optimizes the heat dissipation and the airflow between shingles and your roof deck.
Additionally, this design is claimed to be reliable, robust, long-lasting, and can withstand powerful mechanical forces. The most interesting fact about Forward is that they are probably the only valuable brand available that offers a solar-roof integrated solution based on metal standing seam roof type, making it perfect not only for homes but also for garages, barns, and other industrial types of roofs.
Luma Solar Shingles
Luma Solar is another important interesting solar shingle company that has been gaining momentum for many years in the US. It’s recognized by having solar shingles products with a high rate of electrical efficiency while also having a futuristic, seamless, and luxurious looking. Luma offers results in your house that have combinations between active and inactive solar shingles.
The price changes depending on the conditions, roof complexity, energy requirements, and others. However, estimations set the average cost of the solar shingles of Luma at 4.5 per watt and could go up to 38 per square foot.
Additionally, it offers a 25-year limited power warranty at 80% and a 5-year limited product warranty.
Luma Solar Roof claims to have solar shingles with an incredible conversion efficiency of 22,1%, which is even higher than standard solar panels. It uses 16 monocrystalline 80W cells per shingle.
It handles a temperature operation range between.40˚C to 85˚C, having a great thermal and airflow management that maintains excellent levels of energy yields.
Additionally, every shingle weighs 19.8 lbs., and they are designed to withstand mechanical forces of 2,400 Pa for static wind loading and 5,400 for static load snow loading.
Luma offers a distinguished good looking for your house, not only because of its futuristic appearance but also because of the Matte black finish, which gives a sleek line.
Are these “solar shingle technologies” right for you?
All the products mentioned above will provide an extraordinary aesthetic view for your home. Not to mention that some of them will offer the functionality of performing as the roofing material and act as the structural support by the means of Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV).
Replacing roof or just adding solar?
If you are only looking for a solar PV system, installing solar shingles in the roof of your home can be an interesting alternative to go with if your requirements are more focused on aesthetical objectives than on cost-effective and efficient goals. From an economical point of view, it is still hard for solar shingles to compete with conventional solar panel systems.
However, in cases where changing your roof is necessary, solar shingles may present themselves as a more economically viable choice that combines both approaches into one for a cost similar to a solar panel system plus roof installation. In some other cases, replacing your roof may not be what you need, but the structural engineer may require you to replace the roof to make the solar panel installation feasible. If you find yourself in a situation like that, you may want to reconsider going with a solar shingle installation.
Another situation where solar roof shingles can definitely be a great choice is for new houses. Choosing solar shingles since the construction process can drastically reduce the cost impact, increase your ROI, and ease the installation process.
In any case, if you are interested in solar shingles, it is advisable for you to get a quote for your roof-specific layout and compare it with other conventional solar panel systems plus roofing installation quotes. This will allow you to find out which approach would best suit your needs. However, keep in mind that in the end, the house will always look better with solar shingles, which is a plus to consider for the value of your property.
Shingled solar panels: A must-consider solar shingle alternative
Finally, shingled solar panels are an innovative technology which is carrying out a wide range of advanced features in terms of solar energy optimization.
They should not be confused with solar shingles, which are part of BIPV, whereas solar shingled panels are more similar to standard solar panels but with cells that are cut into several strips that are subsequently connected to form modules by the means of an electrically conductive adhesive (ECA).
Major developments on this technology have taken place in the residential sector so far. Solar shingled panels are a promising technology that is much less expensive and more efficient technology than solar shingles.
We have examined multiple solar shingle products and brands with the objective to show you some of the best brands available in the market today. We learned that a solar roof shingle investment is a solution that must balance aesthetics and functionality where the new shingles of your roof will actually be generating electricity.
However, we also learned that the decision to install it must be balanced with the costs for such type of project since they can be considerable depending on the house. New houses or cases where a roof replacement is required due to structural stability reasons, are probably the best ones for solar shingle installations. In these cases, the economics can definitely be balanced with the benefits of a high-end finish.
Solar shingles still have a long way to go and with the variety of products available for multiple roof types that go from shingles, concrete standard tiles, and even metal standing seam, there are plenty of choices that you can consider to start generating clean energy and potentially improve the look for your house. comment
Last updated: February 15, 2022
A roof with power added.
The new Timberline Solar™ roofing system is so advanced it makes solar simple.
Homeowners no longer have to compromise when adding solar power to their roof. Get a great-looking roof, a single GAF-backed warranty, and solar energy.
Water-shedding and warranted
Timberline Solar™ is made up of shingles, not panels or heavy tiles. These shingles are water-shedding, strong and warranted to withstand winds up to 130 mph. Rack-mounted solar installations—where the solar is separate from the roof—require the drilling of dozens of holes into the roof membrane. Any resulting damage related to those holes is not typically covered by roof warranties.
For homeowners who already know the quality of GAF roofing products, the Timberline Solar™ roof has the same wind and water-shedding warranty coverage as Timberline HDZ.
Investing in a home is no small matter – and the way it looks is important. Timberline Solar™ has a design that blends in with the aesthetic of the house, with elements that add visual appeal like an architectural shingle.
Here at GAF Energy, we strive to not just meet homeowners expectations for roofing reliability, but to achieve breakthroughs with aesthetics.
How solar savings work
With a GAF Energy solar roof, you’ll not only get a roof that’s durable and has curb appeal, it’s also financially Smart, since you can save on your energy bills over time.
“With Resnick Roofing and GAF Energy, we had a clear sense that we would be working with good teams. It made the jump to solar easy when we needed a new roof.”
Meeting–and raising–the bar
Timberline Solar™ can supply your home with electricity every day, every hour the sun is shining.
And while we don’t want to talk tech jargon, it’s met some industry-leading standards such as UL 7103 certification, which means it’s been through rigorous testing from an independant certification company that’s been around for over one hundred years. We’re committed to the quality of our product.
“I love that my customers can get a new roof AND solar at the same time, from one source… R E Roofing. As a roofer, I’m committed to giving my customers a roof that looks good and protects them from the elements. And by getting the roof and solar from us, I’m not dealing with follow-up calls from one of my customers about punctures in the shingles from a rack-mounted solar system. This is one sleek, integrated design that all works together.”
It makes sense (and cents)
A solar roof is one project, one design, one crew, one straightforward proposition. And, it may pay for itself over time, as it generates energy for the home and reduces monthly electric bills.
“The overall cost of my roof with the solar was surprisingly affordable and the financing they offered was very competitive. Having the same installer for both the shingles and solar simplified the installation process and eliminated the need for contacting multiple parties if any issues arise.”
“Installation? A breeze.”
That’s a direct quote from one of our roofing partners. Timberline Solar™ Energy Shingles are the world’s first nailable solar shingles, which makes Timberline Solar™ easy to install. This solar roof goes on with a nail gun, and roofing know-how.
That means local GAF-certified roofers who live and work in your community can install the product.
Frequently asked questions about Timberline Solar™
Why are GAF Energy solar roofs my best option for solar? Timberline Solar™, integrated solar roofing from GAF Energy, is the first true solar roof. It incorporates solar technology into traditional roofing materials and processes, and uses the world’s first nailable solar shingle, which lays flush against the roof deck, providing durability and protection that look great. With constant utility rate inflation, Timberline Solar™ was designed to be an affordable solar roofing option. If you’re using solar to power your home in lieu of electricity from the grid, your energy may be lower. This all means that your Timberline Solar™ roof could save you money, allowing those savings to offset the cost of your new roof over time. And with solar roofing becoming more popular, it could even benefit your home resale value. How much does a solar roof cost? Pricing of Timberline Solar™ for the average home varies based on a number of factors, including the size and slope of the roof, the shading around the home, and how much sunlight reaches the roof throughout a typical day. A Timberline Solar™ roof is designed to be affordable and is typically comparable to a new roof plus traditional rack-mounted solar. Timberline Solar™ is currently available for residential installation, and may be available for commercial buildings in the future. What are the benefits of solar shingles compared to rack mount solar panels? Timberline Solar™ is the first true solar roof on the market. It incorporates the world’s first nailable solar shingle, which roofers can install as easily as regular roofing shingles, with only a nail gun. The benefit of this roof-integrated solar system is its seamless, waterproof installation that mimics traditional shingle installation. With most residential solar systems on the market using rack mounted panels or tiles, these setups require specialized installation skills and structures that can require ballast and/or can puncture your existing roof with lag bolts. This could disrupt the waterproofing to your roof, possibly degrading your roof quicker. Plus, the smaller form factor of the Timberline Solar™ Energy Shingle (ES) as compared to a solar panel allows for installation on more complex roof shapes such as dormers or hipped roofs. Are solar shingles as efficient as panels? Due to the unique design of Timberline Solar™ as a complete roofing system, efficiency cannot be calculated in the same way as a traditional solar panel. The ES is made out of the same high-efficiency mono PERC cell technology found in Tier 1 solar panels, and depending on a home’s specific roof geometry, Timberline Solar™ may fit more kW per roof than traditional solar panels. Does my solar roof come with batteries or grid connection? Timberline Solar™ is designed to be operated in connection with the electric grid, and is compatible with many energy storage offerings on the market. AC-coupled batteries are designed to be added to existing solar installations at any time. Other energy storage systems may require unique equipment for existing solar installations. All options and features for energy storage are site dependent and unique to the particular energy storage system. Please verify with a licensed energy storage contractor in advance that the specifications are right for the installed solar components and the desired operation modes (backup, self-consumption, time-of-use load shifting, etc.). What tax credits are compatible with GAF Energy Solar Roofs? We encourage roofers and homeowners to consult their tax advisors on all available solar tax incentives. Where is Timberline Solar™ available? GAF Energy’s strategic rollout process is well underway, with the immediate goal to bring Timberline Solar™ to every state in the U.S. Our vision is energy from every roof. Our major markets right now FOCUS on the Southeast, Midwest, Northeast, Mountain West, and West Coast of the US. We operate in states like California, Colorado, Texas, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York–and add new service areas regularly. Please contact us at www.gaf.energy/timberline-solar to find out if we are available in your area—we may very well be! If you are not in an active territory yet, we can alert you when we open service in your region. What is maintenance like on my solar roof? Timberline Solar™ is warrantied for diverse weather conditions such as snow, rain, and wind, and the system is designed to require little to no maintenance. Seasonal rains should help keep the solar shingles clean of dirt and debris, but if not, homeowners can either gently rinse their shingles (only when they’re cool). Timberline Solar™ provides excellent, durable protection from the elements while generating reliable clean energy for the home. It’s a roof, with power added, designed to protect your home from leaks and other weather-related issues. Timberline Solar™ customers can monitor output and track their clean energy production by logging in to the GAF Energy customer portal. Solar roof monitoring puts data directly in customers’ hands and makes it easier to readily detect any issues.
GAF Energy 5981 Optical Court San Jose, CA 95138
‘Cheaper, better’ Australian solar tiles take on Tesla and the world
The evolution of the solar roof tile has taken a promising new turn, with the launch of an Australian engineered offering that can generate the equivalent amount of energy as a standard solar panel, at a cost in the ballpark of higher end rooftop solar systems.
The solar tiles are called Volt, and they were officially launched this week by Leeson Group, a Victoria-based diversified group of companies in the renewable energy sector that has, among other things, developed 150MW of solar farms.
Volt Solar Tiles will target the new home market in Australia and abroad with two module styles: The Lodge, which is made to fit alongside standard flat concrete roof tiles, and; The Planum, which is modelled after higher end terracotta tiles.
The technology – which is installed as a portion of a roof alongside regular tiles – uses Metal Wrap Through (MWT) cells and a busbar-free design to increase the efficiency of solar cells and create a seamless look, and a built-in interlocking cable containment system.
In terms of generation capacity, the 115W MWT mono PERC Planum module has very competitive 18.8% efficiency and the Volt Lodge 105W MWT mono PERC module is better again, with a solar efficiency of 19.4%.
The company says a 5kW solar tile system currently costs 12,000 fully installed, after the STC rebate, which it claims is roughly one-quarter of the price of the Tesla Solar Roof and half the price of any other product on the market. By early 2024,Volt Solar Tiles is forecasting that price will come down to about 8,500.
A tough nut to crack
The Leeson Group’s foray into building integrated solar PV, or BIPV, is being headed up by Peter Leeson, managing director of the Group and founder and director of Volt Solar Tile.
It’s a niche business – particularly when compared to Leeson Group’s big solar pipeline of around 1GW and plans for big batteries. And success in solar tiles is elusive – just ask Elon Musk. But Leeson has a solid plan.
That plan revolves around two key partnerships, also announced this week, with Bristile Roofing in Australia and Spain-based terracotta roof tile manufacturer La Escandella as its global distributor outside of Australia.
Bristile, which is a part of the ASX-listed building materials group Brickworks, holds a significant market share for new home roofing products in Australia, while La Escandella is expected to open up export opportunities for Volt to 85 countries including Spain, the US, the UK and Germany.
All the expertise where it needs to be
“Our plan is to work in partnership with Bristile and Brickworks Group’s 7,500 customers here in Australia, and then with 100 solar companies around Australia who are local to the areas they’ll be working in and specialise in selling and installing solar,” Peter Leeson told One Step Off The Grid.
“So what will happen is our Volt partners will be paired up with builders, either Brickworks customers, or they’ll have their own builders or they’ll find new builders, and they’ll go and quote the solar tile system.
“So that way we’ve got a roofing company quoting a roof, a solar company quoting a solar system – all the expertise sits where it needs to be.”
Tesla’s tiles and tribulations
Leeson says he thinks this approach will insulate Volt Solar Tiles from some of the pitfalls that have plagued other products in the sub-sector, including, most famously, Tesla’s Solar Roof.
That product, which is yet made it to Australia despite opening to orders for a time two years ago, has been subject to supply issues and pricing fluctuations that have landed Tesla in legal hot water.
Musk, himself, has conceded that his company had made “some significant mistakes” in the rollout, with delivery “choked at the installation point.”
“We did find that we basically made some significant mistakes in assessing the difficulty of certain roofs,” Musk said at an investor briefing in April of last year.
“But the complexity of roofs varies dramatically,” he added. “Some roofs can be literally two or three times easier than other roofs. So, you just can’t have a one size fits all situation.”
Leeson understands that building roofs is far more complicated than most people think – hence the partnerships with roofing experts.
“Tesla – what they’ve done is they’ve developed a [solar] roof tile… and they’re trying to sell an entirely new roofing system. And that’s been a big barrier to market,” he says.
“I think we’ve got a number of technical advantages over them. But realistically, the Tesla Model … which is selling to consumers, is not what we’re doing.
“Our customers are the builders and eventually the homeowner. …Ultimately, we’re selling to architects, we’re selling to developers, and we’re selling to builders, and then they’re selling to the end customer.
“And that level of trust… we’re working with Brickworks, which has several billion dollars of assets here in Australia [and is] one of Australia’s largest building product manufacturers.
“They’re selling roof tiles, and we’re selling a solar component with that,” Leeson says. “There’s no solar companies in Australia that have both the builders roofing license and solar licenses.”
Years of design and redesign
As well as a solid business model, Leeson believes he’s got a pretty solid product to offer, too.
Weighing just 10 kilograms, Volt is lighter than a standard solar panel and roof tile; it’s TUV certified and is currently awaiting certification from the Clean Energy Council for its approved product list. It has a 30-year performance warranty and 15-year product warranty.
Leeson says the quality of the solar tiles and the decreasing cost – he says his team has halved the costs of the technology over the past eight years – comes down to “years of design and redesign, and redesign.”
The result is a solar tile that looks … like a roof tile, generates power efficiently, and is easy to install – a 4kW system can be installed in about four hours.
“We’ve developed a trunking system behind the solar top which holds all the cable so you simply lay this thing, plug it in, close them together screw it in the back, it’s done. Everything’s encapsulated, everything’s enclosed, all the cables are protected. It’s a really quick simple system.”
Manufacture in Australia, export global
Finally, Leeson has plans to make – or at least assemble – the tiles in Australia, too.
“Right now we’re doing a business case around our first phase of manufacturing,” he tells One Step.
“What we’re looking to do is make the solar module itself… everything put together without a frame at our current manufacturing plant in China, then bring that over here and do the assembly here.
“So that would be, manufacture the extrusions, here, cut the extrusions, get the laminate and put it together, which sort of sounds like we’re just framing the modules but 50% of the volume, our product is the actual frame itself.
“And that’s also 50% of the cost because it’s such a complicated extrusion system. Another part of it is all our IP sits within the frame. …So all the IP around how to integrate that into the building fabric of the home comes in our extrusions.
Keeping the IP in Australia
“So what we’re trying to do is we’ve created all this IP and technology here and we’re trying to keep it here. So the first round would be purchasing extrusions manufactured in Australia, then they bring into our manufacturing plant, cut them and assemble them, and then we can export global.”
Leeson says the company estimates producing 6.6MW of solar tiles in 2023, and with the addition of a manufacturing line set up for domestic assembly, this will scale up to about 20MW by the end of 2024.
“What has seemed to happen over the last how many decades is that we make these amazing [solar] technologies, we export all the IP to some other country to commercialise it, and then they export it back to us and to the rest of the world,” Leeson says.
“What we’re trying to do is bring jobs here, taxes here and manufacture solar modules here, both for the Australian market and internationally.”
For now, however, the launch in Australia and globally is a good start, including at the All-Energy Australia exhibition and conference in Melbourne next week, where Volt Solar Tiles will have a stand and is keen to form new alliances.
Installations are off and running, too.
“We have sold systems in Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria. And they will get installed over the next week or two. And then we’re also doing our first install in Spain in mid-November,” Leeson says.
Sophie is editor of One Step Off The Grid and deputy editor of its sister site, Renew Economy. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.
This post was published on October 20, 2022 10:54 pm
Tesla Solar Roof: the complete review
In October 2019, Tesla Motors announced the launch of the Tesla Solar Roof V3, the company’s third version of its integrated solar glass shingle. Among several updates, version three included larger tiles, lower production costs, increased power density, and a more straightforward installation process.
Additionally, the total number of parts in the product decreased. Tesla predicted that these changes would significantly reduce the cost of the product; however, the company has continued to struggle with expediting its solar roof installations.
The Tesla Solar Roof: EnergySage’s take
While Tesla is most famous for its electric vehicles (EVs), the company’s future lies in total clean energy integration – a one-step carbon reduction process that involves pairing solar panels with your Tesla EV. For home owners who want the benefits of solar without the “look” of solar, the Tesla Solar Roof provides an enticing alternative: but is this luxury roof the right option for you?
What’s in this article?
There’s a lot in here, and we’ll try to speak to every aspect of the solar roof. Skip ahead to any of the sections below:
- What are solar shingles?
- Latest news on the solar roof
- Solar Roof key events timeline
- Solar roof specifications
- Cost estimates
- Should you wait for the Tesla Solar Roof?
- Tesla’s competitors
The Tesla Solar Roof: what you need to know
Some solar industry stakeholders believe that solar needs to be rebranded as an aesthetic and technical improvement that can be a part of a home renovation rather than a hefty module affixed to your rooftop. That sentiment was emphasized in Elon Musk’s October 2016 launch of Tesla’s first roofing product. With the Solar Roof, the company aims to bring solar further into the mainstream by removing any sort of aesthetic concerns that homeowners may have.
“I think there’s quite a radical difference between 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 official launch of Tesla’s first solar roof. Two months later, he unveiled the solar roof using a crowded, suburban event in California to demonstrate that Tesla’s panel design was so seamlessly integrated that the entire audience of press needed to be altered to its presence on the house in front of them.
Using a Tesla Powerwall home battery with the Tesla Solar Roof
Tesla Solar Roofs come paired with energy storage in the form of a Tesla Powerwall battery. The Tesla Powerwall boasts a maximum power rating of 7 kW with no sun or 9.6 kW with full sun to go along with 13.5 kWh of usable capacity. It can also help provide solar power to your home during a power outage. It also comes with the Tesla app that allows users to monitor their energy production in real- time. Tesla Powerwalls are eligible for the federal tax credit.
What’s the latest news on the Tesla Solar Roof tiles?
Tesla has now installed Solar Roofs across the country, though the exact number of installations is unclear. This solar product has been gaining popularity among some consumers, leading to long installation wait times for customers who sign contracts. In April 2021, many of these customers were shocked when they received emails from Tesla quoting higher installation costs than their contract prices. The lack of explanation and transparency caused confusion and frustration among consumers, especially if they could no longer afford the hefty price tag.
During Tesla’s quarterly earnings call in April 2021, CEO Elon Musk affirmed that demand “remains strong” for the Tesla Solar Roof, despite increases in Solar Roof pricing. He did concede that Tesla “basically made some significant mistakes in assessing the difficulty of certain roofs.” Tesla has added roof complexity information to its website and a roof complexity disclaimer to its Solar Roof calculator; however, Tesla notes that your roof complexity won’t be determined until after you place an order for a Solar Roof. Tesla divides the complexity into three categories–simple, intermediate, and complex–based on the following criteria:
- Simple: single-level roof, uncrowded mounting planes, few obstructions (pipes, chimneys, skylights), low pitch
- Intermediate: multi-level roof (roof sections built on multiple stories of your house), more crowded mounting plane, more obstructions (pipes, chimneys, skylights), higher pitch
- Complex: multi-level roof (roof sections built on multiple stories of your house), heavily crowded mounting plane, many obstructions (pipes, chimneys, skylights), steep pitch
Based on previous reports, the price of a Tesla Solar Roof varies substantially depending on your roof’s complexity.
Timeline of key Tesla Solar Roof news and announcements
Tesla seems to have a pattern of overpromising and underdelivering in regard to its solar roof. Here’s a breakdown of what the past several years have looked like for the company and its customers.
- April 2016: Tesla purchases Solarcity and begins production on solar panels and the solar roof.
- May 2017: Tesla began taking orders for its Tesla solar tiles
- August 2017: Elon Musk revealed that he and another Tesla executive already had the roof installed on their respective properties.
- January 2018: The company announced it was ramping up production of the roof product at its Buffalo Gigafactory. Tesla then started initial installations with customers at the top of its waitlist in the California area in mid-March, roughly eight months after its initial estimate.
- May 2018: Tesla had about 11,000 orders for the solar roof and it was struggling to meet the demand.
- August 2018: Only 12 solar roofs had been installed in California, the leading state in the country for solar.
- September 2018: A report was released stating that solar roofs may not be widely installed for a long time. According to CNBC, Musk said they needed more time to work out all the details. “There’s only so much accelerated life testing that you can do on a roof. So before we can deploy it at a large number of houses we need to make sure that it’s that all elements of the roof are going to last for at least three decades,” said Musk in a summer 2018 meeting. The statement lacked both commitment and a clear timeline.
- November 2018: According to a Bloomberg report, the company began ramping up production, implementing 24/7 operating hours with about 80 employees per shirt for solar roof shingle production alone. Tesla’s head of energy operations, Sanjay Shah, stated that Tesla was gearing up for the solar roof side of its business to see “tremendous growth in 2019.” Musk himself tweeted that the first solar roof deployments would begin around summer 2019.
- June 2019: Despite continued delays and earnings losses, Musk tweeted that he hoped to manufacture about 1,000 solar roofs per week by the end of 2019.
- October 2019: Tesla announced the Tesla Solar Roof V3, which featured updates to increase manufacturing and deployment, and reduce prices.
- Late 2020: Tesla experienced some achievements for its solar roofs throughout the year, almost tripling its installations between quarter one and quarter two. In quarter four, Tesla announced that it had “made great progress growing [its] solar roof deployments,” but didn’t provide date to back up its claim.
- April 2021: Tesla Solar Roof customers have continued to experience delays and a lack of transparency from Tesla.
- May 2021: Some customers sued Tesla over unexpected hikes.
- June 2021: electrek confirmed that Tesla’s head of energy operations had left the company after months of rumors.
- October 2021: Tesla expanded solar roof installations to anywhere in the United States.
- November 2021: electrek announced that Solar Roof tiles will be more efficient, have higher capacity, and might be able to be installed over existing roofs.
Tesla Solar Roof specifications: what are you getting?
If you’re interested in installing a Tesla Solar Roof, you’re probably wondering what you’re getting of each solar shingle. We’ll explain some of the specifications of the Solar Roof:
Despite previous announcements about multiple design offerings–including tuscan glass tile, slate glass tile, textured glass tile, and smooth glass tile–the Tesla Solar Roof is only currently available in one shingle design. According to Tesla’s website, each shingle has a dimension of 15 inches by 45 inches, is 5 mm thick, and is made of glass, polymers, fiberglass, and silicon. The shingle is designed to resemble a traditional asphalt shingle.
Tesla provides 25-year product, weatherization, and module warranties, comparable to leading solar panel brands. The warranty also guarantees that your Solar Roof will be at least 95 percent of its “Rated Peak Power” at five years following installation and that it will decline by no more than 0.5 percent per year for the following 20 years –essentially guaranteeing 85 percent output in year 25. Its inverter has a 12.5-year warranty, which aligns with warranties for other string inverter brands; however, this warranty is lower than warranties for many microinverters, which are often 20 to 25 years.
How much does the Tesla Solar Roof cost?
With the new complexity categories explained above, it’s a bit difficult to fully estimate the cost of a Tesla Solar Roof. The cost varies significantly depending on whether your roof is “simple” or “complex” and depending on the square footage of your roof. If you have a fairly small – and not too complex – roof that you already need to replace, the price of a Solar Roof will probably be fairly comparable to that of a new asphalt roof installation plus solar panels. However, as you increase the size and/or complexity of your roof, you can expect this number quickly skyrocket.
Should you wait for the Tesla Solar Roof?
Standard solar panel technologies are typically evaluated based on their performance, durability, and warranties. However, Tesla’s lack of transparency makes it difficult to compare to traditional solar panels. Four years after the initial launch of Tesla’s solar roof, the company still hasn’t revealed the shingles’ efficiency and customers are still experiencing long wait times and surprise price increases.
If you’re in dire need of a roof upgrade or if you won’t need a roof upgrade for a while, the Tesla Solar Roof may not be worth your long wait. Solar panels are extremely dependable (and we think they look great, too!). However, if you need to upgrade your roof soon (but not immediately) and your roof isn’t too complex or large, you may be a good candidate for the Tesla Solar Roof. Additionally, if you’re set on the look and have the capital to cover the cost, the system may be the best choice for you, though it may be worth your while to compare the Tesla Solar Roof to other solar roof products.
Tesla’s solar shingles are best suited for new construction
Most existing solar shingle technologies are also known as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) because they are integrated with your existing roof and are a similar size and shape to standard roof tiles. Tesla has created something different. In August 2016, Musk first explained the difference between solar shingles and Tesla’s solar roof: “It’s not a thing on the roof. It is the roof.”
Unlike other solar shingles, Tesla’s roof tiles are designed to completely replace your existing roof (though electrek did recently report that you may soon be able to install them over existing roofs). As a result, the most cost-effective way to install them is when your home is being built, which means that they are best suited for homebuyers who have a say in the design and materials of their newly constructed home. While this doesn’t mean that they can’t be used on existing homes, retrofitting your roof with Tesla solar tiles means removing your existing roof (which Tesla will do for you). As a result, retrofitting your roof with Tesla solar tiles is only practical when your roof is already due to be replaced.
Who are Tesla’s solar roof competitors?
Though the buzz around Tesla’s illustrious roof product has made it appear like it’s a new concept, it is merely the continued repackaging brilliance that some call the “Musk effect.” Development of solar roof tiles and solar shingles 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. Here are some of Tesla’s solar roof competitors that offer similar BIPV products:
- Luma – these solar shingles can be integrated with all roofing material and install similarly to traditional metal roofing. Luma markets its product as the only upgradable solar shingle system and boasts an efficiency of 22.1 percent.
- Suntegra – this Northeast solar manufacturer is at the forefront of the solar roof product line. The company hails from New York and began offering its two solar roof products just a few months before the announcement of Tesla’s shingles. Suntegra’s solar shingles are designed to be integrated with low-profile roof materials and are about 15.9 to 17.2 percent efficient. Its solar tiles are slightly less efficient at 13.9 to 15.1 percent and are designed to be integrated with standard flat concrete tile roofs.
- CertainTeed – originally a roofing company, this contractor now offers two solar roof products, with similar integration strategies to Suntegra. Its Apollo II system includes solar shingles to match low-profile roofs, which are about 15.4 percent efficient. CertainTeed’s Apollo Tile II system integrates solar tiles with flat concrete tiles roofs and its tiles are about 16 percent efficient.
It’s important to note that the solar shingles and tiles offered by these companies do still stand out against other roofing material. None can compete with Tesla in terms of aesthetics or subtlety, but they do offer low-profile BIPV solutions that may alleviate aesthetic concerns for some solar shoppers.
Frequently asked questions about the Tesla Solar Roof
While the cost of switching to solar is high, and the news and information surrounding Tesla Solar Roofs can be confusing or nearly obsolete, it’s important to research each product, company, and topic before making a decision. Learn more about the Tesla Solar Roof by reading these commonly asked questions:
Depending on your location, Tesla will send its own installers or contractors to set up your system after purchasing a Solar Roof.
Tesla claims that their shingles are three times stronger than the average roof tile and are built to endure all weather conditions. They have the highest fire rating (Class A) and are built to withstand 110 mph winds (Class F), so you can feel confident even in extreme weather conditions.
Tesla offers a 25-year warranty on the system’s tiles, power, and weatherization. Plus, its inverter has a 12.5-year warranty, giving homeowners peace of mind regarding their investment.
Learn how much solar can save you today before you make your decision
Just as Tesla doesn’t make electric vehicles for the masses, Tesla’s solar roof isn’t feasible for every home. In many ways, the company’s solar roof product is similar to its first electric car. If you are an early adopter of newer technologies, don’t care about price, and are prepared to wait for a product with an uncertain manufacturing timeline, then waiting for Tesla’s solar roof could be the right decision for you.
Additionally, waiting to go solar has its risks, even if you’re interested in the solar roof. The cost of going solar is falling every year, and there are premium solar panels already available today that come with high-efficiency ratings and a sleek black design. If you wait years for the Tesla Solar Roof, you will lose out on years of savings on your electricity bill. You also run the risk of missing out on financial incentives for solar: many state tax credits have already expired and as of now, the federal investment tax credit for solar will be lowered to 22 percent in 2023.
Before you make the decision to wait for the Tesla Solar Roof, use our solar calculator to learn how much you can save today by going solar. If you’re ready to explore the solar options for your home, join the EnergySage Marketplace and get custom quotes from solar installers in your area. You might be surprised by just how much you can save now by installing traditional solar panels on your roof.
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About Emily Walker
With over five years of experience in environmental science and clean energy, Emily is an expert in solar, battery, and energy management technology and policy. She holds a Master of Science in Environmental Science and Policy from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science and Biology from Colby College. Emily is always looking for ways to live her life more sustainably and is currently in the process of electrifying her home.