Tesla will begin selling its solar-powered roof shingles in April

Tesla will begin selling its solar-powered roof shingles in April 2017, CEO Elon Musk tweeted.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based tech company, known for its luxury electric cars, will begin selling roof tiles that convert solar energy into electricity in April, CEO Elon Musk says.  The product, which Tesla will offer through its SolarCity division, will be a no-brainer for homeowners, Musk has said.

“The base of the proposition would be, would you like a roof that looks better than the other roofs, lasts twice as long, costs less, and by the way, generates electricity?” Musk told investors in November. “It’s like why would you get anything else? Maybe there’s a reason. I’m not sure why.”

(NOTE:  while cement tile roofs are quite common in California, according to roofing sites, well over 80 percent of roofs nationwide are asphalt shingles, with metal roofing in second place.  That’s because of the comparative costs; per roofing square (100 square feet)

Asphalt shingles, basic: $ 90
Steel Roof: $ 120
Concrete tile: $ 300 to $ 500
Clay tile: $ 800 to $ 1,000
Slate tile: $ 1,100 to $ 2,000

According to Musk as quoted in Electrek, He said that the glass developed by Tesla for the solar roof tiles weigh “a third, a quarter and sometimes even a fifth” of other current concrete and ceramic roof solutions. Musk calculated that because of the weight and fragility of the current products, logistic costs and breakage are important parts of the total cost.  But that is not true of asphalt shingles, which are lighter, not fragile and easy to ship.

While the idea has been talked about for a long time in the solar community, no one has been able to make it work on a large scale at an affordable price. Questions remain about the efficiency of using tiles instead of panels, and about the cost. But there’s no question that it would improve the look of homes compared to rooftop panels.

If Tesla’s SolarCity unit can come up with effective solar shingles, it would represent a coup. It would instantly set the company apart from competitors.

The company projected in October that it could eventually snag 5% of the nation’s roofing business with the new product.

Michael Hols @HolsMichael @elonmusk How are the Solar Shingles coming along? Is there an ETA? Hoping my roof survives till then.

Although Tesla will begin accepting orders in April, it wasn’t immediately clear how soon the product would start production and begin deliveries.

Tesla has a reputation for accepting orders for an extended period before delivering products. For example, the company began accepting refundable deposits for the Model 3 electric vehicle in March 2016 but initial production vehicles won’t hit until at least summer 2017. Some buyers could wait years to receive the vehicle, analysts have said.

Still, solar roof tiles could upend the market for renewable power in the home if Tesla delivers on Musk’s promise.

A Tesla spokesperson was not immediately available Monday to offer details on pricing and timing.

The product could also pave the way for increased interest in Tesla’s home-energy storage product, a wall-mounted battery pack that provides backup power. Solar energy could fuel electricity into the battery pack to provide power when the sun goes down.

“Solar and batteries go together like peanut butter and jelly,” Musk said in October.

Google’s New Tool Says Nearly 80 Percent of Roofs Are Sunny Enough for Solar Panels, MIT Tech Review, by Michael Reilly, 14 March 2017

The company’s Project Sunroof lets you look up your house and helps you decide whether to invest in your own clean power plant.

Google’s campus in Mountain View, as viewed in Project Sunroof.

If you’ve ever thought about getting solar panels on your house but worried about whether it was worth it, Google may now have just the thing to help you decide.

In a new expansion of its Project Sunroof, the company has built 3-D models of rooftops in all 50 states, looked at the trees around people’s homes, considered the local weather, and figured out how much energy each house or building can generate if its owners plunk down for some panels.

Top among the findings is that nearly 80 percent of all buildings the team modeled are “technically viable” for solar panels, meaning they catch enough rays each year to make generating electricity feasible. That sounds pretty good, and a post on Google’s blog goes on to highlight the rooftop-solar potential for several cities. Houston comes out on top, with as much as 18,940 gigawatt-hours of free energy from the sun just waiting to be generated each year (Google says that a gigawatt-hour translates to about a year’s supply of electricity for 90 homes).

Sunroof lets you search for your house, suggests how large a solar array you might consider putting on your roof, and estimates how much energy it will generate—as well as how much it would cost to lease or buy the panels.

It’s a handy tool, and comes at a good time. Solar has been growing quickly in the U.S., with installations nearly doubling over the course of 2016. But most of that is on the utility scale—residential installations grew just 19 percent last year, mostly because demand is drying up in big state markets like California.

The Los Angeles Times today quoted several officials in the industry as being optimistic that growth will continue nationwide. But the Solar Energy Industries Association suggests that the top five state markets, which accounted for 70 percent of the country’s newly installed residential solar in 2016, all figure to see slowdowns. That probably won’t be made up for by emerging markets in states like Texas, Utah, and South Carolina, according to SEIA’s latest report.

It seems unlikely that Project Sunroof will make a big difference in these trends, especially as policies that made rooftop systems more attractive to consumers, like net metering, are in danger of disappearing. But the SEIA report said one reason things are slowing down is that solar installers have had difficulty “reaching customers outside of the early adopters.” Given the immense reach of the company that developed it, Sunroof’s new tool might be able to help with that, at least.