Explainer: What is Elon Musk's Solar Roof?

Written by techgoth

From revolutionising the electric car industry to colonising Mars, Elon Musk has an exhausting agenda. In fact, it might just be exhaustive, with the news that he’s tapping into the roofing industry. Just don’t expect to find him toolbelt-bound on your neighbour’s roof, fixing awry asphalt shingles…

What is Elon Musk’s Solar Roof?

Elon Musk’s Solar Roof is a Tesla-manufactured solar-powered roof comprised of glass tiles embedded with photovoltaic cells (the technology that converts photons to electricity). Musk unveiled the Solar Roof in late 2016.

Part of the cachet of Tesla’s Solar Roof is that the tiles are designed to resemble regular roof tiles, offering an attractive alternative to current solar panels. “Most roofs look terrible,” Musk told reporters. “When you have this installed on your house you will have the best-looking roof in the neighbourhood.” Musk also pledged that the Solar Roof would be more durable and a third cheaper than a regular roof, when electricity savings and tax credits were factored into considerations.

The tiles will be sold through SolarCity, an energy storage company that was incorporated into Musk’s Tesla in 2016.

Is the Solar Roof operational?

Yes. In August 2017, Tesla announced that it had finished the first installations of its Solar Roofs, albeit all of them onto the homes of Tesla employees, including Musk himself. Sort of like when the local amateur dramatics society puts on a play, and the audience is rammed with immediate family members. Except they’re on the payroll. Tesla maintains, meanwhile, that this soft-launch approach permits the company to streamline the sales and installation process of products before they hit the market.

Speaking of operational, there’s also a 100% Tesla-powered house touring its way across Australia as we speak. The “house” is in fact a tiny design studio being carted around by a Model X, which will allow visitors to learn how to set up their own Tesla solar and energy storage systems. The miniature abode is powered by a 2kW solar system and Powerwall, which generates and stores solar energy ready for use day and night. As if that wasn’t nifty enough, the entire system can be controlled via the Tesla app.

How much will a Tesla Solar Roof cost me?

Predictably, they don’t come cheap. Costing $US65,000 for an average 3,000 square foot roof, they’re definitely a big investment. But that’s an investment that will pay off, assures Musk, citing the roof’s “infinity warranty” (most roofs in the US need replacing after 20 years).

As mentioned above, Musk initially pledged that Tesla’s Solar Roof would be a third less expensive to operate than a regular roof, taking into consideration both electricity savings and tax credits.

Does it come in any other colours?

This might sound like an inane question, but it really does! The “black glass smooth” and “textured” will be the first variants available, but SolarCity has announced the imminent release of “Tuscan” and “French slate” tiles. That gives you a pretty sound idea of Musk’s target market, then.

Is there a bigger picture?

Within the Tesla realms, yes, there most certainly is. Introduction of the Solar Roof could ramp up consumer interest in Powerwall, Tesla’s home-energy storage device. The product could be used in conjunction with the Solar Roof, harnessing solar energy and storing it ready for use. The duo of Tesla products would allow consumers to power their houses day and night, all the while reducing their carbon footprint.

However, some commentators have expressed a lack of interest owing to the products’ hefty price tags. Musk’s Solar Roof won’t be the Next Big Thing until it becomes more financially accessible to the wider public; “For now, this roof is just another of Musk’s expensive toys for rich, green people,” said Christopher Helman in Forbes. Great for the planet, less so for consumers’ bank accounts.

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