Editor's note: This article has been updated to include new information from Tesla.
Tesla opened online pre-ordering for its rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system Wednesday following a tweet early that morning from Tesla CEO Elon Musk that caused industry watchers to gear up for the news — although the company was expected to debut the system last month, according to TechCrunch.
The system will feature solar-collecting tiles, not panels. Two tile styles — a black smooth glass and a textured glass — will be available for order starting today, with the remaining two — French and Tuscan slate — to roll out in six months, CNBC reported. The system uses a mix of regular and solar shingles.
- The solar roof system will debut in the U.S., with availability expanding to other countries in 2018. Musk said in a separate tweet this morning that the tiles will be available for order in "almost any country."
There seems to be no end to the hype around Musk’s solar roof system, and the slow trickle of news about the much-anticipated product is surely helping to build interest. Part of the excitement concerns the replacement of relatively hefty panels with roof tiles that have embedded solar-gathering tech.
Pricing and availability have been the biggest questions surrounding the shingle-based system. In a company blog post Wednesday, Tesla said its system will cost roughly $21.85 per square foot, citing Consumer Reports figures that said Tesla's system would need to beat $24.50 to be affordable. Tesla said it can't cover an entire roof in solar shingles, partly due to the presence of obstructions like chimneys and skylights and to local codes. It will use a mix of active and regular tiles based on data gathered from Google's Project Sunroof about the energy generation potential, product cost, available tax credits and other variables for a given address.
The company also released some shingle specs. For the U.S. market, the 14-inch-by-8.65-inch tiles are Class-A fire, Class-4 hail and Class F wind-rated, and they can be used on 3:12 to vertical roof pitches. Tesla promises a 30-year warranty on power and weatherization and "infinity" on the tile. The tiles, according to the blog post, "are three times stronger than standard roof tiles, yet half the weight."
So far, panels have dominated rooftop solar. Even if Tesla’s new shingles are a success, the latter category still has plenty of market share to capture. And Tesla’s going after that, too.
Last month, Tesla announced a new solar panel to be made exclusively for the company by Panasonic at Tesla’s Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, NY. The panel will be used on future residential projects through its newly acquired installation business unit, SolarCity.
Tesla, which made its name in streamlined, high-efficiency sports cars, has understandably taken aesthetics into consideration. The company has promised to integrate the PV technology into the individual shingles, and renderings released (top image) of the product in installation show that much. In its latest announcement, Tesla says the solar and non-solar shingles will look the same from the street.
Bloomberg previously reported that the tiles will look like typical rooftop shingles but will feature a glass layer through which light can pass to reach an embedded photovoltaic cell. The panels are said to cost less to make and install than high-end roofing materials like terracotta or slate — not including the electricity offset of using solar power in the home — though for now, we’ll have to take Musk’s word for it.
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