While solar panels can already be found atop businesses and select homes, they’re far from becoming widespread. Despite the benefits solar roofing brings to the environment and utility bills, installation is simply too cost prohibitive for many families and building owners.
Elon Musk has a vision that may change all that. The famous inventor and business magnate recently revealed his latest project, a new roof that combines shingles with solar cells. Instead of covering a roof in solar panels, Musk’s innovation doesn’t just make solar roofing more affordable. It actually can be installed for a lower cost than traditional roofing.
The Benefits of Tesla’s Solar Panels
Traditional solar panels face challenges in cloudy, overcast conditions, since the panels rely on the sun to gather power. Musk has a plan for that, as well, utilizing a version of Tesla’s wall-mounted battery to provide power when it can’t be gathered from the sun. Although many consumers think of Musk’s Tesla as an automotive company, the electric cars were always intended to further the widespread availability of sustainable energy.
Musk’s panels have benefits beyond affordability and electricity generation, though. His solar panels are more attractive and insulate better than other solar panels. Perhaps one of the biggest advantages is durability. Since they’re made of glass, they can outlast traditional roofing tiles, which often have to be replaced after only a decade of wear. Tesla’s solar panels will be able to withstand snow, rain, sun, and grime, with Musk estimating a lifespan of 50 years.
For his demonstration, Musk installed his solar panels on four of the homes on the set of the former hit TV show Desperate Housewives. The fanfare was all in an effort to convince his shareholders that his $2.2 billion acquisition of SolarCity, the largest U.S. installer of home-based solar panels, is a good idea. If approved, manufacturing would start next summer in Buffalo, New York. Both Tesla and SolarCity are currently unprofitable, though, leading many to wonder if the merger is a good idea. Musk believes together, the two companies can revolutionize sustainable energy.
One problem Tesla has faced in the past is with its battery, but the rooftop battery will extend power beyond previous editions, providing 14 kilowatt-hours of electricity at a cost of $5,500. This is enough power to keep a four-bedroom home powered for a full day. By combining the battery with the solar panels, Musk believes most homes could operate as they do now without pulling any electricity from the power grid.
The bad news is that even if the merger goes through, the roofs won’t see availability until mid-2017. Even then, only a couple of homes will have the roofs at first, gradually expanding from California to other states. The technology probably won’t be in place for those who need a roof replacement soon, but homes with new roofs may be able to see solar panels by the time their current tiles need replacing. In the meantime, photovoltaic solar panels are sold by some local providers for households and businesses that have the money to purchase them.