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Tesla and Solar City roll out solar shingles and bigger Powerwall

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Solar Love

tesla solar roof

Elon Musk played ringmaster while Tesla and SolarCity showed off their new line of glass solar tiles that generate electricity but look like conventional roof shingles and tiles.

Musk told an audience of several hundred invited guests that between 4 and 5 million new roofs are installed in America every year and many times more than that are installed worldwide. If the cost of a solar roof was less than what a homeowner would spend for a conventional roof plus utility bills that wouldn’t have to be paid over the roof’s 30 year useful life, “Why wouldn’t you?” Musk asked.

Good question.

To be honest, conventional rooftop solar systems are not aesthetically pleasing to look at (in my opinion). The main advantage to Musk’s solar roof is that it adds to the look of a home instead of detracting from it.

The solar roof tiles will come in four styles. The first looks like a conventional black roof shingle. The second resembles a conventional slate roof. Its individual tiles vary slightly in shade, making for a roof that is the most attractive of all. Third is called Tuscan and looks like the curved terracotta roofing tiles common throughout southern Europe and California. The fourth option is called textured glass and is visually appealing as well.

solar roof tiles tesla

The secret sauce in all this is a series of micro-louvers built into each tile, technology developed in cooperation with 3M Corporation. The louvers allow sunlight to shine directly on the solar cells below but hide them from view from the street. The result is the best of both worlds — solar panels that generate electricity and a roof that generates compliments and adds value to any home.

To show off the new roof products, Tesla took over four houses on the back lot of Universal Studios that once served as the set for the reality TV series Desperate Housewives. Each house had its old roof stripped off and replaced with one of the four styles of glass roof tiles that Tesla and SolarCity will offer. Naturally, each home had Tesla automobiles parked in the garage to emphasize that having a solar roof means sufficient power for the inhabitants with enough electricity leftover to charge electric vehicles.

tesla powerwall 2

The missing link in that scenario is battery storage. Tesla has recently introduced its second generation Powerwall with double the energy storage capacity as the original — 14 kWh versus 7 kWh. It is less sculpted than the original but comes with the inverter built in, which should simplify installation.

The original cost is about $US7,000 including an inverter and installation. Musk says the new unit should be capable of meeting the needs of a family of four for lighting, normal household use, and a refrigerator for about a day if there is a power outage. Notably absent from his example is any mention of heating or air conditioning.

The Powerwall 2 with double the power should cost about the same as the original after installation, which illustrates how quickly the prices of energy storage products are dropping. The original has only been on the market for about a year and already we have a new version with twice the power for about the same money. Elon let slip that he expects Tesla to sell more Powerwalls than automobiles.

Musk emphasized during his solar roof presentation that his overarching goal is for the world to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy from the sun as quickly as possible. If the world fails to complete that transition in time to prevent massive disruption from climate change, it won’t be for lack of trying on Tesla’s part.

Many people mistake Tesla for an electric car company that also makes batteries. It is just the opposite — a battery company that also makes electric cars.

This sort was originally published on Solar Love. Reproduced with permission.  

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  • Phil

    The tesla powerwall 2 is a game changer and along with the tiles has skipped solar technology along by 4 years in one hit as i assumed this tipping point would only be reached in 2020

    It’s 5kw continuous (7kw peak) inverter output is actually now fully usable meaning any NON HARDWIRED appliances can be powered from the device. This includes all powerpoints and lighting for a typical home. Prrevously some power circuits feeding sockets would have to have been left off the battery / inverter output.

    Larger homes ( i assume ) can use 2 or more and get double or more inverter capacity. It should also allow 3 phase with 3 units

    A typical household in a blackout can still cook using the microwave or ( depending on weather) the BBQ or a portable gas cooker yet still carry on with normal power use via the sockets.

    But the biggest payback is that now the surplus power is made available for the Evening AND morning peak periods. And probably well into the next day even in cloudy weather.

    • Craig Allen

      My brother in Balmain, Sydney has been prevented from installing solar because he has a correlated iron roof that is considered intrinsic to the heritage value of his house and therefore not allowed to be blighted with panels. A friend in Northcote, Melbourne has a similar problem that limited the size of the array she could install. Hopefully Tesla or someone else will produce a panel design for Australia that mimics correlated iron.

      • Phil

        Only a matter of time as demand ramps up i’d think
        The French Provincial slate Tile they (Tesla) make is very authentic looking

        No reason the same cant be done for corrugated iron.
        They may even do a “rusted” look one for farm buildings !

        Your talking more than a billion roofs worldwide that could go solar when replaced

        I think also the what appears to be better impact capabilities of glass tiles may bring the insurance costs down from Hail Damage

        In the cities there are so many opportunities to use public facilities to provide energy for local use . Much like shopping center carparks are doing with shade structures. There is a possibility of footpaths and roads themselves being solar collectors as well

        • Miles Harding

          Remember Uni-Solar panels? Thin film printed on stanless steel sheet.
          A 4wd mounted set I saw remained functional even after being mangled by a tree. I could easily see these being printed on corrugated metal roof sheets. Efficiency isn’t so much a problem if the entire roof is in on it.

          • Phil

            Yes Valid Point Miles , The roof area is massive and that may mean many go lower cost rather than efficiency.

            I think also poor Insolence areas are able to go all solar tiles. Whereas the higher insolence areas may only have every 2nd or 3rd tile a solar one

            Also you should get a much flatter and longer usable solar output through the day with most house designs having multiple angles

            And as they are aiming at NEW BUILDS , you may well find the Architects changing roof designs to optimise useable solar power.

            It’s exciting stuff.

      • I think Blue Steel are on to that Craig. I can remember reading an article about a test house in Glebe that had the roof panels – ahh, here it is.
        http://reneweconomy.com.au/bluescope-unveils-world-first-solar-roof-with-heat-and-power-32417/

      • Miles Harding

        Here we go again.
        Some years back, the same happened to Ben Elton in Fremantle. Eventualy the argument was won, but it took a lot of un-necessary argument with a city council, then infested with real-estate agents.

  • Vic

    Did anyone see or hear any coverage of this event by ABC TV or ABC radio programs ?

    I noticed it was conspicuously absent from ABC’s online publications. I would have thought for a country that leads the world in the uptake of rooftop solar that a fundamental change in rooftop solar technology would be worthy of broadcasting. Especially considering Chris Uhlman’s personal interest in the reliability of renewables, why no reports about the more reliable Powerwall product I wonder.

  • Ruben

    Two things that are missing are price and efficiency and I think that they may well be the two factors that make this project unfeasible.

    I personally don’t mind the look of existing panels and feel that this product is marketed towards those that do, so the visual aspect isn’t worth a premium for me. I still think that the best solution would be to come up with a Colorbond style roof that has a solar cell as the coating. The added benefit for that would be that you already have one conductor that you can use and would only need a second.

    Further, the louvers would mean that there’s no point installing any solar on the south facing roofs as it would get 0% sunlight. This compares to conventional panels still receiving around 80% on a south facing roof when compared with north facing.

    • Geoff

      There is technology that can already do this. Also Amorphous cells will be able to cover the whole roof, although the efficiency is only 5-8%. You can cover a wider area so sometimes Amorphous is better for output than monocrystalline

    • solarguy

      80% on a south facing roof, sorry mate your dreaming.

  • Geoff

    The idea is great although there are a few things that don’t stack up. The cells embedded into the tile seems to be placed diagonally from each other except for the Tuscan Glass tile. This would make it difficult for electrons to flow through the array to complete the circuit. Didn’t see anything to suggest how this was going to be done. Also houses in the US will have to have their cells having south (toward the equator) so what about the cells facing north? surely you don’t want to change the aesthetics of the house for this. Cost would have to factor this in. Maybe one half with cells and the other half not? single or double axis tracking is certainly out of the picture. I suppose you’ll need to calculate the amount of tiles / cells on the roof Vs the amount of cells within a panel and the compare the output…

    • Ruben

      Yes, with offset tiles, you’d probably need a type A and type B tile, which you have to alternate per row and that have their terminals reversed.

    • WR

      They are probably designed to connect in rows rather than in columns.

      • Geoff

        For the other tiles apart from Tuscan, that would make sense. Would love to see how it all comes together on the back end.

  • Stepho_62

    I read this article elsewhere and living at 19 degrees South as I do, some serious work will have to be done to conform the Cyclone Rated Building code. I hope this happens quickly as I’ve just spent $13k on a new roof and if could have made it a giant PV panel in the process I would have in a flash.