Elon Musk and Tesla have big plans to integrate total clean home and commercial energy with the famous Tesla vehicles. This involves pairing solar panels with those electric vehicles so they can be charged from a renewable resource, the sun. Musk and Tesla have merged with Solar City (another Musk-founded company) to design a photovoltaic (PV) roofing solution that will revolutionize the automobile and the housing industry. This design is the future of PV roofing, and who better to deliver it than Tesla?
Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) was getting a lot of attention even before Tesla and Musk got on board. It has long been assumed the next step in mankind’s evolution of solar power and the process of getting it into new areas such as green commercial & residential building and sustainable roofing design.
The best way to describe BIPV is that it replaces traditional building materials with photovoltaics. Ordinary rooftop solar installations require a different setup than BIPV. In traditional installations, a PV module is attached to the structure separately whereas with BIPV the installation is built-in beginning with the construction of the roof instead of a costly addition afterward. By including this process in the construction, labor and installation costs are reduced. This results in a substantial savings and eliminates the need for secondary racking equipment. This transitions BIPV from an addition that most cannot afford to an affordable efficient building material.
BAPV (building-applied photovoltaics) is already common in the construction industry. BAPV is solar power that is retroactively installed to a building. This still adds costs and time when BIPV could be applied from the onset. This is one of the many reasons Elon Musk and Tesla have decided to move forward with BIPV as Tesla’s next big move.
The first big issue for Tesla stakeholders was to convince customers that solar installation was something that could look good with their current homes instead of some bulky contraption that stands out and looks weird on the roof of their homes.
Elon Musk spoke about this issue to the public prior to the official demonstration of the product. He said, “I think there’s quite a radical difference between having solar panels on your roof that actually make your house look better versus ones that do not, I think it’s going to be a night-and-day difference.” When the time came to officially demonstrate the product, Tesla made a genius move. He demonstrated the product in the suburbs but did not tell anyone which house the solar roof was applied to. The onlookers had to be told which house contained the Tesla product.
During this product unveiling, Elon Musk demonstrated how durable his new shingles are when compared with regular shingles on the market today. The Tesla shingles and the regular shingles had weights placed on them. The Tesla shingles were the only ones that did not break. This makes anyone who doubts the strength of this technology to stand up to the elements rest easy. Musk explained that the reason Tesla’s technology was so durable was due to the fact it is made from quartz. Elon Musk stated that the product has a “quasi-infinite lifetime”.
The durability of the materials will be one of the biggest selling points for the solar powered roof. Homeowners will love that there are more benefits to this roof type than just clean energy. Tesla is breaking into two different marketplaces here with solar power and roofing but seems to have found a common ground to make customers appreciate both.
The new Tesla Solar roof is offered in 4 different designs: the slate glass tile, textured glass tile, smooth glass tile, and Tuscan glass style. This means that customers can select from four different options that will fit with their homes aesthetically. This means that Tesla’s roof will be looked at by a larger range of customers than traditional solar power options. Customers who want to go solar do not have to worry about large bulky contraptions on their roof and they can integrate solar in the style of their home.
Musk and Tesla are not the first company to design an integrated BIPV solar roof product. Solar Roofing is a technology that has been developed by many companies over the years and continues to evolve. All the companies are attempting to segue this technology from an add-on into a genuine roofing material. So far, the other companies have been able to produce only four types of BIPV.
· Solar Facades that can only be used on walls that face sunlight
· Solar Shingles above a roofs dew point
· Solar Cell Membranes
· Semi-Transparent solar glazing to replace skylights and windows
What Tesla and Musk bring to the product is a model that is truly a “solar roof”. The other four types of products have been successful, but are not considered to be a complete solar roof. Tesla’s roof does not come without its own problems and worry’s though. Right now, the price is a huge factor as well as the actual solar efficiency of the Tesla glass shingles. Neither of which were discussed in a great deal by Musk at the product’s demonstration.
Pricing information is not available now but everyone knows that Tesla makes premium products that can be very expensive. After all, this is a premium product made with an expensive material in quartz that is almost unbreakable. As of right now most homeowners will probably not be able to afford this option or unwilling to shell out the kind of money that it will cost. The Brightside to the cost though is the fact that Tesla is constantly striving to deliver its technology to be affordable to everyone. This can be witnessed in the evolution of the Tesla electric automobile. The new Tesla3 is rumored to be around the 30k mark which brings the technology down from well over $100,000 and makes it affordable to most everyone.
The biggest hurdle for Tesla’s roof will be efficiency. Elon Musk did talk about this briefly at the product demonstration. He stated that the glass material shielding the solar cell results in a very small efficiency drop for the photovoltaic shingle. The solar energy industry is constantly evolving and the record for PV efficiency is changing on a frequent basis with cost determined by how well the product produces electricity, this means that efficiency will be a pivotal area for Musk and Tesla to see their technology succeed.
Tesla and Musk have made great strides with this technology but still have a long way to go to parlay this technology into both the building material and solar PV industries. The biggest factors will almost certainly be cost and efficiency. Tesla has already taken a giant step in introducing this product to the world and getting everyone excited. Homeowners all over the world are anxiously anticipating the release of this product to the public for purchase, especially Tesla car owners. If Tesla’s history with the electric car is any indication, consumers can expect Tesla to keep working on this technology until the price goes down enough for anyone building a home to be able to afford.