At the end of last year, Elon Musk revealed SolarCity’s glass solar roof panels. When he first announced the tiles in October, he laid out a dream of a future house with a Tesla Model 3 in the garage, a Powerpack lithium-ion battery on the wall, and a roof made of solar tiles. The tiles would provide energy to the Powerpack, which would give a constant stream of power to the car and house consistently throughout the day. With the Powerpack already available and Model 3 shipments starting last month, the tile was the last missing bit of his vision.
Less than a year later, Tesla acquired the company. In the earnings call, Musk said the first tiles have been fitted onto the homes of Tesla employees – including his own and co-founder JB Staubel’s – and are generating electricity.
Musk’s tiles allow whole roofs to generate solar power, making the tiles a more appealing alternative for new homes over conventional separate solar modules.
Customers can tailor the design to fit with their specific housing design through four available options: Tuscan Glass Tile, Slate Glass Tile, Textured Glass Tile, and Smooth Glass Tile. The latter looks like the existing solar panels, while the former surprisingly resembles traditional roof panels.
Musk’s solar roof uses both solar and non-solar types of tiles, and they are tough! Each of them is made of tempered glass, which makes them about three times stronger than slate or asphalt. On top of that, the tiles are capable of defrosting by using a similar technique to that of anti-ice wires in windshields. This implies that the tiles can work in extreme conditions.
The solar roof is offered at a competitive price point. Tesla has valued it at an average of $21.85 per square foot, bringing it down to below the cost of a normal roof. The technology will actually start to pay for itself when energy savings from the solar roof are factored in.
However, this is just the first step for Tesla. In the future, technological breakthroughs in sunlight based energy production are expected to revolutionise the sector and our everyday lives. An example of this was seen towards the end of last year, where Tesla laid out an ambitious plan with Panasonic that included using rooftop solar panels, utility-sized power plants, and localised power infrastructure. The new project will work alongside Tesla’s current installations of solar panels, as a key component on existing houses.
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