Musk is once again making waves in the news cycle, generating lots of buzz with the reveal of Solar City’s solar roof tiles. Made of glass and exceptionally durable, these energy generators are slated to begin production in mid-2017 and are supposed to be cheaper than your current roof. While scarce on details, we’re speculating that this is based not on the initial cost – but on the fact that they’re supposed to last twice as long and generate some power while they sit there and look pretty. So we don’t have cost numbers and, honestly, much else to go on except buzzwords from the SolarCity website and a 19 minute TED-talk style presentation that Musk is famous for.
“The goal is to have solar roofs that look better than a normal roof, generate electricity, last longer, have better insulation, and actually have an installed cost that is less than a normal roof plus the cost of electricity,” Musk said during today’s presentation at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California. “The solar roof consists of uniquely designed glass tiles that complement the aesthetics of any home, embedded with the highest efficiency photovoltaic cells.”
We’re to expect four styles of solar roofing, suitable for various architectural styles:
- Slate Glass Tile
- Smooth Glass Tile
- Textured Glass Tile
- Tuscan Glass Tile
Because these tiles were fully integrated into the roof, many of the journalists and attendings at the even couldn’t even tell these were solar roofs. Pretty amazing. This is just the kind of technology the world needs during it’s transition to renewable energy and self-sustaining homes. Perhaps the only people not happy about the announcement are the electric companies, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
Solar energy is wonderful, but at night there isn’t any “solar” to go around. To meet this challenge, the electricity during the day needs to be stored somewhere. Of course we could sell it back to the electric company through smart meters to the grid, but batteries are at the heart of Musk’s solar plans. His latest product iteration, the Powerwall 2, is a floor or wall mounted pack that can be mounted inside or outside and weighs in at a reasonable 269 pounds. Aside from the obvious money savings that come along with generating and storing your own power, the idea of being able to do this off the grid opens doors for everything from rural homes to impoverished countries that otherwise have no electricity at all. Big plans for the future, for sure.
Acquisition of SolarCity
Musk doesn’t actually own SolarCity. In fact, Friday’s event had another purpose. Musk is trying to make the case to Tesla investors that a merger with the solar roof company is a good investment. This whole idea is rather controversial because Elon is both chairman and the single largest financier of SolarCity. We’ll know more on November 1st, when Tesla plans to “create a clear picture of how a combined Tesla and SolarCity will make solar and storage as compelling as electric vehicles.”
Not All Sunshine and Rainbows
Paula Mints, chief market research analyst at SPV Market Research, questions the economics of the new offering, which can be combined with a home battery. “Tesla announced a solar tile — not new — with battery that is priced below cost,” she said in a scathinge-mail. “Basically Tesla announced another way to lose money.”