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Time to Put a Tesla on Your Roof?

Is it time to put a Tesla on your roof? Elon Musk thinks so. Not a car of course, but a Tesla Solar Roof, made of tempered glass tiles with solar cells that have the look of a conventional roof, yet are capable of generating enough electricity to meet most if not all of your household energy needs.

Tesla’s Solar Roof created considerable buzz when the revolutionary product was announced last fall.  And now the company has started to take orders from Canadian homeowners, who are required to make a $1,330 CDN refundable deposit for the right of being first in line for this innovative product. A product that promises to dramatically transform the roofing industry in much the same way as electric cars are changing the landscape of the automobile industry.

Unlike conventional solar panels, which some consider unsightly, Tesla’s Solar Roof tiles come in textured, smooth, Tuscan (looks like ceramic) and slate designs, so that as the company proclaims “the roof complements your architecture while turning sunlight into energy.” And because they’re made from tempered glass, they’re three times stronger than standard roofing tiles, with half the weight.

So is it time to put a Tesla on your roof? For starters, Tesla won’t begin installing these roofs in selected parts of Canada until 2018. And then there’s the cost, which depending on the size of your roof, could add up to 10’s of thousands of dollars.

However, Tesla’s way of putting this hefty cost into perspective is that if you need to replace your roof and you are considering installing solar panels, the company’s Solar Roof will be less than what a conventional roof in tandem with solar panels would be. Another way Tesla positions their product pricewise is that while a conventional roof may cost as little as $4-5/sq. ft. for asphalt shingles and up to $20/sq. ft. or more for slate or metal, their Solar Roof is equivalent to $0/sq. ft. after factoring in electricity savings over the life of the roof. In other words, they say the roof could pay for itself over time and perhaps even generate a profit.

However critics say Tesla’s Solar roofs have disadvantages at the moment because they don’t generate power as efficiently as a standard solar panel and they waste potential generating space because not all of the tiles are solar (their roof system is a mix of tempered glass only and tempered glass with solar).

Adding to the confusion for consumers, is Tesla is already being challenged by other solar roof providers including Forward Labs, a Palo Alto-based company that claims their solution is 33% cheaper and can be installed in half the time. The company is actively promoting the concept of ‘energy density’ or how much energy a solar roof can produce per square foot, purporting to offer “higher density than solar panels and other solar roofs” in a slightly veiled reference to Tesla’s solution.

Forward Labs has come up with a multi-layered solar solution that combines tempered glass, a coloured layer of film, solar cells and galvanized metal panels which to the naked eye looks like a conventional metal roof. Forward Labs has also begun taking reservations. However their website encourages “only those in the U.S. to place orders at this time” and the company won’t commit to installing solar roofs on any homes outside of their current map – essentially the Bay Area from San Francisco to San Jose, until after 2018.

So while the concept of a solar roof may be exciting for consumers, not unlike the launch of any new product category, we can expect delays and it could be years before the average consumer can afford such a roof.

But UK based energy vlogger James Cooke predicts solar roofs will eventually become the norm. “What I think will happen is as the price of solar roofs comes down and efficiencies go up, over time, what you’ll have… is all roofs will be solar.” And when we get to that point says Cooke “people are going to look at houses that don’t generate power on their own roofs as… totally and utterly stupid.”

Republished with permission from Post Media

Author: Mark Wessel

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