Tesla is having a brilliant week which started off with the announcement of its latest Model 3 electric car. And now, the company says that they have finished installing the first solar roofs. The fortunate ones to test out the first solar roofs will be Tesla employees, and Musk had them installed over his own house as well. Tesla took a similar approach by opening up Model 3 cars for its employees only. “This is version one”, said Musk, as they will keep on testing out and iterating the product until they arrive at a final public design.
How do solar roofs work?
Tesla’s solar roof was announced last year following Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity. It’s said to be similar to conventional roof tiles with the ability to harness the power of the sunlight and convert it into electricity. Essentially, they are photovoltaic cells embedded into the shape of roof tiles which will provide an endless supply of electricity during the day when the sun is shining generously. But then what about electricity during the night? Traditionally, solar panels generate electricity and store them into batteries which are exactly what Tesla is planning. Tesla’s Powerwall is a Lithium-ion battery which will store all the energy generated by the solar roof. Customers will be able to switch the main supply to the battery whenever they want. The solar roof is capable of working with the Powerwall 2 which is the second version of the battery. It can store about 14 kWh of energy with a continuous power draw of 5 kW and a peak of 7 kW. After calculating your total consumption, if the power draw from the Powerwall 2 isn’t enough, you can connect multiple of them (scalable up to 10 units) in the same house.
Now, you would imagine covering your entire roof with solar tiles in order to have sufficient electricity. But that won’t be the case since there will be non-solar tiles in the mix as well. It all depends on the house and area of the roof since there are obstructions and even building regulations that need to be followed. Customers will be able to cover a maximum of 50 per cent of the total area with solar tiles whereas the rest of the roof will be covered with non-solar tiles. Tesla’s calculator lets you customise your order according to your home area and the number of stories in it. With a 1,500 sq. ft., single-storey house and 50 per cent of solar coverage on the roof, about $198 of energy can be generated for 30 years. You can further edit the roof area if you exactly know the footage, as well as your monthly electricity bill cost. This arrangement will cost you $49,800 for the roof with an additional $7,000 for the Powerwall battery. The cost of the roof includes replacing and installing the solar and non-solar tiles on your roof. For now, owning solar roofs does seem to be expensive.
I don’t want ugly solar panels on my roof!
No one really wants an array of solar panels stuck on their roofs because not only they will look hideous but make your house look like a giant science experiment. Tesla makes sure that the tiles have a beautiful design that you would love to have on your roof, available in four variants with different surfaces. The Textured and Smooth surfaces are up for pre-order whereas the Tuscan and Slate styles will be available from next year. Both the solar and non-solar tiles are said to look like normal opaque tiles from below and only on close inspection from the top will reveal their true form.
The solar roofs are made from tempered glass, making them tougher than the regular roof tiles. Tesla claims that their roof tiles are three times stronger than standard tiles. This gives them enough confidence to provide a warranty of “Infinity, or the lifetime of your house, whichever comes first”.
Where can I get one?
Pre-orders were kicked off back in May, where customers could submit a deposit of $1,000 from the main website. Here, they could also get a rough estimate of installation charges and other economic aspects from the calculator as mentioned above. Musk confirmed that it “can be ordered for almost any country” but only 30 countries (excluding India) are listed on the website for now. US customers can expect shipments to arrive by the end of 2017.