Musk Says Tesla Solar Roof Will Cost Less Than A Conventional Roof


Originally published on Planet Save

Elon Musk was practically bouncing off the walls with excitement after the official shareholders meeting approving the merger of Tesla Motors and SolarCity ended. Before the question and answer session could begin, he told the audience that he had some “amazing stuff” to tell them.

Almost everything Elon says is amazing, so what had him so excited? Simply this: He announced that the cost of a Tesla glass tile solar roof would actually be equal to or slightly less than a conventional roof. And no, that is not after deducting the value of the electricity it generates over the next 20 years or so. That is right now, today, as soon as it is installed. Elon, you’re right, that is amazing stuff!

How is that possible? Elon explained to the audience that a lot of it has to do with the current supply chain for roofing materials, which he said is incredibly inefficient. It turns out, the glass tiles weigh up to 80% less than conventional roofing materials, especially ceramic tile or concrete tiles. Both of those are very popular in many locations around the world, especially southern California and the Mediterranean countries. Not only do the Tesla glass tiles weigh less, they are less fragile, which means less loss for breakage.

Much of the cost of conventional roofing materials can be attributed to shipping all that weight over long distances. And, as Musk said last month during the grand unveiling for the solar roof, glass is basically sand and sand is super cheap.

Not every tile on every roof will have a high-efficiency solar cell embedded into it. Some sections will be unsuitable for producing solar power either because they face the wrong direction or are shaded during all or part of a day.

But, says Musk, it will be impossible to tell the tiles apart from below once they are installed. That is partly because of the tiny plastic micro-louvers built into them that make for a uniform appearance from below.

Now that Tesla and SolarCity will be one company (SolarCity will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Tesla), Musk says that a homeowner will be able to walk into any Tesla store to sign up for a solar roof. “Say ‘yes,’ it happens, it’s seamless, and you love it!” he told his audience.

Installations will begin this summer. The most popular tiles will be offered first — the choices are Tuscan, Slate, Textured Glass, and Smooth Glass — with the other three styles being released approximately 3 months apart later. Given the cost and the utility savings, Musk asks, “Why wouldn’t you?” Why not, indeed.

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  • super390

    That’s a daring statement, and it needs to take different climate conditions into account. In Las Vegas, the nicer houses all use clay tile because the sun and wind destroy the roofing materials common elsewhere in only a few years. I’m sure solar tiles will be very competitive in that environment. In Seattle or Houston, I’m not sure.

  • Jim Smith

    maybe i just missed it, but did they announce any specifics? How much power do these generate compared to panels covering the same area? Is the inverter included with the cheaper than a comparative shingle roof?

    • zn

      I believe Powerwall 2 has an in built inverter. Obviously Tesla will sell a total package.

    • Steve Hanley

      No, specifics were omitted and Elon, brilliant as he may be, is excellent at being a little hazy when it comes to penciling out the actual cost of Tesla products. The numbers will vary from house to house depending on location, pitch of the roof and orientation toward the sun.

      I suspect Musk’s comments are based on a comparison to a slate roof or a tile roof. Tile is typically about double the cost of asphalt shingles and slate is three times as much.

      But if it is twice what your ordinary roof costs in your area, the energy savings will more than make up the difference and the solar roof should add more value to a home than a conventional roof.

      As zn notes, the latest Powerwall 2.0 has an inverter built in. But nowhere in Musk’s remarks did he say the inverter is included in that “same cost as a conventional roof” claim.

      No matter how you look at it, this announcement suggests prices will be about half of what people expected when the solar roof was first announced last month.

      • kevin mccune

        Let me say this ,even though my roof faces the “right way ” I cant use this system because the cheap designers that built this manufactured housing I live in only made a roof support system capable of supporting 10 psf ,the little spindly 2×2 trusses are stressed pretty much as it is ,even though we have had almost 3 feet of snow on this roof ,I wouldnt trust it long term for somehting as heavy as roofing tiles. enough about that.
        There will be gimmicky and shady contractors who will give this system a bad name at times ,so I hope the licensing process to use this system will be adequate .
        But what a concept ! An invisible beautiful necessity that can help some forward thinking Folks get off the grid altogether , ,IMO there is nothing uglier then service drops or a bunch of poorly planned transmission lines .