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.