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Published On: Mon, Nov 7th, 2016

Everything You Need To Know About Tesla’s New Solar Roofs

It was a unique location for a car manufacturer’s meeting. A stage was set up at the Hollywood set for the Desperate Housewives series for what most people assumed would be a talk on climate change.

Instead, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took the stage and surprised everyone with a brand new product – solar panels that resemble traditional roof tiles. No one in the industry expected this and the audience seemed to be pretty impressed. But Musk’s introductory speech was long on ambition and short on details. So, here’s what we know about the new solar roofs:

Variety

The one thing that’s surely known now is that the panels are meant to imitate roof tiles on traditional homes. This skeuomorphic design makes a lot for sense considering how much value people place on the exteriors of their homes. The curb-appeal is a major factor that allows homeowners to sell their house fast when they have to move. It looks like Tesla kept that in mind while designing the solar roof. Their new panels look exactly like shingles you would notice on villas and houses around California. They sell them in four different variations – Tuscan, Tempered, Smooth and Textured. Each is a style you’ve probably seen before.

photo/ tesla

photo/ tesla

Durability

Here’s where things get interesting. Elon claimed the roof tiles were nearly indestructible. The glass is said to be as tough as steel and is not as prone to damage as regular solar panels or roof shingles. The expected life of a slab is nearly fifty years, whereas you would be lucky if the roof tiles you see now last even two decades. The glass panels could also have heating mechanisms built-in to melt snow during winter and keep drawing power from the sunlight.

Efficiency

That’s where skeptics start to wonder if Tesla’s plan is really viable. A strong durable glass structure needs to be thick, but a thick glass structure cannot absorb enough of sunlight. Musk was, admittedly, not upfront about the expected efficiency of these panels but he did say the performance would be comparable to what’s on the market now. If that is true, these panels have a clear competitive advantage over what’s available now.

There’s a lot of unanswered questions that could determine the fate of these new solar panels. Pricing, availability, efficiency and the uncertainty over Tesla’s buyout of Solarcity are all issues that hang over these roof tiles. But there is no denying the fact that Tesla has at least offered an innovative solution for a fundamentally global problem. The halo effect from Tesla and the appeal of a traditional roof that generates power may be the tipping point for rooftop solar. This could be the push needed to drive the industry into the mainstream.

Author: Jimmy Simond

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