Tesla CEO Elon Musk just announced a brand new product for the no-longer-just-a-motor-company: a groundbreaking new type of building integrated photovoltaic shingle with the goal of making rooftop solar more affordable, better looking, and longer lasting than a regular shingled roof. This is the first jointly branded product with Tesla and SolarCity. Unlike a traditional roof-mounted solar panel array, which is bolted on top of an existing roofing system (such as composite shingles or ceramic tiles), the just-launched Tesla/SolarCity solar roof is an integrated system that eliminates the need for separate roofing materials and solar panels. Instead, the new elegantGLASS roofing tiles have photovoltaics embedded right into the material, creating a completely seamless look with great curb appeal that is also an emissions-free source of renewable electricity to power nearly all of a home’s energy needs.
Musk said weeks ago that the solar roof was designed to target homeowners who have been putting off solar power installs due to the expense of upgrading or replacing their existing roof surfaces, and that makes a lot of sense. Developing a roof with integrated photovoltaics has long been his answer for bridging the gap for people who want to have solar-powered homes but can’t bear the expense of a replacement roof on top of a solar array. By combining the two, Musk hopes it will become much easier and more cost-effective for homeowners to make the switch. This evening’s unveil was hosted outdoors at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, in the middle of a cul-de-sac populated by homes used on hit TV shows that had been outfitted with Tesla/SolarCity solar roofs. The demo proved Musk’s point a thousand times over. “The goal is to have solar roofs that look better than a normal roof, generate electricity, last longer, have better insulation, and actually have a cost that is less than [that of] a normal roof,” he said. “Why would you buy anything else?”
A key component of the solar roof’s functionality is its partnership with an onsite (and potentially off-grid) energy storage system—namely, Tesla’s Powerwall system. In conjunction with the unveil of the solar roof, Musk revealed the long-awaited $5,500 Powerwall 2.0 residential storage system and the Powerpack 2.0 commercial setup. Both are designed to be connected with the solar roof system, as well as other energy sources.
When Musk published his far-reaching Master Plan Part Deux on the Tesla blog back in July, he discussed the circumstances under which Tesla and SolarCity became perfect partners. “That they are separate at all, despite similar origins and pursuit of the same overarching goal of sustainable energy, is largely an accident of history,” he wrote. “Now that Tesla is ready to scale Powerwall and SolarCity is ready to provide highly differentiated solar, the time has come to bring them together.” Tonight, he elaborated by saying, “Tesla is not just a car company. The real purpose of Tesla is to innovate the future of power. Cars are just part of the solution.”
Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity began with an announcement this summer, and the road that followed has been rockier than Musk may have anticipated. Although the two companies agreed on a merger with a $2.6 billion price tag, a series of pending lawsuits against the solar panel manufacturer stymied the waters for a time. Still, Musk has charged full speed ahead, scheduling tonight’s product unveil and announcing Panasonic’s future role as battery maker in SolarCity’s New York gigafactory, all without waiting for completion of the merger. He’s well known for being both ambitious and brave in his business endeavors, and it’s nice to know we can still count on that.
In addition to charging up the Powerwall 2.0 system via the photovoltaic-integrated roof covering, this new Tesla/SolarCity package will also come equipped with a Tesla car charger, completing the clean energy trifecta for eco-friendly homeowners.
Orders for the Tesla/SolarCity solar roof, Powerwall 2.0 and Powerpack 2.0 will begin soon, according to the Tesla website.