Back in August, we wrote a post called Elon Musk’s Vision for a Solar Roof: A Work of Art…Or Just Work? right after Elon Musk, engineer and Tesla Motors co-founder, announced his latest vision to create solar roofs — not post-roof-installation solar panels, but an entire roof of solar-gathering material. He boldly declared, as only an inventor of his caliber can, that his idea would quickly replace standard roofing material everywhere. Our post examined the reality of this idea from a roofing contractor’s point of view: will it be expensive? who will install it? will it work in extreme climates? (Read the post here.)
This weekend, Musk unveiled his new roof tiles with the built-in solar panels (at Universal Studios in Los Angeles using one of the houses from the set of Desperate Housewives) that are actually quite hard to differentiate from traditional tiles. The tiles are made from glass and are MUCH nicer looking than we had anticipated. They come in different colors and styles and look really, really good. Good enough, in fact, that we would present them to a customer.
So far so good, but here are our concerns.
First of all, nobody talked about what the cost of the roofing panels would be. During the video (see below to watch it), he kept saying, "And we are doing this for the price of a regular roof, plus electricity." So we still don't know what the price-point is — and is that the price of electricity in Arizona or California or Missouri??
There was also a part of the presentation where they dropped a weight onto a solar panel, a slate panel a clay panel, and a terra cotta panel. The three other panels broke, but the solar panel only cracked. So this leaves me wondering what the insurance companies will think about this. Are they going to cover any damage to it? Will they have a different deductible for it? And what happens when a tree branch gouges a panel in the middle of the field? How do you repair it? Do you need to remove all the surrounding panels, do you need an electrician, etc.?
Musk makes a lot of great points — and decentralized power generation has a lot of great arguments — but the tech aspect of this is going to have to get past some of the bigger issues prior to it becoming mainstream, especially in more cloudy climates like St. Louis.
This is all good stuff, but as with any technical advances, everyone is going to be (and should be) skeptical at first. Remember all those people who ran out and bought LaserDisc players the minute they came onto the market? They’ve been trying to sell them on eBay for the last 10 years.
Watch the video of Elon Musk unveiling the solar roof here: