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Revolutionary Solar Roof Announced by Elon Musk This Week



Since the news of the fusion between SolarCity and Tesla Motors, some even greater news now show up. At SolarCity’s second quarter financial call this week, Elon Musk announced that the company will launch a revolutionary solar roof.

Now mind you, a solar roof is NOT a solar cell mounted on the roof. For existing buildings, that product is doing well and is going to be supported along with the new one. The solar cell roof is just what is seems to be: a beautiful roof with integrated solar panels, so they won’t ruin the external aspect of your new home.

Rive then confirmed that they are working on a solar roof integrated product and Musk added:

“I think this is really a fundamental part of achieving differentiated product strategy, where you have a beautiful roof. It’s not a thing on the roof. It is the roof.”

The solar roof modules will be made at a large, 1GW facility in Buffalo, NY, and will target a “huge” market of roofs that are nearing their end of life (and new ones, of course). Over 5 million new roofs are installed in the US each year.

After changing money transfers, cars, space exploration, now Elon Musk and his cousin Lyndon Rive are going for the roofing industry – this is not going to get unnoticed, since it involves Tesla and Elon Musk – remember Hyperloop?

This reminds me of an article that we wrote back in 2009 about a company named Dow Chemical. They too wanted to make solar roofs possible through a product called “solar shingles.”

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  1. At last. It’s been years since I have been waiting for these, home manufacturers really lacked the vision to see what the consumer wants. It’s been pretty obvious from the start that solar panels were not the way to go, esthetics are very important for home owners and the local community, let alone the cost of basically installing 2 roofs on top of each other.

    Some countries like France require that the whole surface of solar panels installed be fully waterproof, no leak between each module. Basically, they already require to have a functional roof over the existing roof. Merging the two into one makes it faster and cheaper to install, insulate and maintain, although I bet that the early SolarCity roofs might not be that cheap, that will probably come with SolarRoof Model 3…

    When you own an automated production unit of roof parts, you can very easily build these parts on demand, with most of the roof built out of standard parts, except the sides that may require specific dimensions, with maybe smaller roof parts into which you can still fit in as many solar cells as possible. That probably means micro-inverters on each roof part for smarter electricity collection, maybe even with the low power of morning and late afternoon Sun. Actually, there might also be vertical solar roofs on the East and West sides of the house, and the North side of the roof could also produce electricity during part of the day if they manage to get these parts cheap enough. 250W solar modules cost about $100 per square meter, $150 for 300W modules, but the solar cell part itself is much cheaper and should allow an optional full roof coverage if well designed from the start.

    Having your own solar roof production also allows you to design a fully integrated insulated rooftop, maybe even integrate an airloop just below the solar cells, to provide cool air during the summer to make the cells more efficient, and warm air during the snow storms to melt it down, especially with low slope rooftops. There’s really no need for sharp angled roofs anymore with vented solar roofs, attics would be a thing of the past, or at least unusable attics.

    So now I understand better why Tesla is merging with SolarCity. No doubt Elon Musk has more grand plans for this venture.

    • Completely agree with every statement but wanted to add an additional point.

      Like a lot of innovations that come from the mind of Elon Musk and companies, this one is as much a business innovation as a technical innovation. The point is that everyone who builds a house, has no choice but to buy a roof. If the cost differential between solar or traditional is not too great, someone contemplating a new roof might as well buy a solar roof. Additionally, there are already plenty of vehicles for funding and financing a new roof – like a typical roof, people can budget it as part of periodic home maintenance, or get their homeowners’ insurance to pay for it, or absorb it into their mortgage for new construction homes.

      The “how to pay for a roof” business model is already there. The “how to pay for solar panels” business model is the one that is still struggling for acceptance. Not many people use the term ROI when contemplating a new roof or have to worry about leases, transfers, etc. They literally just want a roof over their heads.


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