Three years after Tesla unveiled its first solar roof tile on the set of “Desperate Housewives,” the automaker has rolled out a new tile design called Solar Glass Roof. Designed to appear like natural roof tiles, the solar tiles are made of tempered glass and are three times stronger than regular roofing tiles, designed to produce energy while not altering the look of a home — something that sets it apart from regular solar panels, which Tesla also sells.
The difference between this version, offered with a 25-year warranty, and two previous versions that Tesla has offered is the ease of installation and the price — two factors that have held Tesla back after the technology was first introduced. And just to give you a sense of how Tesla has worked to make the technology less expensive in a short period of time, this third version will be 40 percent less expensive than the first two versions. (In addition, this is also a good demonstration of how it’s worth it, at times, to wait a couple of years for a technology to mature and avoid the “early adopter tax” — we’re pretty sure that some of those who bought version 1.0 of this technology from Tesla are thinking the same thing right now).
How much cheaper is Version 3.0 when installed on a 2,000-square-foot home?
Tesla says it will cost buyers around $42,500 with a 10kW solar capacity, before any state and local tax credits and other incentives, boiling down to $21.25 per square foot. (The Tesla website lists the price as $33,950, without the $8,550 federal tax credit).
Tesla CEO Elon Musk indicated that the company was still figuring things out with the first two versions of the solar roof tiles, lamenting that the overall installation costs were too high for the company’s own liking, keeping the overall price for customers high.
The company has been hard at work to figure out ways to install the roofs quicker and more effectively, and version 3.0 is the result of its efforts. Musk indicated that the eventual goal is to cut the installation time below that of traditional tiles, with the company aiming to hit an installation pace of 1,000 roofs per week over the coming months.
Whether there is that much demand for Tesla’s solar glass roofs, especially outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, is another question. And there is still the issue of scheduling installers: Right now, Tesla hires and trains its own installation teams, but the eventual goal is to enable third-party installation by trained contractors. That’s where the scale will take off, Musk hopes.
Tesla has yet to make solar glass roofs as popular a component of its overall “package” (electric car and energy-producing home) as its cars, which goes back to its Master Plan. But by cutting down installation time and cost, the company appears to have achieved a pretty significant price drop. Whether that price drop will be enough for homeowners to ditch their conventional roofs and install solar glass is another question, but one crucial point that the company is banking on is that the solar glass roof is far cheaper than an entirely new, regular roof and solar panels bought separately.
This means that if you’re thinking of replacing your roof entirely, it makes some sense to opt for Tesla’s solar glass roof than to install a new roof and then buy solar panels that will be very obvious, visually. Tesla has yet to get this point across to homeowners who may not have been thinking about home energy generation in the process of replacing their regular tile roofs — it certainly doesn’t make sense to rip out a new or otherwise well-kept roof just to install Tesla’s version.
Tesla’s solar roof endeavors have not been without controversy from the very start, including the purchase of SolarCity, but if the 40 percent drop in cost shows anything, it’s that the first couple of generations of any new technology will have some bugs to work out, whether from a technological or financial standpoint.
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