The rollout of the first Tesla solar roof tiles in 2018, almost 18 months after the announcement of the Tesla solar roof in October 2016, was another defining victory in the Tesla story that started with their iconic Tesla cars and has now grown to include Tesla solar panels and the Tesla home battery (Powerwall).
Where did the inspiration for the Tesla solar roof come from?
The technology behind the first solar roof tiles (also called solar shingles) was developed in the 1970s. Since then, several companies have attempted to produce a solar medium that would look and function like a traditional roofing system and also replace traditional solar panel add-ons.
While building integrated photovoltaic (known as BIPV) options aren’t a new concept, the Tesla’s Solar Roof products have taken aesthetics to a whole new level – just as Tesla Motors have done with their electric cars.
How much does a Tesla solar roof cost compared to regular roofing materials?
The Tesla solar tiles are a premium product. Constructed of thin layers of quartz – they are virtually unbreakable. While price estimates may eventually vary depending on location and installation costs, Tesla insists that their solar roofing tiles will sell for a price of $21.85 per square foot. The cost of regular roofing materials is between $1-$2 per square foot for asphalt shingles.
At $21.85 per square foot, the Tesla solar roof price for a 2,500 square foot home is around $54,000. This cost has been one of the reasons Tesla solar roof installations have been slow through the last half of 2018. However, while the upfront costs are expensive for Tesla solar roof customers, Tesla claims that the solar roof tiles will last a lifetime whereas conventional roofing materials might only last 10-20 years.
What is the Tesla solar panel roof?
Tesla roof panels are unlike traditional solar panels in that every tile contains one solar cell. They not only look like, and function as, conventional roofing materials, such as terracotta, slate, or asphalt, they also produce electricity!
The Solar Roof line of products is unique among other solar options because it doesn’t resemble a typical solar installation. Every solar cell is embedded invisibly within every glass tile. The tiles are then installed like traditional roofing shingles or tiles. If you didn’t know the roof was a Tesla product, you’d probably never realize it.
Unlike other solar products, Tesla systems are designed to collect up to 98 percent of the solar energy that traditional arrays collect. The unique type of louvered glass tile works in much the same way as window blinds by reflecting sunlight to appear opaque while still absorbing the rays of the sun.
The electricity generated by the solar roof tiles is then used to power your house – and possibly also to charge the Powerwall battery if you choose to store your solar energy for later use. Tesla tiles can be installed on new construction, as part of a re-roofing project. For the pros and cons of installing energy storage with your solar panels check out our blog.
There’s a 30 percent Solar Investment Tax Credit that homeowners can qualify for that applies not only to the cost of the tiles but also to any associated equipment and the cost of one or more Powerwall batteries for your system.
To qualify for the full tax credit, it’s a must to have federal income tax liability equal to the value of the amount of the tax credit. Luckily, this can be carried over to subsequent tax years. Additional utility, local, or state tax and solar incentives may apply. Early estimates say the average return for a 1,800 square foot home in California is nearly $88,000 in saved energy costs over 25 years. However, this is an average, and the actual result will vary a lot from house to house.
To find out the potential solar savings at your house based on your location, power use, utility rates for power and roof you can use our solar savings calculator.
What are the advantages of Tesla solar roof tiles?
Although the upfront investment seems high, there are several advantages to installing Tesla solar tiles on your roof:
- Aesthetically, Tesla solar tiles put traditional solar arrays to shame. There are no bulky frames or visible wiring and junction boxes. The tiles look like regular roofing tiles – which could significantly increase the value of your home.
- While the initial purchase and installation costs for Tesla tiles are impressive, like other solar options, this product will pay for itself.
- Because the design of these tiles makes them nearly indestructible, Tesla offers to replace their tiles as long as you own your home – without time limits.
Can it be argued that the Tesla solar roof has an attractive investment return?
One of the reasons investing in Tesla roofing tiles is attractive is because it’s not necessary to reshingle your entire roof to take advantage of the solar benefits. If your roof does need replacing, Tesla recommends only investing in replacing between 35 to 50 percent of your roof with solar tiles.
While the initial price of Tesla’s Solar Roof may look intimidating, estimates indicate that the owner of an average 3,000 square foot home would pay around $60,000 for a Tesla solar roof, compared to a traditional installation of approximately $26,000.
In the United States, until 2019, homeowners who choose to install a partial replacement or full roof may qualify to deduct 30 percent of the costs from their taxes. Unless Congress extends the deadlines, after 2019, the credit drops to 26 percent. Starting in 2020, it drops to 22 percent, and after 2021, residential solar investors will receive no credits.
Who installs Tesla roof tiles?
Tesla will be offering certification training to installers who will be able to properly install the right type of tile in the correct area(s) of your roof. Tesla is already taking solar roof pre-orders.
It is hard to know when all of the styles of the Tesla solar roof will be available and, given the federal solar tax credit steps down at the end of 2019, we would recommend that if you own a house that has a roof in reasonable condition that you get solar quotes on conventional solar panels. Traditional solar panels will work out cheaper.
However, if you are building a new house and so need to wait anyway, a Tesla solar roof would be an excellent addition to ensure your new home has a roof that will last and solar energy to meet your needs now and into the future.
Two sides to the same panel: Lightsource’s bifacial technology
Bifacial (literally ‘two faced’) solar panel technology has become a hot topic across our sector in recent years due to its potential to out-perform mono-facials. In 2019, 3% of all solar modules sold were bifacial, and this figure is predicted to climb to 10-15% this year, as we see more projects getting the green light globally.
More powerful from every angle
The key strength of bifacial solar panels is in the name – by capturing sunlight on both faces of the panel, the efficiency of energy transfer is increased by around 14%, producing more energy from the same amount of space.
In regions like Australia and the USA, where cost of labour is very expensive, this uplift in yield and increased efficiency has significant benefits to the internal rate of if return (IRR) of projects, creating more financially viable opportunities for solar.
Case Study: Wellington Solar Farm, NSW, Australia
We are currently building one of the first (and largest) projects in Australia to deploy bifacial panels at scale. Wellington Solar Farm is a 200MW utility scale solar plant located near Wellington, NSW, and when completed will feature:
- 500,714 Canadian Solar Bi-HiKu panels
- 435,000MWh of clean, renewable electricity per year – enough to power 72,500 homes
- 350,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions displaced- equivalent to taking 121,580 cars off the roads.
Durable, with a longer lifetime
According to a study by Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, there’s around 5.4GW of bifacial solar capacity operating globally, predominantly in Asia, with that number set to rise tenfold and achieve equal distribution across Asia and North America in the next five years.
This popularity with developers is not just due to increases in efficiency, but also durability. Bifacial modules have glass on both sides, which increases the energy production but also extends the lifetime of the product when compared to its mono-facial counterpart.
These modules are also often up to 30% heavier than regular mono-facial panels, as they’re built to withstand significant weather conditions. The glass on a bifacial module can handle 2.5cm hail (typically the largest it will get), and many manufacturers use glass that’s 2mm thick, as the flexibility reduces the number of micro-cracks, and allows the glass to bend, rather than break. As a result, bifacial modules can be used in a wide range of locations where solar would not have previously been considered a good option.
The extra weight increases durability of the panels, cutting the frequency of part replacement, saving time and money. Due to this, the manufacturers guarantee includes a lower degradation rate (the decline in output that all solar panels experience over time) – another significant gain in IRR and project viability.
But it’s not without its challenges
The panels do not stand alone, they fit within the framework of a project as a whole, and so many elements of site design have to be adjusted to fit.
Investor assurance is key
Another challenge is the bankability of the modules with financial institutions. To a point, bifacial technology is still ‘new’ and can be interpreted as a ‘risky’ investment. Early adopters, like ourselves are overcoming this hurdle by strengthening R&D and demonstrating rigorous testing.
As there are no international standards yet for bifacial panels, testing products consistently can be difficult. To overcome this, we’ve been working closely with module providers on pre-shipment testing . We’ve built healthy relationships with the top 10 global solar manufacturers, which has allowed us to place significant orders, currently earmarked for projects across Europe, the US and Australia.
While bifacial panels are in many ways superior to mono-facial panels, there is still potential to improve performance further. Without getting into deep technical specifics, the next step would be to upgrade the type of silicon wafer used in the cells of the panels, from traditional P-type to the more expensive but more efficient N-type. We are currently trialling N-type cells on one of our projects in the UK and look forward to seeing the results.
E.ON switches 3.3 million homes to 100 per cent renewable power
Energy giant says that from today all domestic customers will receive 100 per cent renewable power at no extra cost.
The green tariff market just welcomed a major new player, after energy giant E.ON announced all its tariffs have switched to 100 per cent renewable power as standard.
The company revealed today that it has moved all its 3.3 million residential customers to 100 per cent renewable electricity supplies, promising to ensure their power use is matched by wind, biomass, and solar supplies. The company said the move was the largest of its type to date in the UK and would be delivered at no extra cost to customers.
The move provides further evidence that renewable power, whether sourced directly or through proof of origin certificates, can be secured at little to no price premium compared to standard power from the grid.
Alongside the announcement, E.ON released the results of a YouGov survey of over 4,300 people which found growing consumer demand for clean energy tariffs.
The survey found 61 per cent of those not already on a renewable tariff would like to switch to green power if the move could be made at a “reasonable price”. Moreover, over three quarters said they were concerned about climate change and 79 per cent said they could do more to become more sustainable.
“Climate change is the defining issue of our era, and one that energy customers are increasingly concerned about,” said E.ON UK chief executive Michael Lewis. “We believe large-scale action can make significant change possible and we’re committed to playing a leading role and setting an example for others to follow, that’s why we’re providing all of our residential customers with 100 per cent renewable electricity as standard – a change at a scale never seen before in Britain.”
He added that the move was part of a wider push by the company to slash its emissions and expand its clean tech offerings. “Our announcement is an important first step in a journey towards a more sustainable and personalised energy system, but the future of energy doesn’t stop here,” he said. “The opportunities include helping all of our customers to better manage their energy through smart, personalised and sustainable technologies.”
The move comes just days after the company launched a range of new interest free financing options to help homeowners spread the cost of installing solar and storage systems. It also follows the announcements earlier this month that E.ON’s German operations have launched a new service to improve the energy efficiency of supermarkets and have agreed to acquire the biomethane arm of gas giant WINGAS.
The market for green tariffs has exploded in recent years, as specialists such as Ecotricity and Good Energy have expanded and mainstream energy suppliers have developed their own renewables offerings. ScottishPower last year became the first Big Six operator to unveil plans to shift to 100 per cent renewables generation with the sale of its gas operations to Drax.
Giant batteries and cheap solar power are shoving fossil fuels off the grid
This month, officials in Los Angeles, California, are expected to approve a deal that would make solar power cheaper than ever while also addressing its chief flaw: It works only when the sun shines. The deal calls for a huge solar farm backed up by one of the world’s largest batteries. It would provide 7% of the city’s electricity beginning in 2023 at a cost of 1.997 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for the solar power and 1.3 cents per kWh for the battery. That’s cheaper than any power generated with fossil fuel.
Mark Jacobson, an atmospheric scientist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, tweeted after news of the deal surfaced late last month. “Because of growing economies of scale, prices for renewables and batteries keep coming down,” adds Jacobson, who has advised countries around the world on how to shift to 100% renewable electricity. As if on cue, last week a major U.S. coal company—West Virginia–based Revelation Energy LLC—filed for bankruptcy, the second in as many weeks.
The new solar plus storage effort will be built in Kern County in California by 8minute Solar Energy. The project is expected to create a 400-megawatt solar array, generating roughly 876,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity annually, enough to power more than 65,000 homes during daylight hours. Its 800-MWh battery will store electricity for after the sun sets, reducing the need for natural gas–fired generators.
Precipitous price declines have already driven a shift toward renewables backed by battery storage. In March, an analysis of more than 7000 global storage projects by Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported that the cost of utility-scale lithium-ion batteries had fallen by 76% since 2012, and by 35% in just the past 18 months, to $187 per MWh. Another market watch firm, Navigant, predicts a further halving by 2030, to a price well below what 8minute has committed to.
Large-scale battery storage generally relies on lithium-ion batteries—scaled-up versions of the devices that power laptops and most electric vehicles. But Jane Long, an engineer and energy policy expert who recently retired from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, says batteries are only part of the energy storage answer, because they typically provide power for only a few hours. “You also need to manage for long periods of cloudy weather, or winter conditions,” she says.
Local commitments to switch to 100% renewables are also propelling the rush toward grid-scale batteries. By Jacobson’s count, 54 countries and eight U.S. states have required a transition to 100% renewable electricity. In 2010, California passed a mandate that the state’s utilities install electricity storage equivalent to 2% of their peak electricity demand by 2024.
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