Elon Musk made quite the announcement today. During the special shareholders meeting to approve the merger with SolarCity, which they approved by 85%, he said that he was coming back from a meeting with the SolarCity engineering team about the solar roof and that he now feels confident that they could deliver the product at a lower cost than a regular roof – even before energy production.
That’s different from what the company was claiming before the meeting today.
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And it’s an incredibly bold claim since if it turns out to be true, no homeowner would have any reason not to choose a solar roof when buying a new roof.
Since unveiling the new products a few weeks ago, Musk and Tesla officials have been referring to the solar roof’s price as “less than the price of a regular roof when accounting for energy generation” – meaning that it will cost less than a regular roof when you account for your savings on your electricity bills.
It made sense. Solar energy is already competitive in several markets and while the price of the solar roof could be more expensive than a regular roof as an upfront investment, those electricity savings would quickly add up and made the product competitive with normal roofing solutions.
But now claiming that it would cost even less than a regular roof upfront is a completely different game.
Musk said during the meeting earlier this afternoon:
“It’s looking quite promising that a solar roof actually cost less than normal roof before you even take the value of electricity into account. So the basic proposition would be ‘Would you like a roof that looks better than a normal roof, last twice as long, cost less and by the way generates electricity’ why would you get anything else.”
That’s including the labor costs and without subsidies for solar, Musk added.
The CEO claimed that it is achievable because the current roofing supply chain is “incredibly inefficient” – emphasizing that no one looked at the roofing supply chain for a while. He also echoed some comments made recently by Tesla CTO JB Straubel about the cost of products being linked to their weight when produced in volume.
He said that the glass developed by Tesla for the solar roof tiles weigh “a third, a quarter and sometimes even a fifth” of other current concrete and ceramic roof solutions. Musk calculated that because of the weight and fragility of the current products, logistic costs and breakage are important parts of the total cost.
Musk added that there are “huge gains” to be made by “cleaning up” that supply chain. While it remains to be proven, it has the potential to significantly accelerate the deployment of solar capacity by opening the market to homes that need to have a new roof, which is 5 million homes every year in the US alone.
The end price to the customer will obviously vary depending on the price of the house and the difficulty of the installation.
Tesla expects to start producing the solar roof in volume starting next year. The company unveiled 4 different versions of the product and it plans to release them one or two at a time starting in 2017.
Tesla’s new residential solar and energy storage solutions are quite innovative. You can visit Tesla’s website if you wish to take your place in line for when they become available, but solar and energy storage prices are highly dependent on your market (electricity cost, gov incentives, etc.) and your property. We suggest to get quotes from more than one installer to make sure you get the best energy solution for your place. UnderstandSolar is a great free service to link you to top-rated solar installers in your region for personalized solar estimates for free.