Solar Rooftops and Tesla’s New Solar Roof

Reader Contribution by Ryan Willemsen and Solar To The People

Photo by Tesla

Do you like the idea of going solar but don’t like the look of traditional rooftop solar panels? Then Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, has a prospect for you — the Solar Roof. With a Solar Roof, the solar panels are built-in to individual roofing tiles which are then used to cover your roof as normal. Then, for the lifetime of your home, your roof itself will be generating clean, renewable energy for you and your family. For many, especially those constructing a new home, this is an option that makes solar practical and attractive.

The idea of a solar rooftop has been around for a while — it’s a concept known as Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV). This means that the photovoltaic system, or solar panels themselves, are an intrinsic part of a building’s construction. This integration allows homes to utilize solar power while still maintaining a specific design aesthetic that might not be possible with traditional solar panels. However, previous attempts at solar tiles have been bulky and unsuccessful. Musk announced Tesla’s take on the solar rooftop last year, and just recently finalized pricing and started accepting orders.

Type of shingle. With the Solar Roof, you can choose from four different types of tile: Tuscan, Smooth, Textured, or Slate. These tiles are not only indistinguishable from standard roofing tiles, but they are exceptionally durable. Tesla is so sure of the strength of their tiles that they are offering a lifetime warranty on them. You can rest easy knowing your investment will be protected against the elements.

Cost. So what will this all cost you? Well, that’s where it gets a little complicated. You can check out Tesla’s website, plug in your address, and they will provide an estimate for your house based on location and square footage. There are many factors that go into what the final price will be — everything from where you live to how many stories your home is.

Integration with non-solar shingles. One of the main factors that determines how much your Solar Roof will cost is the percentage of your roof that will actually be covered in solar tiles. It is not possible for 100% of your roof to have solar panels, because it is a fire hazard and because most roofs have areas that are not conducive to absorbing solar rays. The rest of your roof that is not covered with solar tiles will instead have “dummy” tiles that look identical but do not have solar capabilities.Tesla will automatically recommend a certain percentage cover for your house when you use their online tool.

Solar Tax Credit. The average American home is about 2,500 square feet, which produces a cost estimate on Tesla’s website from anywhere between $30,000 and $70,000. These prices at face value are fairly high compared to a normal “dumb” roof, but there are several factors that offset the cost and could make the Solar Roof a smart investment for your home. First of all, Tesla calculates the amount of money you will save in energy generation over 30 years with your Solar Roof. Depending on energy prices and the amount of sunshine where you live, this number could be over $100,000. Secondly, the Solar Roof will qualify for the federal government’s solar Investment Tax Credit (SITC). This is an incentive program that provides homeowners a tax credit of 30% of the cost of installing new solar systems — including the Solar Roof.

Integration with Powerall battery. Tesla is also recommending that homeowners invest in their Powerwall 2.0 battery pack with the installation of a Solar Roof. This battery allows you to choose when you want to use the solar energy you have generated, and also allows you to have continued electricity during power outages that affect the rest of your area. The optional battery and installation will run you about $7,000, and is a good option for those looking for personal energy independence and stability.

For now, Solar Roofs seem to be a solid investment for people constructing a new home who have money to invest upfront. Depending on the cost of solar where you live, the long-term energy savings could allow you to break even on this investment and start earning money well before 30 years. While it may not currently make financial sense to homeowners everywhere in the country, the prospect of solar panels that are as beautiful as they are practical is an exciting look into the future of renewable energy.

Ryan Willemsen founded Solar to the People to help “shine light” on the solar industry for the benefit of homeowners. Connect with Ryan on Facebook and Twitter. Read all of Ryan’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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