Last week, Tesla and SolarCity launched what they believe to be the next generation of solar harnessing technology for buildings. While that might be great, but there some few things Elon Musk (who runs Tesla and at the same time is the chairman of SolarCity) failed to ask, either by design or by mistake.
According to SolarCity, these solar roofing tiles will start shipping as early as 2017; which by the way is barely two months away. The solar tiles come in four styles: Smooth, Slate, Textured, and Tuscan.
One of the biggest make or break factors of a solar technology adoption is its aesthetics looks. People are going to put up this device on top of their roof and could be seen perhaps even a mile away. Nobody wants to put up a hideous looking thing on top of their roof. As far as the aesthetics department goes, the Tesla/SolarCity’s solar roofing tiles score ‘bigly’ (in the words of Donald Trump).
Nonetheless, assuming you are a rational consumer, you obviously what the best value for your money. Therefore, it should trouble you that during the unveiling of the solar roofing tiles, Elon Musk failed to answer the following key critical questions about these products:
How is their performance?
A rational consumer looking for value for their money will not stop at just the aesthetics checklist. The next check box after aesthetics should be the solar roofing tile’s photovoltaic cells efficiency.
People privy to the in-depth details about the technology says the solar tiles are 2% less efficient than the alternative solar panel technology being provided by SolarCity. That is due in large part to the aesthetic design of the panels/tiles.
The color coating that makes them look as good as they do also reduces their efficiency. However, the unveiled solar tiles were just prototypes (beta if you may), and perhaps the final product to be released next year will have address the 2% inefficiency.
Just how good a roof are they?
Can the Elon Musk’s solar cells withstand all it takes to make a strong durable roofing material? Well, Must seems pretty confident about it, going as far as stating you can even walk on these solar cells as you would on an asphalt tiles.
Solar roof glass tile vs. conventional roof tile pic.twitter.com/AnGWJ07jub
— Tesla (@TeslaMotors) October 29, 2016
So, they look the part and are durable, but how much do they cost?
Well, let us start from what we know. The accessory needed for the efficient harnessing of these solar tiles power, the Powerwall 2 battery, which will be sold separately will go for $5,500 and an extra $1,000 for installation.
If you’re planning to install this solar roofing, then there is the first cost of removing your current roofing in addition to installing this new roofing. SolarCity says, the solar roofing will cost you a bit less than what it would cost you to install a high-end roofing material, but over time you will be able to recoup, with regards to the savings you will make on electricity bills payments over time.
Can the current roofing companies install these solar roofing or will you need SolarCity staff to do the installation?
This is a new product in the market, and obviously, the industry has not had enough time to study the technical skills needed for its installation. Therefore, as much as you could be inclined to use a roofing company you had previous dealing with, it would be advisable to use SolarCity staff who are trained in its installation.
Then again, that depends on your degree of risk averseness. It is also likely SolarCity will want to have control of the product distribution and installation. To avoid a shoddy job being done, and ruining their brand solar roofing materials.
Can you lease the solar roofing tiles like other SolarCity products?
Currently, there are other SolarCity products that customers can lease if they cannot afford a full upfront payment. There is also the option of getting a loan to purchase their equipment, or signing up for a power purchase agreement. In the last two option, SolarCity will maintain ownership of the equipment.
Elon Must failed to clarify whether the available payment options for people who want to use the solar roofing tiles. That also brings up the question, what happens when a homeowner moves? The solar equipment makes up the roofing, will they owner move with the entire roof?
If not, that will naturally drive up the cost for the next home purchase. And what if the homeowner was on a lease agreement and they moved? Then again, what if the owner is not moving but fails to meet the payment as per the lease agreement, will SolarCity repossess the roof?