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Elon Musk: Tesla's Solar Roof Will Cost Less Than a Traditional Roof (bloomberg.com) 428

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: After Tesla shareholders approved the acquisition of SolarCity, the new company is now an unequivocal sun-to-vehicle energy firm. And Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk didn't take long to make his first big announcement as head of this new enterprise. Minutes after shareholders approved the deal -- about 85 percent of them voted yes -- Musk told the crowd that he had just returned from a meeting with his new solar engineering team. Tesla's new solar roof product, he proclaimed, will actually cost less to manufacture and install than a traditional roof -- even before savings from the power bill. "Electricity," Musk said, "is just a bonus." If Musk's claims prove true, this could be a real turning point in the evolution of solar power. The rooftop shingles he unveiled just a few weeks ago are something to behold: They're made of textured glass and are virtually indistinguishable from high-end roofing products. They also transform light into power for your home and your electric car. "So the basic proposition will be: Would you like a roof that looks better than a normal roof, lasts twice as long, costs less and -- by the way -- generates electricity?" Musk said. "Why would you get anything else?" Much of the cost savings Musk is anticipating comes from shipping the materials. Traditional roofing materials are brittle, heavy, and bulky. Shipping costs are high, as is the quantity lost to breakage. The new tempered-glass roof tiles, engineered in Tesla's new automotive and solar glass division, weigh as little as a fifth of current products and are considerably easier to ship, Musk said.
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Elon Musk: Tesla's Solar Roof Will Cost Less Than a Traditional Roof

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  • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Friday November 18, 2016 @09:04AM (#53313205)

    If Musk is correct then... Great! Sign me up!

    I think I'll wait for a variety of third party reviews before I get too eager though. Of course Musk is going to cheer his own product, but lets see if experts agree with him and if the price really is lower when it really hits the market.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2016 @09:18AM (#53313263)

      Agreed, I still want to find out how this product works in places like Warren Ohio, Joplin, Missouri, Greensburg Kanasas (Most Damaging Tornadoes I can think of off the top of my head) Where tornadoes while not "common" also aren't "rare" and as such roofs need to be able to sustain pre-tornado weather (including hail) at least a few times a year. (to be reliable)

      That doesn't even include Cold Weather testing (which those 3 above also face to varying degrees), extreme summer heat, and snow dead weight (weight of snow/ice on roof) capacities, etc....

      and that isn't even including any PV testing... like... Ohh how about a minor heating element that can be turned on in the winter to help de-ice/snow roofs... so as to be able to go back to collecting solar (because "normally"(ignoring temps going up) you can get a lot of snow quickly and then days and days of 'sunny but still cold' where roofs are still snow covered. So... a heating element like this would use battery/etc. power for a short time, but then allow PV collection again... ohh and.... yeah... the list goes on...)

      Also... I would want to know if I can buy it in small quantities to put it on small sheds, etc... where a LED light and maybe more would be great add ons... because the "issue" with solar roof that I've been told is that you can't just buy the panels from them... you have to get EVERYTHING including installation from them... and a lot of people HAVE to do the lease option... (b/c they (IMHO) buy grid-tie in systems which makes them susceptible to lower power company regulations...) (I'd be glad to know if I'm wrong on any of Solar City's practices...but still the same issues apply)

      • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Friday November 18, 2016 @09:36AM (#53313355)

        Agreed, I still want to find out how this product works in places like Warren Ohio, Joplin, Missouri, Greensburg Kanasas (Most Damaging Tornadoes I can think of off the top of my head) Where tornadoes while not "common" also aren't "rare" and as such roofs need to be able to sustain pre-tornado weather (including hail) at least a few times a year.

        Traditional shingles set a very very low bar.

        • Ceramic shingles are cheap. Ever heard the adage 'people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones'? You don't see that many large glass surfaces around for a pretty good reason...

          • by sjbe ( 173966 )

            You don't see that many large glass surfaces around for a pretty good reason...

            You mean except for almost every window on every house and car made? [sarcasm] Yeah barely any glass out there. Who would use glass? [/sarcasm]

            • Re:Glass (Score:4, Informative)

              by harrkev ( 623093 ) <kfmsd@@@harrelsonfamily...org> on Friday November 18, 2016 @12:06PM (#53314603) Homepage

              You mean except for almost every window on every house and car made? [sarcasm] Yeah barely any glass out there. Who would use glass? [/sarcasm]

              Uhhhh, how much glass is used for horizontal (or horizontal-ish) surfaces? On my house, at least, all exterior glass is completely vertical. When hail arrives, the glass only has to absorb the horizontal component of the force, which is significantly less than the vertical component. Roofing surfaces, however, are much more horizontal than they are vertical, so they will have to absorb more force.

              • Horizontal glass (Score:5, Informative)

                by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Friday November 18, 2016 @12:47PM (#53315015)

                Uhhhh, how much glass is used for horizontal (or horizontal-ish) surfaces?

                Quite a lot. Open up your refrigerator and chances are you'll see a rather large load bearing glass surface. Look at atriums of commercial buildings with glass roofs. Look at greenhouses. Glass table tops. Check out the sunroofs in cars. There are glass walkways.

                Horizontal glass surfaces are all over the place if you actually bother to look for them.

      • Tornadoes are the least of the worries really. If a tornado hits a house, or even comes close, then the house is simply gone. Now where I live hurricanes are something to deal with and traditional shingles tend to be the first thing that gets ripped off, then the roof.

        Now up north snow/ice would be an issue in the winter but they could add some heating elements to melt it off I would guess.

        But all that said I SO want this to be true. I need a new roof and would LOVE to get solar since we have sun about 80
        • by swb ( 14022 )

          Now up north snow/ice would be an issue in the winter but they could add some heating elements to melt it off I would guess.

          Snow and ice tend to melt off due to solar heating. My roof is often exposed and bare when my yard is covered in snow, and I have light colored shingles and good insulation.

          Solar panels are dark colored and I would think would tend to warm up and cause heating where they were exposed and fairly quickly melt off, especially if the temperature nosed close or above freezing.

      • by troon ( 724114 ) on Friday November 18, 2016 @09:48AM (#53313425)

        "Ohh how about a minor heating element that can be turned on in the winter to help de-ice/snow roofs"

        It has this [twitter.com].

      • Your concerns about tornadoes and cold weather and snow loading - these are things off the top of your head that you thought of within 5 minutes of skimming the article. I'm pretty certain the engineers - who spend their entire days working on this project - have thought of all of this.

        That being said though, I'm with you. I would wait for a third party review as well. Let's get some objective pricing and usage data before we get too happy.

      • by MachineShedFred ( 621896 ) on Friday November 18, 2016 @10:02AM (#53313509) Journal

        They've shown video of dropping calibrated weights on 3 other roofing materials as well as this new product, and the other 3 failed (read: shattered) where this solar shingle thing did not. They claim it is almost as strong as steel.

        There is a version that has electric resistive warmers in it for melting snow - remember that SolarCity installs panels in New York, Vermont, and Pennsylvania, which are no strangers to snow.

    • Yeah, I'm finding it hard to believe that these glass solar singles are actually cheaper than asphalt ones. The asphalt ones cost about a buck a square foot.

      • by haruchai ( 17472 )

        Asphalt wasn't mentioned in the reveal so I doubt they can match price, yet.

        • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Friday November 18, 2016 @11:04AM (#53314037)

          Asphalt wasn't mentioned in the reveal so I doubt they can match price, yet.

          He evidently cherry picked the more expensive "high end" options for comparison, and left out the more common and economical ones. Typical of Musk to gloss over the details. But he's got to hype the product to keep the shareholders at bay for the Solar City acquisition.

          He may be able to sell to the very wealthy in certain locations and make good margins on this product.

      • I believe the actual cost equation also includes energy costs - the roof may be more expensive than a traditional roof up front, but if it reduces your energy bill to zero for the next 20+ years, the overall cost is lower.

        • by tsqr ( 808554 )

          I believe the actual cost equation also includes energy costs - the roof may be more expensive than a traditional roof up front, but if it reduces your energy bill to zero for the next 20+ years, the overall cost is lower.

          From TFS:
          Tesla's new solar roof product, he proclaimed, will actually cost less to manufacture and install than a traditional roof -- even before savings from the power bill. "Electricity," Musk said, "is just a bonus."

      • I'm sure he's comparing them to Luis Vitton gold plated shingles.
      • It's probably a comparison between these new tiles and ceramic ones. And those are quite pricey...
      • This ^^

        I'm calling BS on being able to produce "shingles" cheaper then traditional. Especially including install...

        Same for a car roof? how are you going to get cheaper then sheet metal with paint on it?

        • by Zak3056 ( 69287 )

          I had the same thought about install... I can't imagine PV panels being installed by three guys on a roof slamming pneumatic nailers down as fast as humanly possible.

    • If Musk is correct then... Great! Sign me up!

      I think I'll wait for a variety of third party reviews before I get too eager though. Of course Musk is going to cheer his own product, but lets see if experts agree with him and if the price really is lower when it really hits the market.

      I wonder if Musk is assuming a 30% tax subsidy for installation, thereby claiming a lower than actual price?

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday November 18, 2016 @09:09AM (#53313217)
    Including the PV cells? Excluding the generated electricity benefit? Color me suspicious. I'd really like to see that. Mass-produced conventional solar panels (just the hardware on pallets) are still about twice as expensive as my most recent roof (including installation), per unit of area.
    • If it really costs less outright then that'd be a game changer, even if you lived at a latitude where the electricity generated would be marginal.
      • Oh I reread the article and it costs less than slate or terra cotta, not asphalt and so on. You'll see some slate here and there, but not terra cotta here. Still, should interest enough people down south to get it cheaper down the line up here.
        • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

          True but a slate or terracotta roof can last hundreds of years with a bit of maintenance to fix loose tiles. My slate roof is nearly 70 years old now and still going strong. Should easily last another 70 and certainly till I am dead and buried.

  • California (Score:5, Informative)

    by Orgasmatron ( 8103 ) on Friday November 18, 2016 @09:09AM (#53313225)

    I keep forgetting that there are places in the world that aren't California. Out there, "traditional roofing materials" are asphalt shingles, or sometimes cedar shakes, neither of which is bulky or brittle.

  • by MindPrison ( 864299 ) on Friday November 18, 2016 @09:14AM (#53313239) Journal
    ...10 times more expensive to buy for the end users.

    When the solar cells dropped in price from the hefty China manufacturing of these, people in Sweden tried to purchase a lot of these, then a heftyn anti-dumping 60% import tax "to protect other producers of panels" where quickly introduced to stop this "green madness", hah...

    But good on him for trying, now if the governments of the worlds would like to dance to that tune, we'd all be in the green, but I can pretty much promise you, the ones earning $$$ on something else won't have it!
  • If they can deliver, I happen to be in the 1-3 year market for a new roof. If it really is price competitive, I might actually give it a try. However, I'm guessing it will be rolled out geographically and will be hard to get for a few years, even when they do finally make it available, so I don't hold out much hope.
    • It might be an idea to get in touch with them and find out whether they'll do a deal with you. If they're trying to build a case for these things, they could do worse than having a happy customer telling his neighbours what a great product they've got.

  • Ya, and the Hyperloop will be faster and cheaper than flying if no regulations or security are imposed.

    • Ya, and the Hyperloop will be faster and cheaper than flying if no regulations or security are imposed.

      I don't think that the hyperloop will work period. However, l don't think that means that nothing Musk is behind will work. That's how things go. Not all of Edison's projects worked - in fact he had a number of big failures. But the stuff that he and his team created that did work was pretty important.

      One of the best ways to avoid failure is to not do anything, which is failure in itself,

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Friday November 18, 2016 @09:36AM (#53313357)

    Tesla's new solar roof product, he proclaimed, will actually cost less to manufacture and install than a traditional roof -- even before savings from the power bill.

    Unlikely that it will be cheaper than an asphalt shingle roof. Not so surprising that it might be cheaper than an (expensive) slate or similar high end tile.

    They're made of textured glass and are virtually indistinguishable from high-end roofing products

    Umm, no. They are not "indistinguishable" from high end roofing products but they are reminiscent of them and appear to be rather attractive looking on their own merits.

  • Can you mount a satellite dish on them?

    rain fade is still better then comcrap over compressed tv with the lowest number of HD channels of any major system.

  • by Manhigh ( 148034 ) on Friday November 18, 2016 @10:00AM (#53313499)

    This seems like a no-brainer, but it also seems silly to put these on north-facing or shaded roofs. It would be nice if there were cheaper, non-PV versions to cover the portions of my roof that aren't going to generate appreciable power. A consistent appearance in the roof, but only pay for the PV where it makes sense.

    I guess maybe having two different versions would potentially make both more expensive.

  • by A Friendly Troll ( 1017492 ) on Friday November 18, 2016 @10:01AM (#53313507)

    A single clay roof tile costs the equivalent of $0.5 where I live. It's good for half a century, no problem.

    I have 5 places that produce clay building bricks and clay roof tiles in a radius of 150 km to choose from.

    Transportation is cheap, and even if some tiles/bricks break in transport, they're so cheap that... well, nobody cares if there's a 1% loss in material.

    • A single clay roof tile costs the equivalent of $0.5 where I live. It's good for half a century, no problem.

      I have 5 places that produce clay building bricks and clay roof tiles in a radius of 150 km to choose from.

      Transportation is cheap, and even if some tiles/bricks break in transport, they're so cheap that... well, nobody cares if there's a 1% loss in material.

      While we can predict the longevity of traditional roofing materials, it's hard to predict the cost of electricity 20 years from now, especially as homeowners take more revenue away from the electric companies via solar supplementing and more efficient homes and appliances.

      Because of this, the TCO is hard to argue against a product that generates electricity for you, and is predicted to last a couple of decades. I know that's not Elon's claim here, but that benefit can't be simply dismissed.

  • " Tesla's Solar Roof Will Cost Less Than a Traditional Roof"

    Traditional *expensive* roofs.

    Which is fine, don't get me wrong, but if you're expecting this to compete with a $3000 re-roof using asphalt, not going to happen. If you do have a home with something more expensive, then the issue there is that they do tend to last longer and won't be a target for replacement as often.

  • 25 years to de-carbonize the Global Economy and we are wasting resources on rooftop panels. UGH
  • By "traditional" I think he means "artisinal", not "standard". Slate and tile are certainly not standard roof materials these days. I'm also skeptical that these could last as long as slate - the slate on my house is 80 years old and mostly going strong.

    Having said that, if I were in a suitable location and needed a new roof, I'd give these the old cost / benefit analysis.

  • What they mean to say by cheaper is that solar tiles that mimic the look of high end roofing material will be cheaper than the real thing.

    Solar power have nothing to do with it. They could make the tiles without the PV cells and it will be even cheaper. But comparing them with other premium materials is like comparing plastic with leather.

  • Is he referring to traditional quarried slate and hand dried tiles, or to "traditional" factory produced asphalt / cement / concrete / clay tiles? The ambiguity is kind of important to define here since most constructions probably use the latter kind (which cost ~ $1 each) and not the former (5-10x as much).

    And somehow I doubt these solar tiles are going to sell for $1 a pop or anywhere close. Modern roof tiles only have to be secured with a single nail so it's hard to see how they're easy to fit unless t

  • There are more homes in this country that are poorly positioned for solar power than you might expect. Their roofs might be aligned poorly for their latitude to maximize solar power generation, they may have cover from other sources (trees, other buildings, etc), they may be in a place that is generally too cloudy or has too few daylight hours, or other factors as well. If you sell these roof tiles as being less expensive and more durable, people will buy them even if they (buyers) cannot expect to genera
  • Would a roof trap excessive heat, thereby heating up the car (especially in summer)? Why not put that solar surface on the hood, where it can get connected directly to the underlying engine, and power certain less energy intensive parts of it? Is it all just about the surface area?

  • by flink ( 18449 ) on Friday November 18, 2016 @11:08AM (#53314065)

    I am actually kind of disappointed that Tesla is throwing their lot in with Solar City. Their sales people positively infest all of the Home Depots around here (Boston, MA). They are extremely pushy and act like you are the asshole for wanting to just shop instead of listen to their sales pitch. Any company that employs those kinds of sales tactics doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in me, and I plan to never do business with them. I was planning to consider a Tesla for my next car, but this deal is making me reconsider.

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