Tesla unveils solar roof tiles with hidden photovoltaic cells
Image credit: Reuters
Electric car maker Tesla has unveiled a solar roof technology with integrated photovoltaic cells that are not visible from the outside.
The roof tiles made of special glass come in four varieties and can even mimic the traditional look of Tuscan roof tiles, used in ancient Greek and Roman architecture, and traditional European slate tiles.
“The goal is to have solar roofs that look better than a normal roof, generate electricity, last longer, have better insulation and actually have installed cost that is less than a normal roof plus the cost of electricity,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said during the launch event. “So why would you buy anything else?”
Tesla, which has developed the product in cooperation with residential solar power provider SolarCity, believes that improving the aesthetics of the photovoltaics will help boost adoption of the technology.
Musk reasoned that people building new houses or refurbishing their existing roofs may rather invest into a sleek roof with photovoltaic cells already integrated, instead of building a roof and then covering it with unsightly panels.
“We have to make solar panels as appealing as electric cars have become,” said Musk. “Electric cars originally didn’t look good, had a low range and bad performance and people didn’t really want them. This has changed and now something similar has to happen to solar.”
In the future according to Musk, every house would have Tesla’s good-looking solar roof generating electricity during the day. The unused energy would go straight into Tesla’s home and utility batteries to power lights and appliances at night. The system wouldn’t be complete without a Tesla electric car in the garage charging from the integrated system.
“This is sort of the integrated future,” Musk said. “You’ve got the electric car, a Powerwall and a solar roof. It needs to be powerful, beautiful and seamlessly integrated and if all those things are true, why would you go in any other direction?”
Tesla also unveiled its new-generation home and utility batteries Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2.
The Powerwall 2, designed for domestic use, comes at $5,500 and provides double the energy and power of its predecessor Powerwall 1.
“It has energy storage capacity of 14kWh and power output of 7kW,” said Musk. “You can have a two-bedroom house and you can power your fridge, your sockets and lights for a day. And if you have solar on your house, you can power indefinitely.”
Similarly, the scalable Powerpack 2 for use at solar power plants and other utility installations, offers double the energy capacity of its predecessor – 200kWh. The firm has already started shipping Powerpack 2 to Southern California Edison Mira Loma substation, which is building the largest lithium-ion battery energy storage project in the world. Another facility is being built on Kaua’i Island in Hawaii.
Musk said that there is a market for utility energy storage despite the fact that he encourages households to become energetically self-sustainable with the solar roof and Powerwall 2. Arresting climate change would require abandoning polluting fossil fuels in favour of cleaner resources, which means more electricity will be needed.
“We have reached record CO2 levels; global warming is a serious crisis and we need to do something about that,” he said.
Musk is the biggest shareholder in both Tesla and SolarCity, which is run by two of his first cousins. The two companies are now in the process of merging with a vote on the acquisition scheduled for 17 November. Analysts have been dubious of the deal’s proposed synergies, with some suggesting the merger is a way for Tesla to rescue money-losing SolarCity.