The new version of the “Solar Glass Roof” from Tesla was debuted last October by Elon Musk. This is the third iteration of the solar roof system and will cost about $42,500 for a 2,000-square-foot roof with 10kW of solar capacity but keep in mind that is before government tax credits that are available for going solar.
Going by the information on Tesla’s website it costs about $21.25 US dollars per square foot although pricing for a Solar Glass Roof varies based on size and location of installation.
The new roofs come with a 25-year warranty, are hail proof, and will initially be sold in just one color, a dark tempered glass finish. Although Musk said they are going to unveil new roof tile designs around “every six to nine months.”
This third iteration of the Solar Roofing has been designed to be both cheaper and quicker to install than the previous version MK1 and MK2. In version 2 Musk told the press that Tesla was “basically trying to not lose money” on each installation.
Because after the production of that versions tiles, they required additional work needed to finish them after leaving the production facility and arriving at a home for installation.
Musk quipped that the MK2 tiles were “quite artisanal” and drew a parallel about their on-site finishing work to “building airplanes and you finish your construction on the runway.”
“[It] just wasn’t a version that was worth scaling,” Musk said.
The MK3 Solar Glass Roof version has a simpler design with fewer components and parts to assemble both in the factory and on-site. This is the first version Musk feels comfortable scaling into larger production.
Musk drew another parallel between his latest Solar Glass Roof and how it’s been through multiple iterations before getting footing as a ubiquitous and widely adopted technology to early computer software. “Windows 1 or 2 didn’t really work, frankly,” he said referencing Microsoft’s early attempts.
This giant in the tech industry has said the new solar MK3 tiles that are larger and more power-dense will “make roofs come alive,” creating a world “where you look around the neighborhood and the roofs are all gathering energy.”
“I think in the future, it will be odd for roofs to not gather energy,” Musk said.
The advantage of these tiled solar roofs over the traditional solar-paneled roofs is that instead of garish and highly noticeable square solar panels you can have a normal-looking tiled roof that’s more durable and has less potential for leaks from brackets installed into the traditional tar roofing.
In the end, the advantages may or may not outweigh the cost of installation depending on if your roof is more than five years away from replacement. Musk tweeted that it “only makes financial sense for new houses or replacement roofs.” and he said if your traditional roof still has life in it you’re better off going with traditional solar panels.
“It costs a price point that is less than what the average roof costs plus solar panels,” Musk said on the call.
The Solar Glass Roof was first unveiled in its MK1 version back in October of 2016 during the filming of the reality show Desperate Housewives at nearly the same time Tesla was buying out SolarCity who Musk helped create with a family member that founded it.
The SolarCity deal created a large controversy with many saying it was a “bailout” for the company that had been struggling for years while still continuing to grow. Musk was even sued by multiple Tesla shareholders who alleged the billionaire CEO overvalued SolarCity’s value and made claims that Musk did not properly recuse himself from the acquisition.
While the lawsuit is still in the process of being sorted out in the courts more documents have been unsealed including Musk’s own deposition so more will come out in the following months. Musk and Tesla have both denied any wrongdoing in statements.
Originally the Solar Roof tiles were supposed to go on sale in 2017 but multiple problems cropped up during production that forced Tesla to push the launch up repeatedly. In 2018 production on the version 2 tiles at the now famous (or infamous?) Gigafactory 1, (a building with the largest footprint of any building in the world) began.
But the rollout of MK2 solar roof tiles was kept limited purposely so Tesla could develop the more cost-effective and easier to build MK3 for the tiled solar roofing system.
In 2019 Tesla dropped to third in the U.S. residential solar panel market because they installed so many fewer panels in the second quarter of the year than they had in any quarter since they purchased Solar City. That number barely grew in the third quarter.
The company has laid out a 2020 plan to regain their market lead within their solar panel business in the United States by cutting prices and now offering a rental plan for the solar panel installations much like SolarCity had.
Back in August of 2019 Walmart filed a lawsuit against Tesla claiming that at a number of their store locations the SolarCity and Tesla panels were installed at had allegedly caused fires that damaged the store locations.
“It’s been quite hard to get to this point,” Musk said Friday. “This was quite a difficult product because roofs have to last for a long time. And then when you add electrification to the roof,” it gets even more difficult, he said.
With claims that the new version 3 roofs will be faster, easier and make more sense to install than the other two versions their 2020 goal to install 1,000 roofs per week in the “next few months” may very well be possible.
When asked about the market for the Solar Glass Roof Musk said he thinks it is “100 million homes worldwide.”
There are currently two separate installation teams at Tesla competing with each other on the best method for installing the new MK3 roofs. He used this same tactic (taking a page from Steve Jobs’ early apple days) on SpaceX’s Starship prototype design.
Tesla is hiring an overwhelming number of installation techs for these new roofs but Musk said they are also looking to outside installation companies and contractors to help figure out further improvements.
So 2020 is the year of the Tesla Solar Glass Roof coming to a neighborhood near you and a future not far off from today.
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