Perhaps the most intriguing product to come out of Elon Musk’s imagination is the solar shingle. There have been so many issues, aesthetic and practical, with putting solar panels in frames on top of existing roofs. Musk’s solar shingles actually are the roof, which creates a whole new set of issues. But they are also lovely to look at, and as of today you can actually plunk down a deposit and order them, with installations starting in June.
You won’t know what it will actually cost; On the website they explain:
The estimated cost of your Solar Roof includes materials, installation, and the removal of your old roof. Taxes, permit fees and additional construction costs such as significant structural upgrades, gutter replacement, or skylight replacements are not included. The Solar Roof cost is based on estimated roof square footage for your home, provided by Google Project Sunroof where available, and the portion of your roof covered with solar tiles.
UPDATE: according to Quartz, the shingles will cost $ 21.85 per square foot, which is surprisingly cheap. That is without installation; Bloomberg reports that with installation it will be around $ 42, which is really competitive with any other roof with solar panels mounted on top. A Bloomber analyst notes that “The pricing is better than I expected, better than everyone expected.”
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing is the warranty on the roof tile: “Infinity, or the lifetime of your house, whichever comes first.” That is sort of meaningless because the warranty on the power generation and the weather tightness is 30 years, and you are buying a shingle to a) keep the water out and b) generate power but it is still aggressive. I look forward to reading the small print on the contract. Right now they just say:
Our tile warranty covers the glass in the tiles. The power warranty covers the output capability of the solar tiles. Weatherization means that there will be no water leaks or other weather intrusions during the warranty period that result from our installation.
Also extraordinary are the ratings for hail, wind and fire; ignore the electricity, this is one terrific shingle on its own.
There are a few things that trouble me about the solar shingle. As Richard Feynman so graphically demonstrated after the Challenger disaster and as is drilled into architecture students everywhere, it is connections that most often cause problems, and you want to minimize them. The solar shingles are 14” wide by roughly 8” inches high (I do not know what the exposure will be) so there will be a lot more connections than with conventional solar panels, and there is no explanation yet about whether the connections will be accessible and the shingles removable. Infinity is a very long time, but so is 30 years.
I also have complained about the idea of mixing weatherproofing with power generation; I like the idea of Open building, where different functions are replaceable at different times. Elon Musk may well regret the 30 year warranty on the power generation; these kinds of things don’t usually last that long.
But this is truly a genius product, a solar panel that looks gorgeous and is also a great wind and hail proof glass shingled roof. It is a game-changer and I hope he sells it by the acre. Plunk down your deposit here.