Elon Musk to unveil a ‘Solar Roof’ product to revolutionise the roof industry

Posted: by August 22nd, 2016

Not content with creating an entirely new concept for the car industry, Tesla’s Elon Musk announced last week that SolarCity (a company he helped start with his two cousins) will unveil a new product towards the end of the year taking solar panels to a whole new level.

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The announcement of intent to acquire SolarCity by Tesla was made this year in June, with the vision of being the world’s only vertically integrated energy company offering end-to-end clean energy products to it’s customers.

Lyndon Rive, SolarCity’s CEO, referred to the upcoming unveiling of 2 new products before the end of the year, around the time Tesla and SolarCity are expected to close the merger (Q4 2016).

Musk explained: “It’s a solar roof, as opposed to modules on a roof.”

“If you need to replace your roof in the next five years,” he added, “you’re not going to get solar. What if your roof looks better and last longer?”

Rive then confirmed that they are working on a roof integrated product.

“I think this is really a fundamental part of achieving differentiated product strategy, where you have a beautiful roof. It’s not a thing on the roof. It is the roof.”

While Musk didn’t elaborate on the product itself, he made it clear that Tesla/SolarCity will go after the roof industry with its new products, rather than only installing solar modules on existing roofs. After recent comments, there were rumours that SolarCity would unveil a solar shingle kind of product (pictured above), but it’s not necessarily what Musk is talking about here.

Solar shingles were grid-tied, which means they were developed for buildings and houses already connected to an electrical grid; they were wireless and designed to be easily snapped together and installed by contractors of the roofing industry. Integrating about 350 solar shingles (acting as a multi-functional solar module) on a single roof was estimated to cut an electric bill by 40 to 60 percent. However, the initial costs of installation were estimated to be over $20,000 (around £15k). This high cost, plus problems with practicality, contributed to the product’s failure to successfully launch. Dow stopped selling its Powerhouse solar shingles on June 28th 2016.

The CEO explained that it will open up a new market for the company. Rive added that there are 5 million new roofs installed every year in the US and if your roof is about to need to be replaced, you don’t want to invest in solar panels to install on it since you are about to take it down, but if the solar panels are the roof and you need to redo it anyway, there’s no reason not to go with a power-generating roof. Musk sees a “huge” market for the roofs nearing their end of life.

Musk added that the new business plan will work alongside SolarCity’s current installations on existing roofs. It will not cannibalize the existing product.

Based on the comments from Musk and Rive’s announcement that two products will be unveiled by the end of the year, it looks like SolarCity is about to unveil 2 solar products, one for existing roofs and one integrated with the roof.

They plan to manufacture those modules at SolarCity’s upcoming 1 GW factory in Buffalo. Peter Rive, SolarCity’s CTO, said that the company now plans for the module assembly line to start producing in Q2 2017.

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