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It’s May 2017. Where’s Tesla’s Solar Roof?

Avatar for Ben Zientara
Published on 05/02/2017 in
Updated 11/20/2019
A photo of the Tesla Solar Roof in use on a purdy house

It’s almost summer, 2017, and we’re eagerly awaiting more information about Tesla’s revolutionary solar roof tiles.

And not without reason. The tiles make smart use of roof space, beautifully replacing something functional but boring with a new thing that provides the same function, plus makes electricity. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the “toughened-glass” tiles will still be there “well after the house has collapsed” (no, seriously).

The things are being hyped by Tesla as the Survivor of solar products; outwitting, outplaying, and outlasting everything else on the market, and at a cost Tesla says is “less than the price of a regular roof when accounting for energy generation.”

Well they were announced 6 months ago, and they’re supposed to be here now. Where are they?

The solar roof is delayed. No, it’s not! Wait… is it?

The was a minor kerfuffle in the solar corner of the internet this weekend when Business Insider posted a tiny blog saying the Tesla Roof Tiles are delayed, and then electric-transportation website Electrek posted a rebuttal saying “uh, no they’re not.”

It’s almost like Apple gearheads arguing about what features the iPhone 9q might have.

So let’s suss out the details. Depending on your point of view, either Elon Musk’s companies have been know to overpromise and underdeliver, or they’re just working on a canny strategy of communicating aggressive targets. And in this case, those aggressive targets were communicated directly by the guy in charge:

Well, that didn’t happen

So maybe “technically” Tesla isn’t taking orders for the solar roof yet, but certainly, the time is nigh. Musk recently waxed philosophical about his many endeavors in a 40-minute chat with TED’s Chris Anderson, during which he tacitly confirmed that the launch for two of the four styles of solar tiles would come “in a couple weeks,” with the second pair of styles coming “early next year.”

Check out that TED interview here:

What else do we know about the solar roof?

We actually know quite a bit, unless you count cost, availability, electric production capacity, and technological specifications as important.

But seriously, we knew enough back in November to make an educated guess as to how much the roof might cost and how much energy it might produce, though there has been some more of that trademark Musk murkiness added in the intervening months.

Here’s the short version of what we came up with last year:

We think the final cost of a solar roof will be between $40,000 and $43,000 for clay or glass-style tiles. Maybe a little more for the slate tiles. So let’s call it $43,000. Here’s how we break that down:

  • $25,500 for the solar portion of the roof (about $4.25 per watt, which is about 15% higher than the current national average installed price)
  • $17,500 for the rest of the roof tiles that aren’t solar tiles

The reason we separate those out, is we’re not sure how much of the roof will qualify for the Federal 30% solar tax credit. We assume that only the solar portion will qualify.

Tesla Solar Roof Payback for purchase and loan models

Known unknowns and unknown unknowns

The cost of the tiles is the biggest unknown. Back at the announcement, Musk said they’d cost “less than the price of a regular roof when accounting for energy generation,” a claim he repeated in roughly the same wording during the aforementioned TED interview. But sometime in between, Musk changed his tune, saying:

It’s looking quite promising that a solar roof actually cost less than normal roof before you even take the value of electricity into account. So the basic proposition would be ‘Would you like a roof that looks better than a normal roof, last twice as long, cost less and by the way generates electricity’ why would you get anything else.

So now the question is, how does he define a “normal” roof, and what does he think it costs? And what timeframe is he talking about here? At the time it was made, the claim was backed up with statements about the inefficiency of the current roofing supply chain, the durability difference between Tesla’s tiles and currently-available products, and the differences in raw weight between tile types (Tesla’s being the lightest and most durable, natch).

So what does it all mean? Well, we (and most of the industry) are waiting with bated breath to find out all the specifics of these tantalizing Tesla tiles. When we know more, you’ll know more, too.

Last modified: November 20, 2019

One thought on “It’s May 2017. Where’s Tesla’s Solar Roof?

  1. Avatar for Wyatt Wyatt says:

    Can you provide me with a list of solar panel sales/installers in west Virginia? I haven’t been able to locate anybody.

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