Not in love the the way solar panels look jutting out from your roof? It's a popular objection, and one that has helped keep people from fully embracing an eco-friendly approach to living. But there was a time when people were wary of electric cars for the same reason.
And then Elon Musk and Tesla came along.
Much in the same way that Musk turned the hippie idea of an electric car into a luxury must-have with Tesla—not just overcoming objections but creating a frenzy among buyers willing to shell out close to $100,000 for a sleek automobile that also happens to plug instead of fill up - he now wants to have his way with your house. And if the reaction to his latest announcement is any indication, the romancing has begun.
Behold the solar roof. Not ugly old panels, but an entire roof of tempered glass tiles that look like regular shingles and come in four options: Textured Glass, Slate Glass, Tuscan Glass, and Smooth Glass. Tesla says the tiles are "tough as steel" and able to withstand a lifetime of bad weather conditions.
So just how convincingly do they pass for the "real" thing?
"On Friday evening as the sun descended over the old Hollywood set of ‘Desperate Housewives,' Elon Musk took to a stage and fired up his presentation about climate change," said Bloomberg. "It was a strange scene, with hundreds of people crowded into the middle of a subtly artificial suburban neighborhood. It wasn't until about a minute into the speech that Musk casually let the crowd in on Tesla's big secret. ‘The interesting thing is that the houses you see around you are all solar houses,' Musk said. ‘Did you notice?'"
Nope. No one had. And that's the point.
Making solar mainstream
Without the clunky, ugly, imposing look and structure of traditional solar panels, what's to stop everyone from harnessing the power of the sun at home?
First, there's that little issue of the pending merger between Tesla and SolarCity. Musk, co-founder and CEO of Tesla, is also the chairman of SolarCity, the largest home solar-panel installer in the U.S. Musk's plan is to merge the two companies - a merger that's "controversial because of profitability issues for both companies, and both are operating in markets where demand is uncertain," said Inc.
"Plug-in electric vehicles make up less than 1 percent of U.S. sales, and less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity generation comes from solar power, according to government data. But Musk has called the deal a ‘no brainer.' He says SolarCity's installation network and Tesla's global stores could provide customers with a one-stop shop for sustainable energy and transportation."
In fact, Musk, on a conference call this week, reported a third-quarter profit of $22 million for Tesla, and said he's "confident SolarCity would be cash-neutral or even a cash contributor in the fourth quarter if the companies merge." MarketWatch also reported on a blog post in which SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive contended the deal will add $1 billion-plus in revenue in 2017 and more than $500 million in cash to Tesla's balance sheet over the next 3 years."
Shareholders will vote on the merger on November 17, and if it goes Musk's way, it could mean a complete overhaul of the way we get our energy down the line. "As a society, individually storing solar energy in batteries wouldn't make sense when solar panels have traditionally been used to produce electricity for the use of the grid," said INSIDER. "The concept is counterproductive to the grid system we commonly use today. Alternatively, the merger makes sense because Musk hopes to power homes in the day with his solar roofs and then charge Tesla cars at night, all using the Powerwall 2.0. Musk's vision isn't to simply redesign one or two houses, he aims to transform every house and likely abandon the conventional power grid."
A view of the future
And he painted a pretty compelling picture on that Hollywood backlot, allowing the audience to step into "a future powered entirely by Tesla: a house topped with sculpted Tuscan solar tiles, where night-time electricity is stored in two sleek wall-hung Powerwall batteries, and where a Model 3 prototype electric car sits parked out front within reach of the home's car charger," said Bloomberg.
The upgraded Powerwall 2, the new version of Tesla's home battery for electricity storage with double the capacity as its predecessor at a lower price - $5,500 - is a key component, and it's set to start delivering in January. The solar shingles are expected to start rolling out in the second half of 2017 with the expectation of capturing five percent of the market, according to Peter Rive, SolarCity's co-founder and chief technology officer. Surface-mounted solar panels manufactured and sold by SolarCity will also be available for homeowners who want the technology without a complete roof replacement.
As for pricing…that remains to be seen. But if consumers react to the new, shiny thing the same way they did when the first Tesla's starting rolling out, that may not matter.