Tesla Solar Roof: What's The Deal? • Solar Electric Contractor In Seattle WA | (206) 557-4215

What is the Tesla Solar Roof?

The Tesla Solar Roof is a building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) roofing product made of “invisible” solar cells embedded in roof tiles. Instead of solar panels mounted on top of an existing roof, the solar tiles look like conventional roof tiles and shingles. BIPV shingles appeal to homeowners needing a new roof because they can install one integrated product instead of a new roof with a new PV system mounted on top of it. This can have aesthetic benefits for customers who think solar is ugly, as well as a singular warranty from one company.

Can I buy the Tesla Solar Roof right now?

Tesla Solar Roof Tiles have been fraught with ongoing delays since the tiles were announced in 2017. Tesla bought SolarCity for $2.6 billion in late 2016 and since then its overall solar installations have plummeted by more than 76%. When Tesla launched its Solar Roof Tiles in 2017, the automaker said that they would start volume production and installation in 2018. Tesla later delayed volume production to 2019.

However, the rollout turned out to be much slower and installations have been limited to the homes of some executives and a few customers. Tesla has not released actual install numbers, but industry insiders believe California’s utilities have connected only 21 such systems, and just “a few” were installed in the Northeast.

Last week, Musk confirmed a first number volume production and a timeline for the first time (via Twitter):

“Spooling up production line rapidly. Hoping to manufacture ~1000 solar roofs/week by end of this year.”

According to a breakdown from Elektrek: at an average of 8 kW per roof, (which is on the low side since this is going to be used on bigger homes), it would represent over 100 MW per quarter. For context, Tesla deployed only 29 MW of solar last quarter. However, SolarCity used to regularly deploy over 100 MW of solar per quarter before it was acquired by Tesla.

Is the Tesla Solar Roof realistic?

The general feeling is that this would be a surprisingly high number to produce per week by the end of the year, given that Tesla is essentially introducing a new product without a trained installation arm in most states, as well as their previous struggles to meet production goals.

So the actual production of 1,000 Solar roofs per week might be possible, but actually selling this many roofs and getting them installed seems unrealistic.

Rapid Shut Down Device

Tesla roof tiles (and all other solar roof tiles on the market) do not comply with module-level rapid shutdown requirements for 2017 National Electrical Code (NEC). 29 states already adopted 2017 NEC (including Washington State), which requires each module to be connected to a rapid shutdown device in the event of emergency responders needing to cut into the roof. Inevitably, all states will eventually adopt 2017 NEC. Tesla’s customer base is already less than half the country and shrinking each year.

Who will install the Tesla Solar Roof?

Tesla has not specified the kind of crew needed to install its Solar Roof. Will roofers or electricians install it? We are guessing that it will require a roofer/electrician hybrid crew- and it is something that contractors will need to explain to their customers. Contractors may need to entirely restructure and train their crews specifically for this industry.

It is estimated to take  2 weeks for Tesla to install a solar roof system. For comparison, a reroof typically takes 1-2 days, and a solar installation typically takes 1-2 days. So labor costs, which typically makes up half of a PV system’s overall cost, are going to be 2.5 – 5 times more for the Tesla Solar Roof.

Will the Tesla Solar Roof be less expensive than conventional solar panels?

Last month, Electrek released a first look at Tesla’s V3 solar roof tile technology with custom fittings and the first real Tesla Solar Roof quote. The price was shockingly high, and probably way out of budget for most homeowners.

For a 9.45 kW system on a 1,862 square foot roof, Tesla is charging $64,634 for the solar roof, along with $10,050 for a Powerwall, and another $10,630 for roof and site repairs. It adds up to a shocking total of $85,314 for the entire solar roof system and work.

Can I Run My House with the Tesla Solar Roof?

Probably not. A typical roof-mounted solar PV system will need 60 square feet of space for every 1,000W of solar energy. The Tesla Solar Roof needs a whopping 200 square feet of space for every 1,000W of solar. In other words, the Tesla Solar Roof is 70% less efficient than a typical solar PV system.

Another common misconception is that homeowners will be able to use their whole roof to produce energy, covering more square footage than a conventional system. Not the case. The solar roofs will actually utilize LESS space than a conventional system because the roof tiles do not employ module-level power electronics necessary to mitigate module shading, mismatch, and different roof angles. In other words, most of the Tesla tiles covering the roof are actually fake solar shingles incapable of producing any power at all.

The future of the Tesla Solar Roof in the Pacific Northwest

Tesla customers tend to be loyal but discerning. It remains to be seen how many customers will want to pay double the average cost for a new roof / PV / storage solution to get solar shingles that are 70% less efficient.

It’s understandable why Tesla’s shareholders continue to criticize the 2016 acquisition of SolarCity from a financial perspective. Installations have plummeted, the roof tiles have been delayed years and the $1 billion solar gigafactory in Buffalo, New York – which the state built, subsidized, and equipped for SolarCity – seems to be primarily operating as a Panasonic plant.

The overwhelming majority of the solar cells produced at the facility are now being sold overseas rather than being used in Tesla’s “Solar Roof” photovoltaic product, according to a Reuters report. Meanwhile, domestic demand for US-manufactured solar panels has never been higher, such that manufacturers such as Silfab are struggling to keep up with higher than forecasted demand.

Although consumer interest in the Tesla Solar Roof is high, it doesn’t seem likely that it will be a product being installed around the PNW anytime soon, if ever.

Get Your Free Solar Site Survey



Evan Leonard

Evan oversees all of Artisan’s solar projects, manages the solar sales and design team, and coordinates marketing and community outreach. He joined Artisan in 2010 to help expand solar services. Prior to joining Artisan, Evan spent five years living and working in Kumamoto, Japan, as an environmental educator. He also worked for nearly a decade as a professional organizer for environmental causes. Evan holds a dual B.A. degree from Wesleyan University, and an M.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of Texas. He is an experienced and dynamic speaker with an intelligent and engaging style. He has been a passionate leader in raising public awareness about solar energy, energy efficiency, and global climate change.
Share this article. Knowledge is power...