Solar roof unveiling

Elon Musk bets on the future of solar roofs.

Is the future of roofing solar? That’s certainly what Tesla Motors boss Elon Musk bet on when his outfit bought Solar City and introduced its solar roof offering.

Other companies, including roofing manufacturer GAF, clearly see opportunity when it comes to solar roofing.

Last year, Tesla bought Solar City for $2 billion. Later, Musk introduced the Tesla solar roof, which consists of photovoltaic, tempered-glass roofing tiles. The idea is that a property owner could install the solar roof and combine it with Tesla’s power wall battery to supply sun-generated electricity at any time.

Tesla’s solar roof and its takeover of Solar City remain unproven strategies, though, as Bloomberg reports:

So far, Tesla has been slow to exploit any synergies. No Tesla stores feature the solar panels or roof, including its flagship store in San Francisco. And while Musk and some Tesla employees have the solar roof, made of textured glass, on their homes, there’s no indication that consumers have installed any yet. Last month, Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel confirmed that the company has begun producing solar cells at the Tesla factory in Buffalo, New York, and plans to begin producing the solar roofs there by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, other companies from startups to industrial behemoths are charging into the solar fray.

A Bozeman, Montana, startup, Solar Roof Systems of Montana, this summer teamed with New York manufacturer SunTegra to install solar roofs in the Gallatin Valley of the Big Sky state. Solar Roof Systems of Montana cofounders Anthony Sciolino and Jeremy Warwood tout the curb appeal and resale value of their product, along with its capacity for producing energy.

“I believe that houses should be built with the ability to produce their own power,” Sciolino tells the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “Since we have all this roof space sitting there exposed to the sun, we should probably start utilizing it.”

GAF, the largest commercial and residential roofing manufacturer in North America, introduced its own solar roofing product earlier this year. Greentech Media reports:

For GAF, the rooftop solar boom represented a possible market disruption for the old-fashioned roofing business, but one that could be additive rather than destructive. GAF redoubled its efforts starting around 2008, and after several rounds of refinement, launched the DecoTech product in January. Installations started in April.

But there are serious issues including price to consider before abandoning traditional roofing solutions such as tile, asphalt shingles and metal.

Consumer Reports, in this article, takes a look at just that question, at least as it applies to Tesla’s product:

If Tesla’s math is correct, it seems that in many cases the roof would more than pay for itself in electricity savings over the 30-year life of the warranty.

That sounds like a pretty good deal, but is it too good to be true? The answer is a complicated one, since Tesla’s calculator relies upon some important assumptions and predictions that delve deep into the economy of residential solar power in the U.S.

“It’s revolutionary in the sense of how they’re incorporating solar—the scale of it,” says David Sarkisian, a policy analyst at the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, referring to the Solar Roof. “But it’s not like this suddenly changes everything about your decision on whether or not you should have solar at all. That’s still going to be informed by the same things you would look at for typical solar panels.”

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