How Much Will A Tesla Solar Roof Cost? Less Than An (Expensive) Normal Roof

Image: Tesla

In 10 years, every new house built in Australia might have a roof made up of solar tiles. That's the pipe dream of Elon Musk, but the almighty dollar might help make the decision for buyers -- especially if the Tesla solar roof is cheaper than normal tiles.

In a special meeting with shareholders to discuss Tesla's just-rubber-stamped merger with SolarCity -- a company founded by Musk's cousin Lyndon Rive -- the self-described energy company's CEO told investors that its recently unveiled solar roof would cost buyers less than a 'normal' roof:

It’s looking quite promising that a solar roof will actually cost less than a 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?

If you're thinking that headline doesn't really make sense, though, you're not wrong. In his estimates, Musk has been comparing the combined SolarCity/Tesla solar roof product to some of the high-end roofing options available in the US -- slate and concrete roofs, rather than the cheaper corrugated steel roofs that plenty of houses have installed in Australia.

SolarCity is apparently targeting an overall cost of around 40 cents per Watt for its solar roof tiles, putting them in the same pricing range as the newest efficiently-produced solar panels from companies like First Solar. The labour cost of installing solar roof tiles would be higher than for larger, individual panels, but would be lower than installing a non-solar roof and solar panels atop it.

If you were planning on re-tiling your roof with terracotta or concrete or slate tiles, or if you're building a new home in a couple of years, it seems like a solar roof might be a pretty tempting proposition. We know that more than a couple of Aussie solar companies are planning on distributing Tesla's solar tile alongside the new Powerwall 2 home battery. [Business Insider]



    It makes a lot of sense to combine roof and solar but small tiles are not the way forward. We should be looking at how to modify existing solar panels to work as a roof and not the other way around.

      Why? Here are a few things which make tiles a better option:
      - Maintenance / repair - Replace / repair an individual broken tile, or a whole section of roof?
      - Tiles match current design systems, and building processes, not to mention the shape of any built roof will not have to take into account a huge 'roof panel'.
      - Linear cost model, a per tile cost will increase linearly by roof area, whereas building a bigger panel for a bigger roof would likely be an exponential increase, as seen in basically every other consumer appliance.

        It would make more sense to be comparable in size to corrugated steel panels with half/quarter panels for edges. Current solar panels are roughly that size anyway.

        I personally can't stand tiles. Nothing beats the simplicity, price & beautiful sound of rain on corrugated steel.

        Last edited 21/11/16 2:00 pm

          Colourbond was actually more expensive than tiles when I built my house, not too mention a lot uglier IMO. I dont think you can just cut solar panels to size like you would with some sheet metal so tiles would be more versatile.

            Just going through getting a house rebuilt right now, and yeah - Going colourbond was going to be more expensive!

            The reason, as it was explained to me is that the sheets of metal operate in part like a huge sail, and therefore need a lot of extra support through the body of the house to hold it all in place. Regular tile son the other hand have plenty of little air gaps and strong winds aren't an issue.

            It sounds like Solar Tiles could be a nice mix between the two? They should look really nice, be a little more durable than Concrete Tiles, but have the flexibility to change singularly as well as not needing extra structural support.

            Depending on Taste of course.

              Echoing someone (not me) who built many large structures/houses. They chose colorbond because it's cheaper as rafters can be spaced out more because of the lighter weight and they don't absorb a % the water unlike concrete tiles. That said from what I understand heat can be an issue so in-roof ventilation & insulation may be additional.

                Are they are small builder or a large bulk builder? If they are only doing a few houses a year they probably aren't ordering enough to get good pricing on tiles.

                  A sole trader so yes to less buying power.

              I was told by a large builder that its because BHP own Colourbond and no matter how much a builder bulk orders they don't give a price break, where as there is competition in the tile market so the big builders strike deals with manufacturers. Technically colourbond would be cheaper to produce and implement. I can't say this is definitely right but sounded believable when he told me.

            I never said cut solar panels to size I said "half/quarter panels for edges". So when you're designing your roof you get the fit you need.

              Sounds ugly but hey if you think you have a better solution than musk maybe you should start looking for VCs and get your ideas off the ground. Personally I think the tesla tiles look awesome and will probably be class leading when released.

                Considering corrugated iron isn't that popular outside of Australia I would tend to er on the side of not a smart business plan. Doesn't mean someone can't do it at a lower cost.

            G'day Blah,
            I would suggest you get a new designer - builder, I'm available . Colourbond is absolutely and definitely without question *much* cheaper than any tile roof and always has been. And, in reference to the aesthetics and while *you are very* entitled to your opinion *and I do* respect everyone's opinion, for me it would depend on the style and design of the home but predominantly the taste and budget of the client. I'll add that no matter what the design snobs say, there is no such thing as bad taste (although I do on occasion shake my head). Some designs lend them towards terracotta, others slate or corrugated, there's even designs that lend themselves to other profiles of metal.

            Then there is the sound of rain. I design the roof according to the client. It can be a noisy design or it can be almost silent, much quieter than a terracotta or even slate roof.

            Thanks for posing this aspect of the discussion.
            Warm regards,

              As it was our first house we wanted to keep the build as low as possible so the big bulk builders were the only ones that could do that. We checked out every display home in SEQ and we're quoted by around 12 builders from small 3-4 house a year contractors and up. If you could have done the build for under $230k for a 300m2 house we would have been interested.

              Every big builder with exception of Dixon Homes charged extra for colourbond as they get a bulk discount on tiles but not colourbond. I would say if you're paying more for tiles it would be due to the volume of business you're doing. And yes style is subjective but personally prefer the low profile tiles. All the homes in my area with colourbond, considering we all have to have rendered facades, just look too plain IMO.

    Mass production will cut the cost of solar 'tiles' and make it cost efficient to have shaped 'tiles'. Solar hot water that heats and cools houses will also become standard in the not too distant future. Overcoming social inertia, apart from political, is akin to turning a supertanker around: it can take quite a few tugs but it can be done.

    I wonder how the solar tiles will survive hail storms, and if insurance companies will cover the damage?

      If you watch one of the announcement videos of the Tesla Solar Roof, they have a bit of comparison between what happens when you drop a hefty weight on terracotta, concrete and slate tiles, compared to a Tesla roof tile.

      The first 3 shatter, whereas the solar tile holds together much better - likely in part due to it's laminar construction.

      This is another argument in favour of smaller individual tiles - the cost of replacement is the 1 (or 2 or 3) affected tiles. Take the same damage on a bigger solar panel, and the whole thing needs replacing.

      Here's the bit in the video:

      supposedly they're tougher than standard terracotta tiles, so I imagine it's unlikely to be an issue... though I'm betting the insurance companies will increase your premiums once you tell them you have solar tiles, lol

    All very well, but what is the price. In reality does anyone actually believe this "it's cheap" bollocks. I'll believe it when I see it.

      I always believe cheap bollocks, why would they lie they're bollocks?

    But are they cyclone rated?

    I'm very interested in a solution like solar tiles and very glad someone has finally explored the possibility. I've chased answers to a few questions from Tesla and others but was disappointed by the reserved responses.
    Weight: It seems this is a problem.
    Installation: Very complex and being refined (basically a no comment).
    Wiring: I got "No comment". However: at minimum there would be 8,000 connections and 2,000 metres of wire for the *average* home not including the wiring from the roof to storage, etc.
    Maintenance: I gather the tiles are wired in series so any minor fault shuts down the whole roof. Fault tracing: There is no fault tracing system, *yet*. I estimate tracing one minor connection failure could cost over AU$5,000.00, or the electrician could get lucky and find the fault quickly.
    Cleaning: No comment.

    From further questions it would appear the 'Desperate Housewives' demonstration was not even a functioning demonstration, let alone a prototype. I was disappointed.

    I sincerely hope this quickly progresses further as indeed the Tesla car quickly progressed, if you recall the ink (pixels) on the questions (about the car) was barely dry before the car was on the market.

    Tesla could improve their PR a lot !
    regards, build

      Does anyone still have first Gen. iPhone. Technology is moving comparatively fast nowadays. First adopters of Powerwall 1 might feel suckered. Eventually the tech. gets to a point where price, efficiency, reliability, functionality and (importantly for roof tiles) longevity are accepted by the masses. The first adopters of the "Beta" releases provide valuable feedback in getting there.

        Zinc Bromide Flow batteries anyone?

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