Industry Reacts to Tesla's Solar Roof Plans

Industry Reacts to Tesla's Solar Roof Plans

Zep Solar Roof Shingles in the Netherlands.

Tesla founder Elon Musk's recently announced plans to revolutionize the US residential roofing industry by producing solar shingles rocked the roofing and solar industries.

Tesla plans to produce shingles with integrated solar cells conjunction with SolarCity, a company Tesla is in the process of acquiring. According to Musk, these new roofing shingles represent a significant advance in solar roofing both in terms of aesthetics and cost.

SolarCity shingles are designed to look identical to conventional roofing and lower overall solar roofing costs compared to the use of solar panels. According to Inc. magazine, "While no specific prices have been revealed yet for Tesla's roofs, Musk says they'll cost less to install than regular roofs. They'll also last about 50 years, double the lifespan of regular roofs, and provide better insulation."

However, very few specific details on the new solar shingles have been released and analyst Matt Zielenski cautions that there are still a number of roadblocks to success in the solar shingle market, roadblocks that leading developers like DowChemical found insurmountable.

Prices for rooftop-mounted solar panels -- the key competition for solar shingles -- have fallen sharply over the past decade due to technological innovations and increasing global production and are expected to remain low.

Ongoing disagreements between electricity providers, homeowners, and state regulatory agencies over the impact of "net metering" may also slow solar's market penetration. And it remains to be seen whether these shingles can deliver the cost savings and performance they promise.

The Residential Roofing market is forecast to reach over $10 billion by 2020, according to Zielenski in a new study from the Freedonia Group, but almost none of those sales will be attributed to solar shingles. "Solar shingles are still at least 10 to 15 years away from having a significant impact on the US roofing market as a whole."

However, as with Tesla vehicles, in the shorter term "there are sure to be high-income or environmentally conscious early adopters who want to be at the forefront of technology and if Tesla's solar shingles are able to reduce installation costs as much as promised for these customers, more cautious consumers may be willing to add these products to their homes in the future," Zielnski said.

The new Residential Roofing study, written by Zielenski, can be accessed here.

Friendly Rivals

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands a Dutch company says it is already producing solar roof shingles. ZEP is up and running and has been supplying house owners, distributors and construction firms in the Netherlands, Germany, England and Scandinavia.

Nowadays, the patented Dutch ceramic roof tiles with integrated solar cells have the energy output to produce solar power and will be compatible with any installed power wall. Additionally, ZEP roof tiles contain patented integrated technology which extract the lingering warmth underneath solar roof tiles which is directly stored in a boiler. This development allows homeowners to minimize the need for home energy providers, which puts ZEP steps ahead.

In any case, ZEP welcomes the worldwide publicity Mr. Musk generated.

"We see an increase of thousands of visitors a day on our website, and they all have an interest for our combined solar roof tiles solution," says Joost de Graaf of ZEP. "We share Mr. Musk his visionary insight that solar energy power is the future and PV tiles must allow every home owner to generate solar power for multiple energy purposes. In essence we have the same idealistic mission."

The solar roof tiles of ZEP make each roof suitable for generating solar energy. But after presenting the black tile version last year, ZEP recently presented its nature red solar roof tile. Now monumental and iconic buildings in protected townscapes can also use solar energy for generating electricity and simultaneously heating their boilers.

ZEP plans to raise significant external funding and expand into international markets, especially in Scandinavia where homeowners are yearning for red solar roof tiles. "This additional funding substantiates the trust investors have in the international growth potential of our company," says De Graaf.

Topics: Connected Homes / Smart Homes, Cost of Ownership, Photovoltaic / Solar Panels, Roofing, Solar Power, Sustainability Trends & Statistics

Companies: Dow Building Solutions

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