The ambitious “Solar Roof” project developed by Tesla is finally taking shape. Presented in grand pomp and ceremony by Elon Musk in Autumn 2016, it now has advance orders from all over the world, including Belgium.
Before producing electric cars, Tesla’s famous boss had a vision: to make everybody a producer of their own green electricity, in order to ultimately achieve self-sufficiency. The fruits of this pious hope are two-fold: The Powerwall battery (already on sale in Belgium, it stores the energy accumulated by solar panels) and also the solar roof. Yes the Solar Roof.
Out go the traditional photovoltaic panels. It’s time for the “solar tiles”, which, as well as melting into the architecture, produce electricity directly. Attractive, economical and… devilishly more efficient, as, by covering the roof’s entire surface their energy yield is much higher than that of panels. All of it, which he promises is “three times more solid than traditional tiling” is guaranteed for life.
Tesla started producing its tiles in late August, in its factory in Buffalo (New York State), called “Gigafactory”. It will produce enough solar panels for 2 GW of electricity per year, i.e. 20,000 panels per day, which makes it the biggest photovoltaic cell factory in the world. For the moment, these pre-fitted roofs are available in two versions: smooth and textured. Two other finishes (slate and Tuscany) will be available in early 2018. Advance orders have already started, at the downpayment price of 930 euros.
Much more efficient than anything seen before
But are these 100% solar tiles really more efficient? To reduce costs, Tesla opted to simplify the manufacturing process and use copper instead of silver and quartz in their composition. More solid than traditional tiles, the “Solar Roof” also provides better insulation. But officially, Tesla has not given any details about its efficiency in converting solar energy into electricity.
The only indicator is: the fact that the product has been approved in the United States. Searching through the document, we learn that the photovoltaic cells housed inside the tiles have a maximum power of 6 watts. As each tile contains two cells, this means they will have a maximum power of 12 watts. One detail remains: in view of their size, 20 to 25 tiles will be required to provide the same amount of power as a regular solar panel.