Tesla starts taking orders for solar roofs

Tech company says its premium roofs will compete with asphalt roofing material on price


Tesla on Wednesday began taking orders for its solar roof tiles, a cornerstone of Elon Musk's strategy to sell a fossil-fuel-free lifestyle under the brand name of its luxury electric vehicles.

Tesla said the product, which generates solar energy without the need for traditional rooftop panels, will be pricier than a conventional roof but will look better and ultimately pay for itself through reduced electricity costs.

The solar roof tiles were unveiled in October as Musk sought to convince shareholders of the benefits of combining his electric vehicle maker with SolarCity. Musk went on to acquire SolarCity in November, and has been working to remake a money-losing company that was selling traditional solar systems into a premium energy brand.

To get in line for a solar roof, homeowners must put down a $1,000 deposit via Tesla's website. There, they can also calculate the estimated upfront cost of a solar roof.

A 1700-square-foot roof in Southern California, with half the roof covered in "active" solar tiles, would cost about $34,300 after a federal tax credit, according to the calculator. Tesla estimates such a roof could generate $76,700 of electricity over 30 years.

But Jim Petersen, chief executive of PetersenDean Inc, which installs about 30,000 new roofs plus solar a year, estimated that a 1700-square-foot roof with new solar panels, including the tax credit, would cost about $22,000, well below the Tesla website's estimate. Costs vary depending on roof type.

The company said its solar roofs would cost between 10 and 15 percent less than an ordinary new roof plus traditional solar panels.

The glass tiles are to be manufactured in Buffalo, New York and will be available in the United States later this year, beginning with gray smooth glass and black textured glass versions, Tesla said. Slate and Tuscan styles will be introduced in 2018. Overseas markets will receive the products next year.


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