Trending: We tried the new AmazonFresh Pickup service in Seattle, and this is what happened

Solar roof tiles
Tesla’s demonstration house features solar glass roof tiles that can generate electricity. “That’s a real fake house,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk joked. (TED via YouTube)

Tesla has started taking orders for traditional-looking glass roof tiles that soak up solar power to generate electricity.

Installations are to start next month, beginning with California and gradually rolling out to other U.S. markets, Tesla said. Overseas markets will be added to the mix next year, said Elon Musk, Tesla’s billionaire CEO.

“I think it will be great,” Musk tweeted.

In a blog posting, Tesla said “the typical homeowner can expect to pay $21.85 per square foot” for the product it calls Solar Roof. That’s significantly more than the cost of a traditional asphalt roof, based on Consumer Reports’ estimates, but closer to competitive in price when the anticipated electric-bill savings are factored in.

For a 3,000-square-foot roof in the Seattle area, the estimated cost is $79,500, plus $7,000 for a Powerwall battery system. (The math works out to more than $21.85 per square foot because there’s a higher proportion of power-generating tiles.)

Anticipated savings include a $21,000 tax credit and $41,900 in reduced electricity bills. Net cost over 30 years: $23,600.

That’s close to Consumer Reports’ estimated cost of $20,000 for a 3,000-square-foot asphalt roof, although estimates for the Seattle area could be less.

To check the estimates for your house, try Tesla’s Solar Roof Calculator.

Solar Roof builds on the solar-panel installation business set up by SolarCity, which merged with the Tesla electric-car company last year. Musk had a significant interest in both ventures, and he has repeatedly touted the synergy that comes from integrating solar energy systems with Tesla’s Powerwall batteries and electric cars.

The roof tiles are due to be made on a pilot basis at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, Calif., and production is expected to ramp up in the months ahead at a new facility in Buffalo, N.Y. Installation will be performed by SolarCity, which is now a Tesla subsidiary.

“Black glass smooth and textured will be first,” Musk said in a follow-up tweet. “Tuscan and French Slate in about six months.”

Musk discussed the roof tile design, and the business model behind it, last month during a TED talk in Vancouver, B.C.:

“You can adjust the texture and the color to a very fine-grained level, and then there’s sort of micro-louvers in the glass, such that when you’re looking at the roof from street level or close to street level, all the tiles look the same whether there is a solar cell behind it or not. So you have an even color from the ground level. If you were to look at it from a helicopter, you would be actually able to look through and see that some of the glass tiles have a solar cell behind them and some do not. You can’t tell from street level. …

A solar glass roof will be less than the cost of a normal roof plus the cost of electricity. So in other words, this will be economically a no-brainer, we think it will look great, and it will last. We thought about having the warranty be infinity, but then people thought, well, that might sound like we’re just talking rubbish, but actually this is toughened glass. Well after the house has collapsed and there’s nothing there, the glass tiles will still be there.”

Musk said that in most areas of the U.S., houses should have enough roof area to provide power for all of the household’s needs.

“If you, say, were to fast-forward to say 15 years from now, it will be unusual to have a roof that does not have solar,” he said.

The development of electricity-generating roof tiles is part of a dizzying array of technological initiatives that Musk has been juggling over the past few years.

Other initiatives include Tesla’s Model 3, an electric car designed for the mass market, and a soon-to-be-unveiled all-electric truck; SpaceX’s crew-capable Dragon capsule and super-sized Falcon Heavy rocket; the Hyperloop mass-transit concept; an effort to develop lower-cost tunnel boring equipment; and the Neuralink venture to implant wirelessly connected computer chips in human brains.

Subscribe to GeekWire's Space & Science weekly newsletter

Comments

Job Listings on GeekWork

Find more jobs on GeekWork. Employers, post a job here.