Tesla takes orders for solar roof tiles, reveals 'affordable' prices

By Allen Cone
Tesla, which makes electric cars, began taking pre-orders for its solar roof tiles Wednesday. Photo courtesy Tesla
Tesla, which makes electric cars, began taking pre-orders for its solar roof tiles Wednesday. Photo courtesy Tesla

May 10 (UPI) -- Tesla, known for making electric cars, began taking orders online Wednesday for its solar home roof tiles -- for prices it says are more affordable than traditional roofing.

Tesla will soon start production of two styles of the solar tiles: a smooth glass and a textured glass version, and will be available for installation in the summer beginning in 2018. The Tuscan and French slate tiles will be available by the end of the year.


Hours after the announcement, Tesla revealed the costs.

"Solar Roof complements a home's architecture while turning sunlight into electricity," the company said in a blog post. "Solar Roof is more affordable than conventional roofs because in most cases, it ultimately pays for itself by reducing or eliminating a home's electricity bill."

Tesla said the typical homeowner can expect to pay $21.85 per square foot for Solar Roof, which is $2.65 less than an October estimate by Consumer Reports that the sun-powered roof for an average size U.S. home would need to be cost competitive with a regular roof.


Consumer Reports said it factored in about $2,000 in annual savings in more favorable solar markets, like California, Texas and North Carolina.

A Tesla Solar Roof with 3,000 square feet would cost more than $65,000 if 35 percent of the tiles were solar, Business Insider reported. Consumer Reports said a slate-tile roof for a home the same size would cost about $45,000 and an asphalt roof roughly $20,000.

The product will come "with a warranty for the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first," the company said.

"I do think that this is going to be competitive in specific geographic locations, mainly based on costs of electricity," ARK Invest analyst Sam Korus said in an interview with CNBC. "The fact that they are starting in California makes perfect sense, since you have a lot of sun and high energy costs."

Tesla is only taking orders online, with $1,000 deposits, but the company has previously said it plans to sell products in the same physical stores it sells cars.

"Solar roof can be ordered for almost any country. Deployment this year in the U.S. and overseas next year," Tesla owner Elon Musk tweeted Wednesday.


Last fall, Musk said his roofs may be cheaper to manufacture and install than a traditional roof, noting, "Electricity is just a bonus."

The tiles will be produced at Tesla's solar plant in Fremont, Calif., and then shift to its new factory in Buffalo, N.Y., in conjunction with Panasonic.

Tesla has been reaching beyond its electric car business to other sustainable energy products. In November, it acquired SolarCity, another company founded by Musk focusing on solar power and energy storage.

"Electric cars originally didn't look good, they had low range, they didn't have good performance, they were like a golf cart, so people had a real hard time buying electric cars," Musk said in a company video. "I think something similar needs to happen to solar. We really need to make solar panels as appealing as electric cars have become."

"The goal is to make solar roofs that look better than normal roof, generate electricity, last longer, have better insulation and actually have a cost ... that is less than a normal roof plus the cost of electricity."

Tesla's rooftop shingles include discreet solar cells embedded beneath a glass surface that are virtually indistinguishable from traditional high-end roofing products. They allow light to pass through from above and onto a standard flat solar cell.


A standard solar system costs between $15,000 and $29,000 for average-size systems between 4 and 8 kilowatt hours, according to Solar Power Authority.

Shares of Tesla stock closed up Wednesday more 1.2 percent on the Nasdaq.

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