When Tesla bought solar panel manufacturing giant Solar City in August - for the cool sum of $2.6 billion - the benefits were clear. Tesla, who had been working on electric vehicles and the house and business-powering Powerwall and Powerpack needed the solar panels that would keep their batteries charged. The Chief Financial Officer of Tesla, Jason Wheeler, told Reuters, that the companies would save at least $150 million a year by merging. He also stated that Tesla and Solar City would be sharing "key technologies" if the merger went through - which it did.
The public was quite unaware of just how much and how quickly the two companies would be sharing their "key technologies". In Hollywood, on Friday, the 28th of October, Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla) delivered a speech in front of the old set of the hit show Desperate Housewives. Odd? Yes. Journalists walked amongst a collection of seemingly normal houses on a seemingly normal street. What they weren't ready for, was for Musk to tell them that all of the roofs were retrofitted with solar panels. Not just one or two solar panels. Every tile was a solar panel.
In a response to rising CO2 levels, Musk has made it part of his life mission to make sustainable, renewable energy technologies that would be less harmful to the planet. NASA has published a report that said that 2016 would be the hottest year on record. Musk - and by association, Tesla - are hoping to make solar panels (disguised as roof tiles) and home-powering batteries as alluring as their electric vehicles have become. Musk believes that people need to do as much as they can to work towards a world powered by sustainable energy.
"The goal is to have solar roofs that look better than a normal roof, that generate electricity, last longer, have better insulation, and actually have an installed cost that is less than a normal roof plus the cost of electricity. Why would you buy anything else?" Musk said.
The tiles are made of a super-durable glass that allows light to penetrate the cell that generates energy when shone upon by the sun. When viewed at a front-facing angle, the tiles seem to resemble normal roof tiles you would find on any roof you see today, however, when you tilt them slightly they become more transparent, and you're able to actually see the solar cell.
The tiles come in four different designs: Tuscan Glass Tile, Slate Glass Tile, Textured Glass Tile and, Smooth Glass Tile.
The tiles are hydrographically printed so that the different texture styles can be achieved. The glass Tesla is using is much more durable than conventional roof tiles.
The new Powerwall 2.0 will be powered by the Solar Roof. Customers will then be able to use the charged battery during dusk and dawn hours to minimize the amount of utility-provided grid-energy. The Powerwall 2 has twice as much energy as the first iteration. It will cost $5,500. The Powerwall powers lights, sockets, the refrigerator, and bedrooms of an average 4 bedroom house. Musk says with the Solar Roof installed, you would be able to power a house indefinitely. The company is also releasing the Powerpack 2 that will integrate with international power grids.
Will utilities go out of business once everyone is powering their houses with Solar Roofs and Powerwalls? Musk doesn't think so - he seems to think the "future is bright" for both the consumer and the utility.
"The solution is both local power generation and utility power generation. It's not one or the other. Sometimes the Solar Roof is positioned as a competitor to utilities, but, we're actually going to need utility power to increase and we're going to need local power generation," Musk said.
The announcement of the shingles sent Australian hearts aflutter. Some Australian households have already been enjoying the benefits of the first Powerwall thanks to pilot programs that saw households receiving Powerwalls to test the feasibility of solar microgrids. Now with added capabilities, grid-independency is within reach for some households once the Powerwall 2 starts shipping in January 2017.
Australia aims to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2020.