Tesla starts taking orders for solar roofs

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

Nichola Groom—REUTERS
Tesla's electric car

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.