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WEIGHING THE PROS AND CONS OF TESLA’S SOLAR ROOF
Tesla’s Solar Roof is finally making its way to consumer homes. Ever since the product reveal nearly two years ago, people regularly ask us whether the Solar Roof is a sensible way to go solar. We decided to weigh the pros and cons of Tesla’s latest offering to see whether it lives up to the hype.
Production of the Tesla Solar Roof has been limited, and prices are still sky high to capitalize on new release hype. We love the design, but we need to see a steep price drop – and proof the product is reliable – before we recommend it as a sound investment for the average residential consumer.
What makes the Solar Roof unique? In a conventional setup, solar panels are housed in a dedicated module, which is then attached to a roof or installed elsewhere on your property. In contrast, Tesla’s Solar Roof is a rooftop with solar panels embedded directly into the shingles. The solar array isn’t a separate unit installed on top of your roof – rather, it is your roof.
Tesla Solar Roof vs. a conventional solar array
Left: a solar array installed by a Wholesale Solar customer. Right: Tesla’s Solar Roof.
Each shingle is a discrete solar panel. A percentage of the panels are solar-enabled, while the rest are “decoy panels.” The non-enabled panels look exactly the same, to maintain a uniform aesthetic. Customers can determine what percentage of panels they need to enable to meet their energy needs.
Are You on the List?
Tesla loves to build hype around their products long before they hit the market, and the Solar Roof is no different. After announcing the concept in October 2016, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tested the first trial installation in his home in Q2 of 2017. (Isn’t it nice to be the boss?) The publicity generated intense interest from consumers, who rushed to sign up on the waitlist for residential installations. It took less than three weeks after sign-ups opened for Tesla to sell out their stock through the end of 2018. Now, we’re getting our first look at a completed installation looks like in a residential setting. YouTube channel E For Electric tracked down Tri Huynh, one of the earliest adopters of the Tesla Solar Roof, to speak with him about the installation process.
Huynh applied to install a Solar Roof for his home as soon as the announcement was made. He said it took well over a year for Tesla to contact him to conduct a site survey. After screening his eligibility, Tesla warned it would be another year for production to finish before they could proceed with the installation. Huynh didn’t mind the wait. His home already needed a new roof, and as an early adopter of new technology, he was willing to hold out until the Solar Roof hit the market. He put down the $1000 deposit to hold his place in line.
Tesla finally met with Huynh for a site survey early this year. Two solar techs spent a day evaluating his property, even flying a drone above his house to take aerial pictures. Shortly after that, Tesla deployed a team of 20 workers to perform the install. It took about two weeks to complete, although rain added delays to the process. The size of the workforce and install time both seem excessive to us. But the Solar Roof is a new product, and Tesla wants to get it right. We expect that process to be streamlined as they work out the kinks.
Evaluating the Pros and Cons of the Tesla Solar Roof
Tesla is a company with a certain mystique about them – people get super excited about every announcement they make. So it comes as no surprise that people constantly ask us what we think about the new Solar Roof. We wanted to take a deep dive into what we know about the Solar Roof to help you determine whether it’s a viable option for your needs.
First, a quick summary of the pros and cons:
WOW FACTOR. It’s gorgeous – no blocky solar panels jutting out from your roof.
DURABILITY. Solar Roof panels received the highest possible hail, wind and fire resistance ratings.
WARRANTY. The 30-year warranty goes beyond the industry standard. There’s also a lifetime tile warranty to cover physical damage.
TALK OF THE TOWN. Who doesn’t love to be the first to get their hands on new tech?
EXPENSIVE. The Solar Roof costs about 4 times as much as a DIY solar installation, even if you hire a contractor to help. Though the former gives you a new roof, you still pay a steep premium for the Tesla brand.
THE WAITING GAME. The first residential customers spent over a year on the waitlist before their Solar Roof was installed.
UNRELIABLE. More discrete parts means more chances for hardware to fail. Past iterations of the solar shingle design were notoriously high-maintenance.
POOR ROI. You pay a premium for Tesla-branded roofing products, which eats into your investment.
Let’s take a deeper look.
First and foremost, the Solar Roof looks amazing.
It’s designed to be indistinguishable from a roof built out of traditional materials. Looking at pictures of the Solar Roof, I wouldn’t have guessed there were solar panels built into this rooftop unless you pointed it out. Tesla will offer 4 different tile designs to match the style of your home. The panels come in textured, smooth glass, Tuscan and slate designs, which rival the appeal of their asphalt counterparts.
Tesla’s Solar Roof tile designs
The tile designs for Tesla’s Solar Roof, from top to bottom: textured, smooth glass, Tuscan, and slate.
Tesla claims the Solar Roof tiles are three times stronger than traditional roof tiles. This claim is backed by standards tests conducted by ANSI, ASTM and UL, which conduct standards tests for (respectively) hail, wind and fire resistance. Tesla’s tiles received the highest possible marks in all three categories.
The Envy Factor
This is the hardest to quantify, but it can also be the strongest motivator for people willing to make a huge investment into an exciting new product like this.
Before the price drops and the product becomes more widely available, it’s an awesome feeling to be part of the exclusive club that has access to cutting-edge technology before anyone else. Think of the first time you saw someone flying a drone – or driving a Tesla car on the street, for that matter. It evokes a natural sense of awe and curiosity. The Solar Roof is no different. Huynh said that his neighbors regularly stopped by to chat during the installation, and most couldn’t resist lingering to ask questions about the newest Tesla product. People are naturally drawn to innovation, and early adopters get a rush from riding the first wave of a new technology. As another early residential Solar Roof customer put it, “I feel like we’re living in the future!” (Mostly) Generous Warranty
The Solar Roof is covered under a 30-year warranty for power and weatherization. The power warranty covers the output capability of the solar arrays. The weather warranty protects against failure as a result of water damage or other weather effects. 30 years eclipses the standard coverage for most solar arrays on the market, which typically offer a 25-year warranty. The extra 5 years may be a selling point to counteract the hesitation early adopters have when they invest into an unknown product. With no established track record, there’s no guarantee the product life won’t be shortened by a major design flaw down the road. The 30-year warranty may help alleviate those fears.
Tesla also offers a lifetime tile warranty, which covers physical damage to the glass in the tiles. If one of the glass panels ever breaks, even after the 30-year period, it will be covered under the lifetime warranty. However, this doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Most traditional solar panels come with a 25-year power warranty and a 10-year workmanship warranty. If your array breaks down due to product defects, you’re covered for 10 years. It’s not clear whether Tesla’s warranty covers the same ground: Our tile warranty covers the glass in the tiles. The power warranty covers the output capability of the solar tiles. Weatherization means that there will be no water leaks or other weather intrusions during the warranty period that result from our installation. There’s no mention of a workmanship warranty, except as it relates to weather intrusions. So if your system fails due to faulty wiring, bad connectors or a broken junction box, you might end up paying for it out of pocket. Tesla’s warranty is longer than the industry standard, but the extent of coverage may leave something to be desired.
There’s no doubt the Solar Roof is an innovative product. There’s nothing on the market that competes with it right now. That said, there are a handful of prohibitive factors that would stop us from recommending it to a majority of hopeful buyers.
Steep Up-Front Cost
Let’s get The Big One out of the way: for the Solar Roof to be financially viable, it needs to replace your existing roof. And even then, building a traditional roof with a dedicated solar array is a more efficient investment. When Consumer Reports ran the numbers on the cost to install a Solar Roof, they estimated a typical installation might set you back $73,500 for a 3,000-square-foot roof. Compare that to our discrete solar modules. A package for the same sized home might run one-third to one-quarter of that cost to install on your rooftop, depending on the energy output. Even if you paid for a brand-new roof and then built a solar array on top of it, you’d come out spending much less. EnergySage estimated a 33% price premium on the Solar Roof compared to building a traditional asphalt roof + solar array. As you can see, the majority of the installation cost of the Solar Roof comes doesn’t come from adding a solar array. It comes from building an entirely new roof, which is a much steeper investment. And Tesla hopes to upsell you on roofing costs based on their strong brand capital.
Low Return on Investment
But let’s say the stars align. You’re in the market for a brand new roof, and you’re looking to go solar as well. Even under these ideal circumstances, the Consumer Reports analysis couldn’t conclusively state it would be a good investment. For a two-story home in Texas, where the A/C might run 300 days a year, the $73,400 in tax credits and energy savings falls short of the $86,100 cost to install the Solar Roof. In that scenario, the homeowner would find themselves $12,700 in the hole. Even with substantial energy savings, they would actually lose money over the life of the warranty. Things look a bit brighter for a small ranch-style home in sunny California, where energy costs are sky high. Consumer Reports estimated a $56,800 Solar Roof might earn the owner $41,800 in net savings over the life of the system. That’s not bad, but it’s still a far cry from a traditional PV system, which can pay for itself 2-3 times over during the life of the warranty. The premium you pay for Tesla-branded roofing materials eats into most, if not all, of the money you save from reduced energy bills. The end result is that it takes ideal circumstances just to break even on the investment. One of the main selling points for solar is its viability as a long-term investment. It’s not uncommon to see a 200-300% return on investment out of a traditional solar array. Since the install cost is substantially lower, the average payoff period is much shorter. Investing in a traditional solar array can net you a healthy profit in the long run. With the Solar Roof, Tesla aims to upsell a product you don’t need (a new roof), eating away at the value of your investment into solar energy. In terms of the time value of money, it’s crazy to invest $70,000 for 30 years to see little to no return. There are better ways to put your money to work for you.
Even if you do need a new roof, we’re operating under the assumption that the installation will even be available to you. As it stands, you’ll need the leeway to plan the installation far in advance, as people have already been on the waitlist for the Solar Roof for over a year. If you’ve already decided you need to replace an old roof, you may not have time to wait to get started. The need to replace leaks or structural damage is likely too urgent for you to hold out on the waitlist. Similar problems arise with the construction of a new home. If you’re working with a contractor, your build is probably on a strict timeline. Holding out for the go-ahead from Tesla might not work with permitting, your contractor’s schedule or your own target move dates. After all, you can’t move into a house with no roof because you’re waiting for Tesla to call you back. As production of the Solar Roof ramps up, we expect the waitlist to clear, at which point these problems will disappear. For now, Tesla needs to clear through their backlog of eager customers, which may throw a wrench in your plans.
We touched on this a bit in the warranty section. New technology always comes with unanticipated problems and surprises. The first version of a product never works as well as its successors. It always takes a few iterations of new technology to come out with a stable and reliable product. The 30-year warranty does a bit to assuage these fears – if something breaks, you’ll be covered. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a hassle when things break. Failures mean calls with support, appointments with technicians, and warranty paperwork to fill out. It may not cost you money, but it still adds stress and takes time out of your life. Tesla designs great products, but every new product has some kinks to work out. A solution from a more established product line is bound to work more consistently and require less upkeep on your end.
In addition to the stability of first-generation technology, we have concerns that the design of the Solar Roof itself could lead to extra maintenance. Each shingle is a self-contained solar panel. That means that there are hundreds of individual panels that make up your solar array. And more parts equals more opportunities for an individual part of the system to break down. The best-case scenario is that each part functions independently, allowing it to be replaced without affecting how the rest of your Solar Roof functions. At worst, if the parts are inter-connected, one panel going out may put a damper on the energy generation capabilities of the entire array. There’s a precedent for these concerns. The Solar Roof is a new take on existing technology known as Building Integrated PV (BIPV). There’s a reason BIPV products fell off the market: the product was unreliable, difficult to install, and more expensive than traditional solar panels. As Green Tech Media noted, “BIPV frequently amounts to paying a premium for less of a return. That math has already killed a long line of companies.” Until the Tesla’s new product eclipses the performance of its predecessor, we see no reason why the Solar Roof won’t suffer from the same problems that doomed BIPV.
Since the Solar Roof is a new product, it will be challenging to find a contractor capable of performing the install. Tesla is notoriously picky with who they vet to perform their labor. Even if the Solar Roof is available in your region, there’s still the additional hurdle of securing a qualified installer. There’s another major complication with the installation process. The people who install the roof are different than the people who do the electrical work. Roofers typically aren’t electricians, and vice versa. Installing the Solar Roof will require the coordination of multiple specialized contractors. In the past, we’ve had customers tell us they ditched Tesla over frustrations with the long waiting period and lack of available contractors to perform the install. Not only are traditional solar panels a more sound investment, navigating the installation process is more manageable than tracking down a team of Tesla-certified installers.
The Final Verdict: Should You Buy a Tesla Solar Roof?
The Tesla Solar Roof is a gorgeous product with a prohibitively high cost to install. Right now, it’s largely a premium solution for early adopters who don’t mind paying more to access cutting-edge technology in high demand. Anyone who invests in the Solar Roof should also be willing to contend with more frequent maintenance than a traditional solar array might require.
Lastly, you should be willing to wait for production to catch up to demand. Just know that you’ll be running on Tesla’s schedule, and they’re a lot better about generating hype around new products than meeting production deadlines.
Consider the Tesla Solar Roof if:
You have the financial means to make a substantial investment into a new roof
You like to get your hands on cutting-edge technology and don’t mind joining the waitlist
You don’t mind performing more regular maintenance on your solar panels
You live in a populated region with access to Tesla-certified installers
Go with a traditional solar array if:
You want to maximize your return on investment
You want the most efficient product for your money
Your purchase is time-sensitive
You’re willing to sacrifice aesthetics in exchange for functionality
You want a stable, market-tested product
Andalusia triggers solar self-consumption with subsidies of up to 90%
Thursday, April 5, 2018
The Junta de Andalucía has encouraged in the last 11 months the installation of 500 self-consumption with 11 million euros. The information was presented this week by the Minister of Employment, Business and Commerce, Javier Carnero, to the Government Council of Andalusia. The counselor has reviewed the measures to promote self-consumption, among which the incentives of the Andalusian Program for Sustainable Energy Development, which cover between 30% and 90% of investments, have been highlighted.
Total budget of 243 million euros
The Sustainable Energy Development Incentives Program, which includes aid, has a total budget of 243 million euros and is considered by the Junta de Andalucía as “one of the fundamental pieces of the Energy Strategy of Andalusia “, a document approved by the Board in 2015. Among other objectives, it proposes to contribute 25% of gross final consumption (currently around 20%) with renewable sources; reduce the trend consumption of primary energy by 25%; decarbonise consumption by 30% compared to 2007; to consume 5% of the electric power generated with renewable sources (currently 0.4%), and improve the quality of the supply by 15%. According to the Government of Andalusia, “the set of incentives planned for 2020 for these purposes will consolidate the business and industrial fabric linked to the energy sector, mostly small and medium-sized enterprises, and strengthen policies for sustainable construction, rehabilitation of buildings, energy management in companies, self-consumption and management of demand by consumers “. The Board has currently registered almost 6,000 companies linked to energy, of which 1,700 develop their activity in the field of renewables. According to data from the Andalusian government, the employment associated with the energy sector exceeds 125,000 jobs.
Canary Islands to launch 100 MW solar auction 2018
January 25, 2018
The government of the Spanish archipelago, which also announced a 300 MW wind power auction for this year, aims to cover 45% of its energy needs with renewables by 2025. The Canary Islands currently has around 166 MW of installed solar power.
The president of the government of Canary Islands, Fernando Clavijo, has confirmed at the conference of local wind energy association, AEOLICAN, that two specific auctions for large-scale wind and solar power projects, respectively, will take place this year. Although the government press release does not provide details on how much capacity will be assigned, local press has revealed the auction for solar will allocate around 100 MW, while the auction for wind will award contracts for 300 MW of power.
Clavijo stressed that the development of renewables in the archipelago was halted 10 years ago, and that its 10-year energy plan, the Estrategia Energética de Canarias 2015-2025, aims to cover 45% of its energy demand with renewables by 2025.In mid-June, Clavijo met with Spain’s State Secretary of Energy, Daniel Navia, to discuss details of the specific auctions for large-scale solar and wind. At the time, the archipelago’s Committee for Investments and Strategic Projects approved 16 solar projects planned for the island of Gran Canaria. The projects include 15 commercial PV installations totaling hundreds of kilowatts each, and a 1 MW solar park. The Canary Islands currently has around 166 MW of installed PV capacity, according to Spanish grid operator, Red Electrica de Espana.
Canary Islands subsidizes 39 renewable self-consumption facilities
Of the 39 projects benefiting from renewable self-consumption, 25 correspond to individuals and 14 to local corporations. Regarding the type of installation, most of the selected projects, a total of 20, are for the implementation of isolated photovoltaic solar installations and the remaining are distributed as follows: 10 low temperature solar thermal projects, three thermal biomass, three air-thermal, one isolated wind, and two related to other renewable facilities. The Department of Economy, Industry, Commerce and Knowledge of the Canary Islands Government has decided on of the call for aid amounting to 500,000 euros with which it seeks to boost self-consumption in the islands where it will subsidize 39 renewable facilities for residential use and the public sector.
These will be electricity, energy or heat renewable energy installations whose production will not be fed into the grid but will be used for residential or for public administration facilities use, the Canary Islands Government explains. This is stated in the final resolution of the call for aid for renewable energy facilities – published last September 6 in the BOC – which is endowed with a budget of 500,000 euros, co-financed with the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), with which the Canary Islands Government will subsidize up to 40% of the total cost of each project. Renewable self-consumption – Pedro Ortega recalls that the aim of this funding line is to boost self-consumption, as “a system that allows consuming the energy that is produced, reducing costs and improving competitiveness. It also helps to move towards a more sustainable energy model, in line with the 2015-2025 Energy Strategy of the Canary Islands that we are implementing, which also includes actions to expand the use of renewable energies and establish energy saving and efficiency measures, ” the Government reports in its website. Of the 39 beneficiary projects, 25 correspond to individuals and 14 to local corporations.
As for the type of installation, most of the selected projects, a total of 20, are for the implementation of photovoltaic solar isolated installations, to which a subsidy of 266,556 euros has been allocated. In addition, the following projects will also be funded: 10 low temperature solar thermal for 105,921 euro; three thermal biomass for 65,149 euro; another three aero-thermal for 10,638 euro and one isolated wind for 1,720 euro. At the same time, another two projects related to other renewable facilities are subsidized with 49,996 euro. In addition, as we already reported last August, the Canary Islands Development Fund (FDCAN) will allocate more than 228 million euro to implement a more appropriate energy model change in the Canary Islands and to do so, it said it would fund more than 90 projects with the aim of increasing the use of renewable energies, improve energy efficiency and develop sustainable mobility. For example, in Fuerteventura the electrification of livestock farms through grid isolated renewable energies will be undertaken; in Gran Canaria, wind turbines and photovoltaic panels will be installed in several desalination and water treatment plants; in Tenerife the creation of a Technological and Renewable Energy Institute is foreseen; in La Gomera, the creation of an insular network of recharging points for electric vehicles, and in Lanzarote wind farms of 9.2 megawatts will be installed in Teguise, Arrecife and San Bartolomé
Spanish photovoltaic sector expects up to 5,000 million in investments
Photovoltaic projects in process in the different Autonomous Communities account for a total of 24 GW.Elena Alonso by Elena Alonso 03/23/2018 in ENERGY TRANSITION, PV, SELF-CONSUMPTION
A rapid growth of investments estimated to reach between 4,000 and 5,000 million euros is expected in the Spanish photovoltaic sector in the next two years until 2020. This data was presented yesterday by José Donoso, General Director of the Spanish Photovoltaic Union (UNEF) throughout his appearance before the Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda Committee of the Senate focused on explaining the photovoltaic industry´s present and future challenges.
Donoso has emphasized that, from 2020, the most likely scenario is that investments in the sector in our country be established at a level of between 1,000 and 2,000 million euros per year. This evidences the photovoltaic technology capacity to create business opportunities, in addition to responding to the challenge of climate change.
In addition, he explained that at the international level the development of photovoltaics involves the definition of a market in constant growth with an estimated value of 100,000 million euros per year, which could reach 400,000 million euros per year in 2030. While in order to consolidate this positive trend, it is essential that countries and companies continue investing in R & D, he warned.
Spanish photovoltaic sector
Currently, the photovoltaic sector is experiencing a reactivation phase in our country, seeking alternatives to the auction, such as going directly to the market or through bilateral energy purchase and sale contracts, known as PPAs. For Donoso, this positive stage has materialized in the processing of several photovoltaic projects in different Autonomous Communities, among which Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha, Andalusia, Aragon, Murcia and Castilla y León stand out, totaling 24 GW overall.
Regarding self-consumption, Donoso has highlighted, despite these obstacles, the promising result of 2017 with nearly 130 MW realized.
The general director of UNEF explained before the Senate Committee, that the main barriers that hinder the development of the sector in Spain are the institutionalized legal insecurity, with the threat of cutting-down the reasonable profitability of renewable projects, the updating of regulation on grid access and connection conditions, the delays in payments of the final settlements for the photovoltaic energy projects in non-peninsular territories and the streamlining of the network planning, both by Red Eléctrica de España, and by the distribution companies, UNEF reports in a statement.
Finally, regarding self-consumption, Donoso recalled that the main barriers are administrative, due to the complex processing, and economic, with the backup toll – the so-called “sun tax” but, despite these obstacles, he has highlighted the promising result of 2017 with nearly 130 MW realized.
Renewable energy in Spain
Electricity from renewable sources in Spain represented 42.8% of electricity demand coverage during 2014. The country has a very large wind power capability built up over many years and is one of the world leaders in wind power generation.
Initially Spain also positioned itself as a European leader in Solar power, by 2007-2010 the country was second only to Germany in installed capacity, however other countries (Italy in particular) have since leapfrogged Spanish development. By 2015 solar power in Spain though significant produced less than a third of that of wind power in 2015.
Spain has set the target of generating 20% of all its energy needs from renewable energy sources by 2020 and an additional 0.8% may be available for other EU countries under the cooperation mechanism bringing the total to 20.8%. By the end of 2014 Spain had reached a level of 16.2% of all its energy needs from renewable energy sources.
The story of renewable energy development in Spain is both a mixed and unfinished one. Under previous subsidies the country expanded its renewable base rapidly and helped establish a domestic industry in both wind turbine and solar energy. However, support was drastically cut back following the global financial crisis and new installations stagnated between 2012 and 2015. The debts incurred during the boom period have led to tougher and retrospective revisions of contracts to providers of renewable energy reducing returns considerably. In being one of the first-to-market countries, Spain faces the challenge of powerful competitors from countries such as Denmark, Germany and China and ironically a cheaper and more mature renewable energy sector which Spain itself helped to pioneer.
In 2015 solar power suddenly demonstrated a possible way through the impasse. The continued fall in prices for solar systems and Spain’s abundant sunshine led to prices for solar power reaching grid price parity. Suddenly there was the potential for sustained and spontaneous growth in solar installations in Spain as households and producers could produce power more economically. However the Spanish government introduced what has been dubbed the world’s first “sun tax” on solar installations making them economically less viable as well as draconian fines (up to 60 million Euros) for anyone not complying with the tax.
The tax has proved highly controversial. On the one hand the government has argued that those generating their own power still rely on the national grid for power backup and so should be liable for contributing to the cost. On the other hand, the solar industry has argued that the government is simply trying to protect the centralised established power producers whose revenues would be threatened by this competitive solar threat. Environmentalists have criticised the tax for artificially blocking Spain from continuing its long standing movement to renewable energy production.
Whatever the merits of both arguments, the controversy can only become more heightened as the price of solar energy continues to fall and if PV solar power installed capacity in Spain were to continue sliding down the EU league from 12th position in 2014 (102.9 kW per 1000 inhabitants). In the same year in terms of wind energy production Spain was much stronger in 3rd position (495 kW per 1000 inhabitants).