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Why Tesla's New Solar Roof Tiles and Home Battery Are Such a Big Deal (techcrunch.com) 280

On October 28th, Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk unveiled the residential "solar roof," consisting of glass roof tiles with integrated solar panels. Not only are they more durable than traditional roof panels, but they offer efficiency that is 98 percent as good as traditional, photovoltaic panels. The company also announced the Powerwall 2, a home battery that can store 14 kWh of energy, with a 5 kW continuous power draw, and 7 kW peak. It's designed to store the energy from the solar roof during day to power your home at night. Darrell Etherington via TechCrunch explains why these solar roof tiles are such a big deal: It's easy to dismiss the aesthetic import of how Tesla's tiles look, but it's actually important, and a real consideration for homeowners looking to build new homes or revamp their existing ones. The appearance of the tiles, which come in four distinct flavors (Textured Glass, Slate Glass, Tuscan Glass and Smooth Glass) is going to be a core consideration for prospective buyers, especially those at the top end of the addressable market with the disposable income available to do everything they can to ensure their home looks as good as it possibly can. As with other kinds of technologies that are looking to make the leap from outlier oddity to mainstream mainstay, solar has a hurdle to leap in terms of customer perception. Existing solar designs, and even so-called attempts to make them more consistent with traditional offerings like the above-mentioned Dow Chemical project, leave a lot to be desired in terms of creating something that can be broadly described as good-looking. Tesla has been referred to as the Apple of the automotive world by more than a few analysts and members of the media, and if there's one thing Apple does well, it's capitalize on the so-called -- halo effect. This is the phenomenon whereby customers of one of its lines of business are likely to become customers of some of the others; iPhone buyers tend to often go on to own a Mac, for instance. For Tesla, this represents an opportunity to jump-start its home solar business (which it'll take on in earnest provided its planned acquisition of SolarCity goes through) through the knock-on effects of its brisk Tesla EV sales, including the tremendous pre-order interest for the Model 3. Tesla's solar tiles claim to be able to power a standard home, and provide spare power via the new Powerwall 2 battery in case of inclement weather or other outages. Musk says that the overall cost will still be less than installing a regular old roof and paying the electric company for power from conventional sources. But Musk's claims about the new benefits of the new solutions don't end there. Tesla's tiles will actually be more resilient than traditional roofing materials, including terra-cotta, clay and slate tiles. Solar roofing, Powerwall and Tesla cars taken together represent a new kind of ecosystem in consumer tech, one that carries a promise of self-sufficiency in addition to ecological benefits. Tesla has already tipped its hand with respect to how it intends to make vehicle ownership a revenue generator for its drivers, rather than a cost center.
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Why Tesla's New Solar Roof Tiles and Home Battery Are Such a Big Deal

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  • Style (Score:5, Informative)

    by ChrisMaple ( 607946 ) on Tuesday November 01, 2016 @10:36PM (#53196633)
    This summary is written like an advertisement, Please help slashdot's editors by rewriting it.
    • Caveats (Score:5, Informative)

      by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Tuesday November 01, 2016 @11:10PM (#53196735) Homepage Journal

      A few things.

      First, 5kw is a quarter the normal service normally provided. We have a 20 kw drop; that's normal. It's not about what you use normally, either, it's about the toaster, the vacuum, the frig, the freezer, the AC, etc. all kicking on at once. It happens -- don't think it doesn't. That's why there's a 100 amp main system breaker in your typical breaker box. 100 amps at 240 volts. 5kw is about 25 amps at 240 (yes, you almost certainly have a 240 system... there are two 120v legs, and some stuff in the house is on one, and some stuff is on the other. A few things -- dryers, electric stoves, AC systems, things like that -- are on both legs and actually use 240.)

      Second, that battery... that's an expensive component, and one with a decidedly limited lifetime. There's going to be an ongoing maintainance cost there, and you should factor it in if you aren't just going to be compulsively home-swapping. Same with current EV designs, for that matter.

      Third, watch out for microinverter-based designs. These place small inverters all over the solar cell system, typically one every panel or every few panels (in this case, it would X number of tiles, if it's a microinverter design.) Every installation that uses them that I've come across thus far is a horrific generator of radio frequency interference. It'll do everything from reduce your wifi and bluetooth ranges to blow out your AM and FM reception and anything else going on that actually uses, you know, radio. A quality installation has a central, single, high-quality, high-power inverter. Those shitty little "we do solar power cheap!" companies... there's a very good reason they're cheaper. Because the stuff they install is crapola.

      All you want coming from the roof / panel farm is well-filtered DC. Period.

      I would hope, given the size of the energy conversion systems in their vehicles, that they didn't go that way, or, that they broke new ground and built quality systems that are actually RF quiet. But it's something to keep in mind until we know more about these proposed systems.

      • well filtered DC? (Score:4, Informative)

        by 4wdloop ( 1031398 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2016 @12:32AM (#53196935)

        DC filtered from what if there are no inverters?

        With small tiles that's a lot of wires even if several panels are connected in series.
        There are other benefits of micro-inverters, such as maximizing power generation per-panel and panel health monitoring.

        Besides to make a "quiet" powerful inverter it takes a lot of capacitance that is localized in single device. Costly repair?

        There are compromises both ways.

      • Re:Caveats (Score:5, Informative)

        by david_bonn ( 259998 ) <davidbonn@maGINSBERGc.com minus poet> on Wednesday November 02, 2016 @12:36AM (#53196943) Homepage Journal

        That sounds good, but I've got an 8kw array, and I run a well pump, an electric hot water heater, a dryer, and a big sub-zero all at once just fine. Oh, and my in-floor heating system and too many computers.

      • Re:Caveats (Score:5, Informative)

        by slashrio ( 2584709 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2016 @01:05AM (#53197005)
        I can go a long way with you with respect to micro-inverters, but what they do well is adapt to the individual panels that they serve. If one panel is shaded, or only dirty, and the whole string of PV panels is served by one power inverter, the total output can go down considerably and stay low until you clean that one panel.
        With micro-inverters however only the output of that one panel (or few panels) served by the micro-inverter will be reduced.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Yeah. There's no _real_ reason why you can't have an EM-quiet, physically small inverter... they'll just be more expensive than shitty small ones, or one large one. If I have to pay more for a system that'll perform better in the case of partial failure and won't also shit RF everywhere, I'll do it.

        • Yep, Im getting great yields from micro inverters, the future for sure.

        • Re:Caveats (Score:4, Informative)

          by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 02, 2016 @06:08AM (#53197541) Homepage Journal

          With micro-inverters however only the output of that one panel (or few panels) served by the micro-inverter will be reduced.

          They also reduce wiring costs for long runs by letting you ship mid-voltage AC instead of low-voltage DC...

          • They also reduce wiring costs for long runs by letting you ship mid-voltage AC instead of low-voltage DC...

            No. Now you're double-counting the benefits of micro-inverters, which is completely unfair.

            EITHER you can have a high-voltage DC system with several PV panels wired in series, which means low wiring cost BUT also means a single PV panel being shaded or dirty significantly reduces output.

            OR you can have a low-voltage DC system, with the PV panels wired in parallel, which means higher wiring cost BUT als

      • Re:Caveats (Score:5, Informative)

        by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 02, 2016 @06:07AM (#53197535) Homepage Journal

        First, 5kw is a quarter the normal service normally provided. We have a 20 kw drop; that's normal.

        In the USA, we rate residential service in amperes at 240v, and we have either 100A or 200A. 200A is typical in the sticks, 100A is typical in the city.

        It's not about what you use normally, either, it's about the toaster, the vacuum, the frig, the freezer, the AC, etc. all kicking on at once. It happens -- don't think it doesn't.

        Even if all that stuff kicks on at once you won't get close to even 100A, let alone 200A. You'd have to add in the washer and dryer. I can run my whole house save for the hottub in a 40A envelope. I just did it yesterday during a power outage, with a 7kW constant/8.75kW peak generator. And that includes two water pumps, one 3/4 HP hot start and one 1/2 HP slow start. In order to get water to the house, we have to pump it out of the ground into a tank and then pump it again to make pressure. The big inductive appliances draw around 1.5kW while starting. Full lighting, two water pumps, fridge and chest freezer, my PC, my internet stuff and NAS on a UPS, and the 52" LCD/CCFL TV. That's actually more draw than the average residential household!

        5kW with a little bit of battery for overage will produce more than enough power to run the average household.

        • You failed to mention HVAC, though, and in hot climates this is overwhelmingly electric, and in colder climates heat pumps (including geo/ground-source) are electric. Heat pumps in particular often have resistance backups.

          And I'm not sure what my 220 VAC oven draws...

          • Re:Caveats (Score:4, Informative)

            by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 02, 2016 @07:12AM (#53197821) Homepage Journal

            You failed to mention HVAC, though, and in hot climates this is overwhelmingly electric, and in colder climates heat pumps (including geo/ground-source) are electric. Heat pumps in particular often have resistance backups.

            This is all true, and it's the big reason why we have a larger service. I personally also have more equipment that draws plenty of power which I'd like to be able to use while I'm using all the other things, for example my table saw or my 3/4 HP drill press. And then there's the two batteries I'm charging at the moment...

            And I'm not sure what my 220 VAC oven draws...

            That is typically the beast, if you have one. I don't. I've got gas. It's also not necessary. For most of my childhood, the home oven was a 110VAC DeLonghi convection oven. You didn't even have to modify recipes, except that since it was a convection oven you didn't have to rotate things halfway through. You still had to flip things, but you didn't have to rotate a cookie sheet or what have you. This is what people are talking about when they say that there are numerous opportunities to improve efficiency. It's not just eliminating parasitic loads and adding insulation, though I have opinions on that too :)

            We do have AC, and my generator wouldn't run everything else and both AC units. (This is a rental with no central AC, so we have two window units.) It would probably run one of them. But in that season, outages are rare.

            The solution there, of course, is to improve energy efficiency. All new construction should be required to have passive solar elements, which is to say it should be correctly oriented and have correctly-designed overhangs. We should also institute some fairly serious insulation requirements, of the type which sadly cannot be satisfied by fiberglass. That stuff is annoying anyway :) But this is to directly address your point about AC.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I'm happy for Tesla and their roof product, but lets see how it sells before we gloat about how wonderful it is. Its not something the average home buyer can afford. It is much more expensive than conventional solar panels, and therefore I don't think it should qualify for full tax credits. Our tax money should be handled wisely, and giving a wealthy person a huge tax credit when he/she could have installed similar or more PV capacity for much less doesn't make sense.

        Maybe a move to capacity based tax credi

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Couple of things.

        The limited battery lifetime. Panasonic rated the old cells used in the early Model S cars for 3000 cycles, at 3000mAh each cycle, which would take the car about 900,000 miles. That's to 80% capacity remaining, so it's not like they are junk even then. Even if you really hammered the system and used a full cycle every day, it would but at 80% after 8 years and have paid for itself a few times over. And by then, a replacement will be a lot cheaper.

        5kW is an odd number... Is it something to d

    • "Solar FREAKIN' Roof Tiles!"

      There's a nice neutral article title. Someone else can come up with a good blurb.
  • Ã(TM) (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Tuesday November 01, 2016 @10:37PM (#53196643)
    Ã(TM), Ã(TM), Ã(TM)

    What's up with that? Is Musk creating a new line of solar cash machines? Funny acronym.
  • In a way that is largely irrelevant (impact of a heavy dense object), and entirely ignores the most common roofing material - asphalt shingles.
    • Re:Tougher.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Tuesday November 01, 2016 @10:58PM (#53196701)

      In a way that is largely irrelevant (impact of a heavy dense object), and entirely ignores the most common roofing material - asphalt shingles.

      Asphalt or fiberglass shingles aren't all that tough. In general, the higher the pitch of the roof, the longer they last. On a low pitch roof such as mine, 25 year shingles last 10-15 years. Just how it is. I've had branches come down and damage them. Get enough damage, and you better hope they still make the same color after a few years - uness you don't mind a trashy looking roof. Even the replacements you should buy - I have several bundles sitting in my shed, will look different for a few years. And having replaced my roof shingles twice since I bought my place - they aren't cheap.

      Quasi-permanent sounds damn good to me.

      • Uh, every smart person buys an extra box of tile, shingles, and laminate flooring to replace the inevitable later damage. Of course, sun fades color over time, so the new ones don't quite match anyway. I bought a finish-it-yourself pine cabinet that was a store demo for about a year, which meant the spot where the tag was on it was several shades darker than the rest of the unit. But it was cheap...
        • Well, GP is a smart person then. He did mention keeping several extra bundles in his shed.

        • Uh, every smart person buys an extra box of tile, shingles, and laminate flooring to replace the inevitable later damage.

          You would be surprised how many don't though.

      • by srw ( 38421 )
        You might want to look up the definition of the prefix "quasi".
        • You might want to look up the definition of the prefix "quasi".

          Musk used the prefix. And FWIW, he said "quasi indefinitely" https://hardware.slashdot.org/... [slashdot.org]

          Asphalt/Fiberglass shingles don't last for shit. Even sunlight destroys them. Shale and Terra Cotta shingles can last a long time if no nasty weather events happen. But even they wear away. Metal roofing lasts, but is noisy and there's that aesthetic issue people complain about. I have seen some fiberglass looking inch thick roofing panels that probably last a long time, but they define fugly, and are seriously

      • If you have branches falling and hitting your roof, there's a good chance your house is shaded enough that solar power probably isn't the best idea for you.

        You may also want to find out why your shingles are failing prematurely. Do you have poor attic ventilation? That's often the cause of accelerated deterioration in shingle roofing. You should be getting 25+years from a single application of quality asphalt if the conditions are within the operating range for your material.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

          Shingles get removed from my residence by wind.

          What I find interesting about "alternate" roof materials is their failure modes. When a metal roof fails it fails along predictable seams and both maintenance and mitigation are much, much simpler than with a traditional wood/asphalt roof. It also doesn't catch fire when flaming debris falls on it. On that basis alone, asphalt roofs and indeed wooden roof trusses and covering should be illegal. Every building code in the nation, right now. That's an embarrassin

          • How many house fires start because of the roof catching fire? Seems pretty unlikely for freestanding structures...
            • How many house fires start because of the roof catching fire? Seems pretty unlikely for freestanding structures...

              A massive shitload, actually. It's unusual for it to happen to one house, but it's very common for it to happen to a whole bunch of houses during a general conflagration. During forest fires, it's not unusual for burning debris to be thrown for miles. And let's not forget that propane tanks are more common in wooded areas, that they become bombs in major fires in spite of the cute little pressure relief system, and that they will throw burning debris even further. But even house fires can spread this way; h

              • How many house fires start because of the roof catching fire? Seems pretty unlikely for freestanding structures...

                A massive shitload, actually. It's unusual for it to happen to one house, but it's very common for it to happen to a whole bunch of houses during a general conflagration. During forest fires, it's not unusual for burning debris to be thrown for miles

                In areas where such things are common (South West US, California, Eastern Washington) I could probably agree. But they are not common in most of the US.

            • Surprisingly, it happens more often than you think. My wife used to work for an insurance company processing claims. People would have dry leaves in their gutters and then use fireworks to unintentionally ignite their roof.
        • If you have branches falling and hitting your roof, there's a good chance your house is shaded enough that solar power probably isn't the best idea for you.

          We're not a perfect area for solar, I do have a sort of test system up for my radio equipment that works pretty well.

          You may also want to find out why your shingles are failing prematurely. Do you have poor attic ventilation?

          I have one of those rooftop systems, with a vent running the length of all the rooflines and soffit vents along the bottom. It's pretty good.

          Its the low pitch. It takes a beating. Debris that lands on it tends to stay on it. As well, I have to get up and get rid of the debris a few times a year. That doesn't help. Over time, the little stones in it get washed away.

          There are some homes

    • asphalt shingles are a short term relationship.

  • Suspicious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Tuesday November 01, 2016 @10:43PM (#53196665)
    I saw the announcement, and sure, the roofing tiles LOOKED nice, but there was absolutely no mention of their efficiency, or how they would connect to each other. Elon however did go out of his way to demonstrate that there was some kind of "micro-louvre" layer that hides the solar cell from view unless you're looking at it straight on. The people in the crowd clapped, and I just shook my head, because that would actually REDUCE the amount of sunlight it can be exposed to.

    Another demonstration was where they dropped a 10lb weight on each of the classic roofing tiles and then a solar tile. While the solar tile didn't shatter into shards like the other tiles did, I bet the underlying pv cell was no longer operational after that. Then you would have to either manually bypass it in the circuit, or replace it. Either way, if you're climbing up on the roof to do that, you might just as well replace it.

    My last concern is (as always) how would this system perform in a northern area. I live in Minnesota, where 1/3rd of the year is dark, and roofs are covered with feet of snow. We don't see a whole lot of Tesla automobiles here either. How does the new Powerwall 2 in your garage hold up to -20f degree winters?
    • Re:Suspicious (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Tuesday November 01, 2016 @10:56PM (#53196693) Journal

      I live in Minnesota, where 1/3rd of the year is dark,

      Maybe it's not for you. If you live in Minnesota by choice, you may not be the target market for these solar panels.

      Here in Houston, they sound mighty good. Can you imagine? There are products that are appropriate for one place that are not for another? By the way, North Face down coats and mukluks are useless to me. They simply don't work here in Houston.

      • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Tuesday November 01, 2016 @11:53PM (#53196853)
        >> I live in Minnesota, where 1/3rd of the year is dark

        Well that sounds like a perfect place to do solar! In all the places I've lived, it's dark a full half of the year - the locals call often call it "night".
    • The loss is some 2-3%, so yeah, big issue.

    • MN gets about as much solar as Germany. That means the payback will take a while, mostly because electricity is quite cheap in MN vs Germany. Solar gardens are beginning to form in MN already but Xcel is jerking them around.

      3M glass coatings can turn ordinary windows into almost bullet proof windows. See the youtube demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      Musk is using 3M glass coatings. The PV cells likely will not break from hail but the glass may crack up. Future refined 3M coatings will perform even bett

    • Lithium batteries suck in the cold. Just try out powertools in the winter. NiCad is preferable for outside work lasting a while.

      I would guess it is likely cheaper to heat the garage you charge your electric car in than let the car's battery management electrically heat the battery pack. (They have heaters because your car would lose range just from sitting while you have the car parked somewhere.) I have not yet read about somebody finding out the details -- likely because the electric heater is nothing c

      • Sorry, but why would it be cheaper to heat an entire garage, including the car, which includes the internal battery pack, than it would be to use the same garage power to heat only the battery pack?

        As a bonus, of course, the car can also heat the interior up to your normal driving temperature before you leave for work in the morning, without needing to fill your garage with carbon monoxide, so its got that going for it too which is nice.

        • by flink ( 18449 )

          Different heating systems? Right now, for me, natural gas is way cheaper per BTU than electricity.

    • There was a Eco-program from the US which showed a solar panel (not this one) being smashed with a baseball bat and it still worked fine afterwards, i expect the tesla one would as well otherwise it would be a PR own goal. Regarding the snow angle https://www.inverse.com/articl... [inverse.com]. Might not save much during the winter but you'll save something and for the rest of the year, it'll be fine. If you are going to put the battery in your garage, might be an idea to insulate the garage first
    • I saw the announcement, and sure, the roofing tiles LOOKED nice, but there was absolutely no mention of their efficiency, or how they would connect to each other.

      Engineers tend to get a little too concerned about efficiency. It matters and more efficient is better but it's not the most important thing here once a critical threshold has been reached. Efficiency has to be good enough to make it economical but it's not actually critical to maximize efficiency. Perfect is the enemy of good in this case.

      The issue I'm actually curious about is how the things will deal with lightning strikes...

      While the solar tile didn't shatter into shards like the other tiles did, I bet the underlying pv cell was no longer operational after that. Then you would have to either manually bypass it in the circuit, or replace it. Either way, if you're climbing up on the roof to do that, you might just as well replace it.

      I can't imagine you'd have to climb on the roof to disable a single tile. Th

      • Engineers tend to get a little too concerned about efficiency. It matters and more efficient is better but it's not the most important thing here once a critical threshold has been reached.

        Yup. Since people would be unlikely to do half a solar roof, and roofs tend to scale in size with the size of the house beneath them, once its efficient enough price and appearance become far more important. Its the same reason that very few people other than engineers care about whether your new minivan has 260hp or 280hp - both are more than ample.

    • Why would you bet the one part of the panel resistant to shock and flex would be the part not working after the test?

    • by c ( 8461 )

      I live in Minnesota, where 1/3rd of the year is dark, and roofs are covered with feet of snow.

      I suspect that snow cover on one of these roofs is a non-issue is they're as smooth as they look... snow tends to just slide off a smooth roof, to the point that you need snow stoppers above doors and such to hold it back.

      Okay, maybe the terra cotta style might not shed snow that nicely, but that seems like a stupid look to put in somewhere like Minnesota.

    • by fgouget ( 925644 )

      My last concern is (as always) how would this system perform in a northern area. I live in Minnesota, where 1/3rd of the year is dark

      Last I checked Minnesota was nowhere close to the polar circle [wikipedia.org] so you don't even have one fully dark day, let alone 4 consecutive months.

    • did you not see the part where the cells are heated and therefore melts the snow?
  • That we could walk on these panels. I have a low pitch roof, and have to get debris off of it fairly often. Not that it is a problem for that many homeowners Anyhow, good on Tesla. In hyper conservative (the real definition of conservative) housing industry, it takes a long time to get different looking things accepted. I personally find a roof full of regular photovoltaic panels as aesthetically pleasing as a asphalt shingle roof, but if people like that look, then it's a selling point.
    • That we could walk on these panels.

      I think that you can walk on these new solar tiles.

      • That we could walk on these panels.

        I think that you can walk on these new solar tiles.

        I'll have to check that out then. That'd be great.

    • Re:I only wish (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday November 01, 2016 @11:59PM (#53196865)
      I'm sure they are strong enough to walk on. I have a different worry: on a steep roof, they would be a lot more slippery than asphalt shingles, especially here in the northwest where is rain so much that moss grows on our roofs! Yes, it seems like you would need to pressure wash them several times a year to keep dirt from lowering their efficiency, so you would spend a lot more time cleaning off your roof. Asphalt tile, you basically pay someone $300 to pressure wash the roof every 8 years.
  • by Chmarr ( 18662 ) on Tuesday November 01, 2016 @10:52PM (#53196681)

    It's also easy to overlook the aesthetic impact of proper character encodings!

  • The days of making solar grid connected and paying a few token cents or offering a credit did not slow solar.
    The online astroturfing about payback, weather, sun needed, costs and many other state issues did not slow solar.
    Make solar have a small output and not legal to grid connect unless its from a few really, really expensive tested brands to "protect" the grid?
    An expensive hobby that will never alter grid profits.
    Ensure every solar buy is registered and grid connected in the state.
    Create a huge mus
  • >> it intends to make vehicle ownership a revenue generator for its drivers, rather than a cost center

    Why wallow in the ditch with money - I'm sure the power will so abundant that we'll all find it too cheap to meter.

    >> For Tesla, this represents an opportunity to jump-start its home solar business

    Seriously, I know you need it to keep the Fed money flowing, but please dump the home solar BS and just concentrate on the one thing you do do well: build electric cars. Otherwise Telsa could easily b
  • by Streetlight ( 1102081 ) on Tuesday November 01, 2016 @11:21PM (#53196757) Journal
    I live in Colorado Springs, reported to be the second best place in the country for photovoltaic applications with 320 days of sunshine per year with moderate winter weather. However, we have one problem and that's hail propelled at 40 to 60 MPH (or greater speeds) down on roofs. It's great for the roofing businesses, but for glass roofs, likely not so good. I'm not talking about those little golf ball hail stones but hail stones the size of tennis balls building piles of hail two feet deep. An expensive glass roof should survive such a storm. I want to see the test results for such an event.
    • It's quartz, aka a rock.

      • Have you seen what happens when you hit a rock that is 3mm thick with a golf ball? Let's just say it's not very good for the rock. Rocks have horrible tensile strength, and the bottom half of this rock/shingle is going to go into tension with every impact.

    • Any impact with enough force to damage these tiles will utterly destroy conventional tiles.

      So yes, the freak hail storm with grapefruit-sized chunks of ice will probably cause significant damage to your tesla solar roof. That same storm will also turn your neighbors house into Swiss cheese.

      Pick your poison.

    • It's great for the roofing businesses, but for glass roofs, likely not so good.

      I think you might be misunderstanding what "glass" means here. Glass can be a very tough material and we're not talking about the fragile stuff most people think of when they hear the word glass. Any place where PV panels can safely be installed would probably work just fine for these roof tiles. Some will get destroyed just like any other roofing material but if Tesla/Solarcity wants to remain in the business then they probably have gone to the trouble to make them pretty darn durable.

      Basically while it

  • by bferrell ( 253291 ) on Tuesday November 01, 2016 @11:29PM (#53196779) Homepage Journal

    The grid operator/utility doesn't actually do business with the home owner. Home owners are too small for the effort involved. What the grid operator does business with is called an aggregation entity (Solar City etc). This is why the home owner still buys power at silly low rates.

    The aggregation entity does all the accounting and sells the energy the homeowner doesn't use or store to the grid operator at rates mandated by regulatory agencies. The sell rate to the home owner NOT regulated in any way, only the sell to the grid.

    That same entity is also involved in what are called rate up/rate down events. This is where the entity get's paid for being able to supply energy during peak loads OR more importantly absorbing and storing energy during excess generation periods. This is why the system having storage is important. Also of note, the home owner does NOT participate is revenues derived from rate up/rate down events.

    • The grid operator/utility doesn't actually do business with the home owner. Home owners are too small for the effort involved.

      What? Who told you that? The grid operator/utility is already doing business with the home owner. If you have net metering, the nature of the business is only slightly different.

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday November 01, 2016 @11:53PM (#53196851)
    First obvious drawback: solar cells are only useful on south-facing slopes, meaning non-matching tiles on the north-facing slope of the roof. Of course, I want a wedge shaped house where the entire roof is a north-facing slope, so that the southern exposure shines light through high windows then reflects down off the ceiling. In other words, solar ceiling tiles are only good in the situation where you have no other space to put them in -- but then, most new suburban lots are like that.
    • by mlts ( 1038732 )

      I would say solar panels are hit and miss. For a relative's house that has the most roof surface north facing with a lot of trees, the usefulness is there, but limited. However, for a friend of mine on his farm with half his roof facing south, not to mention a pole barn, there is enough square footage that even with a penalty of wattage over solar panels, it will still bring in a lot of amperage. The storage batteries are especially nice because that pretty much gives one a whole-house UPS.

      Solar has gott

    • by aXis100 ( 690904 )

      solar cells are only useful on south-facing slopes

      That's old school thinking when panels were ultra expensive.

      East and west facing panels can still generate 70 to 80% of the power of south facing panels, but they shift their peak production into the morning/afternoon - which happens to match residential demands well. By having all three - east, south and west, you get a longer generation profile and reduced battery requirements which is a great financial benefit.

      Even north facing panels arent terrible and can generate 40 to 60% of a south facing panel in

    • First obvious drawback: solar cells are only useful on south-facing slopes, meaning non-matching tiles on the north-facing slope of the roof

      Solar cells are optimal on south facing slopes (in the Northern hemisphere) but they are not entirely without utility facing other directions. Just because they aren't getting the maximum amount of power possible doesn't mean they will get no power or that they cannot be economically viable.

      Of course, I want a wedge shaped house where the entire roof is a north-facing slope, so that the southern exposure shines light through high windows then reflects down off the ceiling.

      Speak for yourself. There are several more variables for me in how I want my house constructed.

      In other words, solar ceiling tiles are only good in the situation where you have no other space to put them in -- but then, most new suburban lots are like that.

      Not everyone thinks devoting a field or a rooftop to traditional ugly solar panels is a good idea or necessary. And frankly

    • First obvious drawback: solar cells are only useful on south-facing slopes, meaning non-matching tiles on the north-facing slope of the roof.

      I live in the Southern Hemisphere, you insensitive clod!

  • by m.dillon ( 147925 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2016 @12:45AM (#53196961) Homepage

    There's no point if its too expensive, or if the durability is 25 years (which destroys the whole payback equation). This is kinda like the power-wall. Great concept, but the technology isn't quite there yet. And it may not be quite there for solar roofing tiles either.

    Speaking of which, several companies tried selling solar roofing tiles in the past, and had to give up on lack of sales. It isn't a new technology. The question is... is it good enough to hit the necessary sweet spot? My guess... probably not yet.

    -Matt

    • Great concept, but the technology isn't quite there yet.

      Actually, the technology - both photovoltaic and battery - has just gotten there over the last couple years. (Inverters have been there a while but have been improving as well, thanks to Moore's Law.)

      It's good to see Musk trying to deploy it commercially.

      It's easy to fall into the "It's always 12 (or whatever) years out" fallacy. Sometimes the new inventions DO lead to a practical design and it becomes profitable to actually build and and sell it now

  • OK, I admire the guy's vision and ambition as much as anybody, but this place is turning into a Musk fanboi site...

    • Who else is pushing forward in so many different technological domains (electric cars, battery tech, solar tech, not to mention, but I am, space exploration tech)?

      Don't say Bezos or Branson. Wannabes in comparison regarding cutting edge tech. Bezos wants to be a Walton - of Wally World fame and riches - and is proving successful thus far).

      Skip a conversation/post if it doesn't interest you, I only read maybe 20% myself.

      I'm not a fanboi of Musk, I'm an interested person. I keep up with what he's doing. H

    • by mvdwege ( 243851 )

      Let's face it, given the "Can't work, won't work" attitude that seems to be the majority here, even a person with half the drive of Musk would keep showing up in the headlines.

    • OK, I admire the guy's vision and ambition as much as anybody, but this place is turning into a Musk fanboi site...

      When you rack up list of achievements even close to as impressive as what Elon Musk has accomplished then we can admire you instead. Objectively he's accomplished some seriously astonishing stuff. He's getting a lot of attention because he's doing genuinely interesting things that actually matter. He's actually doing stuff that most of the people here (myself included) just talk about as wishful thinking. If you can find someone doing more interesting and/or impressive stuff then I'll be more than happy

  • I think it's great that we have solar panels that look like tiles (at least when viewed from the ground) and integrated power walls. I'd desperately love to use solar if I thought that it would reduce my power consumption bills down to practically nothing and the tech paid for itself.

    It matters how long it would take to pay for itself. i.e. the point where the investment in solar costs less than the amount I would pay the utility company. If break even is 5 years, possibly 10 then people will go with it,

  • That is one thing I do not get: Climate change will be an extreme challenge, and people evaluate things that will help by their looks?

  • Who the h*ll wants those big huge ugly solar panels on their roof. I'm betting a lot of HOA's wouldn't allow them. Making them look like a traditional roof, allows them to blend in without being an eyesore. If the price is competitive, and they can handle the weather like we have here in the midwest (tornado, hail), then this might make it easier to get people to switch to a more enviro-friendly power option. I have NO PROBLEM with alternative energy, as long as the government doesn't force it upon people
  • What always bugs me with price comparisons is that money automagically shows up on one side of the equation with no accounting. This often happens for everything from solar to home loans to any type of long term investment.

    The real way to compare it isn't to say you spend 20k use up front, save 1k a year and in 20 years you break even, it's you alternatively invest the 20k you wouldn't spend in some investment vehicle at 5% which lets say compounds monthly. You better save over 54k in 20 years to break

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