Tesla offers energy-conscious homeowners a chance To blend solar panels into any home design

by matt scanlon

Even solar energy wonks tend to be unaware that photovoltaic technology (the process by which sun hits certain elements and produces electricity as a consequence) is as old as the 1870s, when pioneering scientists Richard Day and William Adams discovered that sunlight created a ow of electrons when it struck selenium. e rst true photovoltaic cell came in the 1880s, when two more scientists at Bell Laboratories, Gerald Pearson and Calvin Fuller, discovered that silicon produced a stronger ow of electricity, and the modern era of solar panels was born. Very gradually, they became more practical, and inched their way towards affordability until the last decade, during which the solar energy market simply exploded worldwide (yearly U.S. solar installations totaled 150 megawatts in 2007— jumping to an incredible 7,000 megawatts in 2016).

STYLES1-textured glass and smooth

A challenge throughout has been making a home solar system that didn’t turn a residence into a visual hybrid of greenhouse and laboratory, and leave it to Tesla to come to a winning solution. In partnership with SolarCity, Elon Musk’s team of restless innovators have released the Solar Roof glass tiles that can accommodate a variety of home design aesthetics, and within which are embedded photovoltaic cells. Just like conventional solar panels, the Solar Roof can feed electricity back into the grid to o set utility costs and/or power a home using Tesla’s Powerwall 2, a rechargeable lithium-ion 14 kWh battery designed to store home-generated solar power, while also functioning as a backup system in case of power outages.

Currently, four tile styles are available: Textured, Slate, Tuscan, and Smooth, and though Tesla has been tight-lipped so far about installation costs, former SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive told Business Insider in February that the goal is an installed cost of 40¢ per watt, which should put the Solar Roof roughly within the same price realm as conventional photovoltaic panels. Better yet: Whereas the vast majority of U.S.-installed solar panels are made overseas, Tesla’s new roofs will be manufactured in partnership with Panasonic at the $900 million Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, with the first rolling off the assembly line by summer.

STYLES2-Tuscan slate

Tesla Solar Roof

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