The Roofing Industry is Watching Tesla Closely as Production Nears

Tesla wants to shake up the solar industry, and it's Solar Roof may be the product to push it back into the limelight.

Image courtesy of Teslarati

This article is published in its entirety at Teslarati.

Tesla’s expected to install it’s first Solar Roof in a few months time. This brings the company one step closer to Elon Musk’s vision of an integrated solar, battery, and EV company. And as installations begin those in the solar industry, and the overall roofing industry, will be keeping a close eye on the public’s perception of the product.

According to Teslarati, “Over the past few years, the growth of demand for residential solar installations has begun to slow: consumer preferences have shifted more to community-based systems, electricity prices have plummeted due to falling natural gas and oil prices, and utility companies have begun to push back against catering to those who want to go “off-the-grid.” In an industry with few recent and dramatic product-level innovations, the excitement over residential solar systems has been cooling. According to Forbes, installation growth rates dropped from 63% per year from 2013 to 2015, to merely 16% in 2016. Some believe that Tesla’s high-visibility and loyal consumer base can reinvigorate the market. Grace Robertson, marketing manager of LightWave Solar, a solar installation company not affiliated with Tesla, said that Tesla’s movement has prompted local interest in LightWave Solar and the solar industry as a whole.”

Tesla’s Solar Roof isn’t just a solar system though. It’s an entire roof replacement, and as such costs significantly more than a traditional solar system. Teslarati points out, “Tesla has advertised that the cost of the solar roof, offset by tax breaks and generation of solar energy, will be competitive with the price of a more traditional roof made with comparable materials. But these “comparable materials”— slate, glass, and terra-cotta— do not include the asphalt shingles that top over 75% of American homes. That focuses the market down to the other 25%.”

The estimated cost and benefit of a solar roof is highly dependent on one’s location, typical electricity bill, and roof square footage. We’ve already outlined the potential cost of a Tesla Solar Roof, but it’s important to remember this is all an estimate. And Teslarati believes, “For some, high property taxes and already low electricity bills make these upfront costs less attractive.” And Robertson, from LightWave Solar, noted that while Tesla’s product is bringing renewed interest to the solar industry, she does not expect the solar roof to significantly impact the sales of more traditional solar panels due to these high upfront costs.

“Since most of our customers want the most cost-effective solar solution, we don’t expect the Solar Roof to put much of a dent in our sales of traditional solar panels,” wrote Robertson.

But Tesla’s first foray into a Solar Roof could also be looked at from a different angle. Just like it’s first cars (the Roadster, Model S, and Model X), Tesla is targeting a high end market. And it already has a vocal and loyal fanbase. As Vikram Aggarwal wrote, “The Tesla Solar Roof should be viewed as a well-designed luxury roofing product first — its solar production benefits are an additional benefit, but not its core offering.”

Tesla’s be the first company to make solar roof tiles — just like it wasn’t the first company to make an electric car. But like it’s electric car business, it may be the first company to make it cool. This can’t be overlooked as it’s been a driving factor in the success of it’s electric vehicles.