The first practical photovoltaic cell was publicly demonstrated over 60 years ago at Bell Laboratories. And it has taken that long for someone to come along and recognize that most people were not interested in attaching garish glass box frames to the roof of their house despite the benefits to both the environment and their energy invoices.
Right up until last week the design aesthetic of home solar power was vintage cold war East Germany. Then Elon Musk decided to build a small neighborhood at Universal Studios and unveil his new Tesla residential solar tiles (video above). A collection of four architecturally pleasing roofing tiles that integrate solar so as to be invisible when viewed from the street, yet are fully exposed to the sun from above.
Granted a form of solar shingle has been around for a few years now, but the idea of making solar cells look like actual building materials rather than ham-handed boxy bolt-ons is so obvious that it boggles the mind to try and understand what took so long. Like he did with the Tesla Roadster in 2008, Elon Musk has taken an aspirational angle to overcoming the largest single objection – ugliness – to the problem.
So now its game-on for residential solar and just like with fully electric cars eight years ago, everyone is playing catch up to Tesla.
Along with the reveal of new solar tiles, Musk also unveiled the new Powerwall 2, “a battery for homes and small businesses that stores the sun’s energy and delivers clean, reliable electricity when the sun isn’t shining”. The hope at Tesla is that you will “combine Powerwall, solar and an electric vehicle to create a zero emission lifestyle.” The Tesla triple play.
With double the energy of their first generation battery, the company claims that “Powerwall 2 can power a two-bedroom home for a full day.”
On the Telsa website, one 14 kWh Powerwall battery cost $5,500 with installation and supporting hardware starting at $1,000. And installations begin January 2017. The price of the new Tesla solar roof tiles was not announced.