An update on the Tesla Solar Roof

Tesla Solar Roof

We get a lot of questions about the new Tesla Solar Roof and there is some important news to share on this front. Last month, Tesla began pulling back on Solar Roof orders after taking deposits since 2017. Initially, the expectation was that Tesla would begin installing the Solar Roof widely soon after the deposits started rolling in but there have been numerous roadblocks along the way.

After several upgrades to the technology, Tesla launched the Solar Roof V3 in 2019. The company ramped up production and went on a widespread hiring spree for roofers across the U.S. While there has been an increase in installations since that time, many hopeful customers now find themselves unable to proceed with their projects.

Tesla is not the only company to give a solar roof a shot. Many have tried but most have failed – no other company has made a solar roof work at scale. (Greentechmedia published an article detailing other efforts.)

So why has the Tesla Solar Roof – and solar roof tiles in general – been so difficult to get right? We’ve been asked by many people for our thoughts on the Solar Roof; we’ll attempt to break it down for you.

[Full disclosure: Brilliant Harvest is proud to be a Tesla Powerwall Certified Installer. The Powerwall is an exceptionally high-quality product and the training to earn certification was rigorous. We feel extremely comfortable recommending the Tesla Powerwall to our clients.]

Clearly, integrating solar tiles into the roof system itself is going to be more pleasing to the eye than traditional solar panels. The Tesla Solar Tiles are also exceptionally durable, made with a tempered glass that’s going to be more long-lasting than standard roofing tiles. Tesla also warranties the roof for the lifetime of your home.

So it’s a really cool product. However, as any business owner will tell you, it’s a long journey from a cool product to a successful nationwide business. Since solar tiles are a new product, there is no pool of skilled workers who can design and install these systems. The installation of a solar tile roof requires far more technical skill as well as more diverse skills – the contractor must be both a solar expert and a quality roofer, and be able to handle the structural, waterproofing, and electrical requirements of the project. There is no single type or class of contractor that has these skills in-house. 

What’s worse, the contractors that do exist are “doing just fine, thank you.”  Why would a successful roofing contractor decide to spend the time and money to learn a whole new trade (electrical) and slow his/her sales cycle down significantly? Just compare the sales process for a new roof with that of a Solar Roof:

Regular roof sales process:

  • “I have a leak / I need a new roof”

Solar Tile Roof sales process:

  • Solar angles
  • Energy offsets
  • Utility regulation
  • Investment paybacks
  • Etc. etc. etc.

Roofers and electricians are making great money in the current economy, so why would they upend a successful business to pursue this? Even solar contractors like myself, while certainly interested in the concept, are leery about the costs of training crews to install a product that is still undergoing repeated changes in materials and methods.

Rather than partnering with a roofing company (or multiple regional roofing companies), Tesla decided it would proceed with the Solar Roof with the installation under its own management, requiring the company to add an entire workforce unrelated to its core business (electric vehicles). And just when it looked like Tesla would be ready to move forward at full-speed with the Solar Roof, the company needed to divert resources and attention to the production of the Tesla Model 3, which Tesla needs to be successful in order for the company to survive.

It has been a bit of a rocky road for the Tesla Solar Roof thus far, with several iterations of the technology, and a relatively small number of installations being completed. However, it’s important to always keep in mind how determined, ingenious and forward-thinking Tesla is. I, for one, am very excited about the future of the Tesla Solar Roof and if it takes a little longer to get it right, it will be worth it. If anyone can pull it off, its Tesla. 

For now, we’re standing by and watching with great interest where things go from here!

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