With the rise in popularity of solar power, people have continuously expressed desire in having more options in terms of solar products. Some of the more popular ones nowadays are solar shingles. Simply put, solar singles — sometimes known as photovoltaic shingles — are essentially just solar panels that are designed to look like and function as conventional roofing materials while still producing electricity. In other words, solar shingles are considered to be a type of solar energy solution known as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV).
As was mentioned earlier, solar shingles are gaining traction nowadays. And the primary reason for that is because of the Tesla Solar Roof, a product announced by Tesla back in October 2016 and first released in 2018.
Tesla Solar Roof Overview
Technically, Tesla is not the first company to launch a solar roof product. The development of solar roof tiles and solar shingles has been ongoing for a couple of years now. The only reason why it’s Tesla that’s broadening this conversation is because of the company’s revolutionary innovation, which is the production of a solar system that is a roof first. It’s true that BIPV solutions have been around for some time, but it is still a relatively new concept to have a complete solar roof. Hence, the popularity of the Tesla Solar Roof.
Tesla began accepting deposits to reserve solar roof tiles in May 2017. In January 2018, the company started ramping up the production of their solar shingle products so that in mid-March, they could complete some of the first initial installations for their customers at the top of their waitlist in California. Production of the solar shingles is still ongoing, and as of 2019, the Solar Roof is now on its third version.
Moreover, Tesla reported that their Solar Roof is made of quartz and that it is offered in four designs: Tuscan glass tile, slate glass tile, textured glass tile, and smooth glass tile. With these four designs, Tesla will be able to make progress into both the solar industry and roofing industry and offer competitive advantages for both.
Solar Shingles Electricity Generation
Since solar shingles are BIPV products, they understandably work like traditional solar panels. In other words, solar shingles make use of sunlight to generate electricity.
To get a little more technical, sunlight strikes the solar single that contains the silicon semiconductor, and this semiconductor will then contain the captured energy. After some time, the electrons from the particles of light get loose and move freely, and these freed electrons travel through an electrical circuit to an area where other electrons are stored. This collection of electrons will then be harvested to generate a current, which can be used for electrical power.
Solar Shingles Maintenance
Since solar shingles look like traditional roof tiles, their maintenance will be much simpler. Sure, you still have to look out for snowfall and leaves, but you don’t need specialized equipment to keep to clean the shingles. A garden hose is enough an equipment to be used.
Basically, solar shingles don’t require that much maintenance from you. In fact, some would even say that even with no maintenance, solar shingles can still last between 25 and 30 years.
How Much Does a Tesla Solar Roof Cost Compared to Regular Roofing Materials?
Unlike solar panels, solar shingles have a dual purpose: to function as both solar panels and a roof. As a result, you can expect for solar shingles to be expensive.
To be more specific, Tesla has claimed that their roof will cost $21.85 per square foot. This would then mean that for a home that needs 2,000 square feet of roofing, the total cost for a Tesla Solar Roof would be about $44,000.
Meanwhile, regular roofing materials usually just cost around $80 to $375 per square. With this, it is estimated that most homeowners would spend between $5,000 and $10,000 to install a roof using the regular roofing materials. Long story short, as you can see, a Tesla Solar Roof does indeed cost a lot more than regular roofing materials.
Can Solar Incentives and Tax Credits Be Applied to Solar Roof Tiles?
As of right now, the U.S. federal government provides a $2,000 tax deduction for homeowners to put a PV device and another $2,000 credit if they put in solar hot water or a solar thermal unit. On top of that, some states and local jurisdictions offer even additional incentives.
Since solar roof tiles are considered to be a PV device, these solar incentives and tax credits can be applied to them.
8 Alternatives to the Tesla Solar Roof
Considering that the Tesla Solar Roof doesn’t exactly come cheap, some people would want to know if there are alternatives that they can deliberate on. Luckily, there are actually a lot of alternatives out there, and here are eight of the most popular ones.
- CertainTeed Apollo II. Unlike the Tesla Solar Roof, CertainTeed Apollo II doesn’t make use of glass louvers or hydrographic printing, thus making it not as attractive as the Solar Roof. However, the Apollo tiles are still undeniably more attractive than a standard solar module. CertainTeed Apollo II costs at about $2.82 per watt.
- Luma Solar Roof. Just like Tesla, Lumo Solar Roof is a complete solar roof replacement product that includes both non-solar and solar cell components. This product costs about $4 per watt.
- RGS Powerhouse 3.0. Originally a Dow Chemical product, the RGS Powerhouse line of solar shingles is based on monocrystalline cells. This product costs about $3.30 per watt.
- SunTegra Tile and Shingle. The SunTegra Shingle can be mounted on top of existing asphalt shingles while their Tile is pitched as a replacement for concrete tile products. Both of them make use of monocrystalline cells and have a peak output of 100-110 watts.
- Exasun X-Tile and X-Roof. The X-Roof product is a complete roof replacement while the X-Tile resembles a terracotta tile.
- Forward. The Forward intends their line to be a whole-roof replacement product that includes PV and non-PV components. They have two styles in development: Metal, which resembles a steel roof, and Tile, which resembles terracotta.
- Hanergy HanTile. The Hanergy HanTile mimics a dark terracotta roofing tile and integrates thin-film PV.
- Sunflare. Sunflare’s solar shingle is based on thin-film PV.
Why the Future Is Bright for Solar Roof Tiles?
Our world right now is in dire need of solar solutions to combat energy problems that we’re currently facing. And though solar panels and other solar systems are great, they’re not really the most practical at times, especially in terms of the space needed for their installation. That is why more people would like to have products that are already building-integrated photovoltaics because they solve multiple problems at the same time. And a perfect example of a BIPV product is the solar shingle.
Moreover, solar shingles save time and money in the long run, as they only require a single installation crew and a single product for roofing and solar energy production, although they don’t get mentioned by solar podcasts often. They don’t require that much maintenance as well.
Additionally, solar shingles can produce as much energy as conventional, roof-mounted solar, which makes them highly efficient. And most importantly, solar installation prices continue to fall down right now, so homeowners will grow more accustomed to owning PV systems instead of using third-party financing. As a result, differentiated solar products, like solar shingles, will have the chance to gain market share.
With all these reasons, it won’t be a surprise anymore if we see the rise of solar shingles and other BIPV products in the near future. After all, they are incredibly worth it to have: they help improve our way of life while also helping in saving our environment. It’s the best-case scenario for all of us.
Rikki Suarez majors in Creative Writing and is writing right now about renewable energy, clean technology, and solar power for SolarMetric.com.