Raising the Bar: Making a Solar Roof

Elon Musk chairman of SolarCity has unveiled his idea for the next generation of solar panels; an integrated solar roof.

by David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle / August 10, 2016
Elon Musk speaks at a TED Conference in 2013. Flickr/TED Conference
Elon Musk speaks at a TED Conference in 2013.Flickr/TED Conference

(TNS) -- SolarCity doesn’t just want to put a panel on your roof. It wants to replace the roof itself with one that generates electricity.

SolarCity chairman Elon Musk on Tuesday offered a glimpse of the San Mateo company’s next big product: an integrated solar roof.

“It’s not something on the roof — it is the roof,” Musk said, during a conference call with Wall Street analysts to discuss the company’s second-quarter earnings. The company on Tuesday reported a net loss of $55.5 million for the quarter.

The solar roof would be made at a factory SolarCity is developing in Buffalo, New York, using technology from solar manufacturing startup Silevo that SolarCity bought in 2014. As rooftop solar panels become more common, SolarCity executives say they need new products that will distinguish the company from its many competitors.

“This is a really fundamental part of having a differentiated product, where you’ll have a stunning, beautiful roof that’s a solar roof,” Musk said.

Musk’s electric automaker, Tesla Motors, has offered to buy SolarCity in an all-stock deal worth about $2.6 billion, welding the two companies into an integrated renewable-power business. Tesla would make and sell electric cars, home-based batteries, rooftop solar arrays — and now, the roofs themselves.

The deal has won the blessings of both corporate boards but must still be approved by SolarCity and Tesla shareholders. Musk, the largest shareholder of each company, has pledged to recuse himself from the vote.

Musk and other SolarCity executives offered few specific details Tuesday about the solar roof, but said it would look better than traditional solar arrays. It could win sales from homeowners whose roofs will need replacement within a few years, people who so far have avoided installing solar arrays.

“You don’t want to put panels on a roof you’re going to replace,” Musk said. “So what if we could offer you a roof that looks way better than a normal roof? A roof that last longer than a normal roof?”

©2016 the San Francisco Chronicle Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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