One of the key drivers of renewable technology, particularly in relation to cars, over the last couple of decades has undoubtedly been the US company Tesla. Started by Elon Musk in 2003, it’s meteoric rise over the last decade and a half has been pretty sensational. Now Tesla has moved into home development and is making huge strides in solar technology in this area.
Last October the team at this innovative corporation unveiled their new solar tiles which fit on the roof like normal, everyday slates. The benefit? Many people thinking of getting solar don’t particularly like the bulky look of traditional panels. The new solar tiles not only fit in with the local look and feel of a property but may also give construction teams undertaking new builds all around the world the opportunity to include the technology as a matter of course.
Aesthetics have a lot of power when it comes to those who are on the edge of deciding whether to install green technology. It not only has to do good, it needs to look great as well. It’s not just the solar tiles that are hitting the right mark at the moment. Combining with better and more effective storage options, Tesla could just be helping solar go to the next level. According to TechCrunch last year:
“Tesla’s solar tiles claim to be able to power a standard home, and provide spare power via the new Powerwall 2 battery in case of inclement weather or other outages. Musk says that the overall cost will still be less than installing a regular old roof and paying the electric company for power from conventional sources.”
There is, however, still some way to go before we see every new home with its own solar tiles and inbuilt battery storage. The major issue is the battery technology. Tesla have been at the forefront of developing electric powered cars over the last decade and a half and it’s easy to see the potential to benefit solar storage in the home.
The product that has caught the imagination is the Powerwall, first introduced by the company in 2015. As we all know, solar has one immutable problem – when the sun doesn’t shine, power doesn’t get produced. The battery is therefore key in creating the system that people will be willing to buy and incorporate into new builds – it provides as its end point a possibility that each home will be able to create its own electricity and not rely on the grid at any time.
The price, of course, has also been an issue so far. The Powerwall was initially going for $3,000 in America and in the UK the installation along with all the extra equipment was being sold for £6-£10,000. These seem prohibitive costs when you add on the price of the actual solar panel installation. Tesla’s solar tiles are also on the expensive side when compared to traditional solar panals. According to Forbes:
“The average home in the United States is 2,467 square feet. According to Tesla’s handy solar calculator, the new system will set an average homeowner back $51,200 for a 70% solar roof.”
This stiff initial price tag is a given for all new technologies. We should expect the price to come down as the competition increases and manufacturing gets more efficient. That’s already beginning to happen. Companies all around the world are working hard on research and development to produce battery storage for all sorts of renewable tech including wind and solar. That’s where the boom, if it happens, really will begin to take off.
The UK’s answer to Powerwall, the Powervault, for instance is considerably cheaper than the Tesla model although it is a little more bulky and about the size of a washing machine. And when business minister Greg Clark announced earlier this summer that the UK was going to invest in battery technology it warmed the heart of many an eco-warrior. The Government is putting in £246 million for the ‘Faraday Challenge’ in the hope of making the UK a world leader in battery technology.
So how long is this all going to take?
Many believe this is the only future if we want a low carbon world. The rush to better battery technology and new innovations such as solar tiles may now have become unstoppable. As with many new technologies, the proof is going to be in the price, however. Once that starts to come down, we’ll know that our solar future is more or less guaranteed.