One Step Off The Grid
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November 4, 2021 by Sophie Vorrath Leave a Comment
Tesla has quietly rolled out an higher powered version of its solar roof tile, with a significant boost in capacity and a brand new option to overlay the integrated PV glass tiles onto certain types of existing roofs.
A data sheet for the upgraded solar tile was shared this week by Electrek, suggesting that Tesla has started to include the new product in solar roofs it is currently designing for customers.
The new SR72T1 tile, while maintaining the same size (430mm x 1140mm), uses more efficient solar cells – 71.67 watts per tile – to boost the maximum power output by 22%, which will mean more solar power for fewer tiles (Tesla’s solar roofs are usually designed with a mix of PV-integrated and non-PV-integrated tiles).
But perhaps even more significantly, the new datasheet for the solar roof tile offers an option to install the PV-integrated tiles over existing roofs – albeit only two types of roof are specified for this option: Three-tab composition shingle, single layer, or; architectural composition shingle, single layer.
This marks a major departure from Tesla’s original concept for the “beautiful roof,” that it was a standlaone integrated solar product suitable only where an entirely new roof was being built or replaced.
Allowing for the installation of the tiles over existing shingles should open up a much broader market for Tesla’s Solar Roof, and potentially reduce the complexity of certain installations – allowing for a less bumpy and cheaper rollout.
The changes follow rough year for the Solar Roof, with complaints emerging from customers in the US in early 2021 that the cost of the product had, in some cases, more than doubled from originally quoted prices.
Addressing the complaints, some of which have since evolved into legal action, Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk said that while production of the Solar Roof was going “fine,” levels of demand were still “significantly in excess” of what the company was producing and delivery was “choked” at the installation point.
“We did find that we basically made some significant mistakes in assessing the difficulty of certain roofs,” Musk said in April.
“But the complexity of roofs varies dramatically,” he added. “Some roofs can be literally two or three times easier than other roofs. So, you just can’t have a one size fits all situation.
“If a roof has a lot of protuberances or … if the core structure of the roof is rotted out or is not strong enough to hold the Solar Roof, then the cost can be… double, sometimes three times what … our initial costs were.
“So in those cases, what we have to do is to refund customers their deposit. And what we cannot do is go and just lose a massive amount of money. But we’ve just got to provide a refund of the deposit,” he said.
In April, Tesla also announced that it would only sell its solar panels and Solar Roof as a package deal with the company’s home battery storage system, the Powerwall 2.
Musk has explained this move by saying that it would make Solar Roof installations much easier, making every house look the same “electrically” and ensuring that installers did not require “exceptional ability” to rewire the main control panel.
“So, this is extremely important for scalability,” he said. “It’s the only way to do it. And this also means that with every solar power installation, that the house … will be its own utility. And so even if all the lights go out in the neighbourhood, you will still have power. So that that gives people energy security.”
As for the price impact of the increase in the power output of the solar glass tiles, that remains to be seen. In Australia, the Solar Roof is yet to make an actual, physical appearance, after opening to Australian orders in early 2020. The local web page for the product currently offers the option to “get updates” on the solar tiles, rather than “order now.”
Sophie is editor of One Step Off The Grid and deputy editor of its sister site, Renew Economy. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.
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