Raise the Roof

Giant Tesla Solar Roof: jaw-dropping video gets response from Elon Musk

This may be the most ambitious installation of a Solar Roof yet.

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A real estate developer in Florida has unveiled what he claims is the state's largest Tesla Solar Roof install — and it's earned the praise of Elon Musk.

The ChoZen Retreat, an environment-focused resort on the 22,000 acre Saint Sebastian nature preserve, is graced by a staggering 44-kilowatt Solar Roof. It harnesses several times more energy than the average installation — house roofs are normally below 10 kilowatts — yet the gargantuan roof only covers around 80 percent of the resort's energy usage.

"One of the best Tesla Solar Roof installations," Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote on his Twitter page Saturday.

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It's an impressive display for Tesla's roof product, unveiled as part of a "house of the future" in October 2016. At the event, Musk explained how the tiles could pair with a Tesla Model 3 electric car and Powerwall battery to offer complete zero-emissions energy usage for a household. The solar-harvesting tiles are designed to blend in with non-solar dummy tiles, making it look like a standard roof to the untrained eye.

Tony Cho, founder of real estate development firm Metro 1, shared a video of the Solar Roof project via his Twitter page on December 30. Watch the aerial flyover video below:

"I just installed the largest (44KW) solar roof in Florida," Cho wrote. "Thank you [Elon Musk] for creating this game-changing product! Everyone should have one and now the 26 percent fed tax credit has just been extended!"

The video explains the installation uses nearly 800 panels to harvest DC electricity. This is channeled to inverters to convert it to AC electricity, which is then fed into Powerwall batteries. These are used to ensure the site runs from clean energy even when the Sun's not shining. A Tesla underlay is used to protect the panels from morning dew and humidity.

ChoZen Retreat, the video claims, is the first center of its kind to receive a Tesla Solar Roof. It's also the first home in Indian River County, Florida to receive the roof. It is the 26th home in the state of Florida.

The roof far outranks other projects done on regular houses. Amanda Tobler, one of the first to get a Solar Roof in spring 2018, told Inverse at the time that her 9.85-kilowatt system was the largest Tesla could install at that time. Her 2,000-square-foot roof consisted of around 40 percent solar tiles, the rest dummy tiles.

Tesla's product has changed a lot since those early installs. In October 2019, Musk unveiled the third-generation tiles designed for faster and cheaper installs. While the older roofs rolled out at a slow pace, Musk said the company was aiming for 1,000 roofs per week, eventually installing a roof in just eight hours. A timelapse video in October 2020 showed the roof being installed on one house in just four days.

How much was Cho's install?

"Not much more than a traditional roof with solar," he wrote on Twitter.

The Inverse analysis — Cho's roof is an impressive display of a product that is gradually rolling out to homes. It also acts as a symbol of how Tesla is aiming for more than just electric cars.

The actual price of the new install is unclear. Cho claims the roof cost just a bit more than a regular roof plus solar panels, but Musk claimed at the roof's October 2019 unveiling the new tiles would cost "less than what the average roof costs plus solar panels" in "80 percent" of cases. Cho's mega-install may be something of an outlier, perhaps understandable considering the project's sheer scale.

But even if few customers buy the Solar Roof — you'd need to be buying a roof for the cost to make sense — it could still serve a useful purpose. At the company's Battery Day in September 2020, Musk unveiled a plan to produce enough batteries to transition the world onto clean energy. As Musk aims to grow the energy side of the business from around seven percent to 50 percent of revenue long-term, projects like Cho's mega-roof seem an eye-catching way to communicate how Tesla wants to transition all energy usage to clean sources.


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