Innovation

Tesla Solar Roof: time lapse video shows what installation is really like

The Tesla Solar Roof made it onto the roof of a new house in just four days, as seen in a new video.

A new video shows the Tesla Solar Roof being installed at incredible speed.

But it is not as fast as the ambitious electric-vehicle company would like.

In a one-minute video, shared by Tesla's official Twitter account and CEO Elon Musk over the weekend, the company showcases the four-day installation of a 15-kilowatt solar roof on a house. The 4,000 square-foot roof, completed by Weddle and Sons Roofing, was installed on a house in Auburn, Kansas.

The video demonstrates the install speed of one of Tesla's most fascinating products, which offers solar panels made to look like regular roof tiles. Weddle and Sons Roofing lists itself as a certified Solar Roof installer for Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska, plus areas of Missouri, Iowa, and Oklahoma.

The certification program is part of an effort to get the roof installed on more houses, basically letting third parties do the install instead of Tesla. Electrek reported last month that Good Faith Energy in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area and Sunpro in the South have also been certified.

Weddle and Sons can install it fast, but what's the end result like?

  • A typical install produces 8 to 12 kilowatts of power, the company says. The team's early experience suggest most homes can produce more than 80 percent of their annual electricity consumption with the roof.
  • Solar tiles take up 30 to 70 percent of the roof's surface, the rest being cosmetic features like dummy tiles.
  • The firm estimates it would cost $1,800 to $2,700 per roof square, or per 100 square foot, before incentives. A Powerwall battery is $11,000 to $13,000 depending on the electrical setup, and further batteries are around $8,500 each. The team aims to develop "expertise and methods" over time to bring the price down.

The roof was first unveiled in October 2016 at a "House of the Future" event: Musk explained how the roof could charge up a Powerwall home battery and provide 24-hour clean energy for the household. A Tesla Model 3 electric car in the garage provided zero-emissions transport. In August 2017, Musk revealed both he and chief technology officer JB Straubel had installed the roof on their homes.

It's been a slow rollout. After a smattering of installs in California in early 2018, Musk explained at a March 2019 event that the company had struggled to roll out the roof because it had diverted resources to the new Model 3 car. Early responses were positive: Amanda Tobler, one of the first to receive a roof, told Inverse in May 2018 that she "wouldn't hesitate to do it again."

In October 2019, Musk unveiled a third-generation roof tile. This larger tile, 15 by 45 inches, was redesigned for speedier installs. While Tobler's roof took three weeks to install, Musk claimed the company would aim to install the new roofs in just eight hours. It also planned to reach an install rate of 1,000 roofs per week.

Weddle and Sons are part of this new initiative. Musk explained at the October 2019 event that it would work with third-party installers to speed up the process. This was a marked difference from how it sells cars, where it skips third-party dealerships in favor of its own stores.

The Inverse analysis – The Weddle and Sons video suggests the new approach is paying off. The new rollout hasn't been completely smooth: Electrek reported this month about a Florida installation that took over two months. But if Tesla can work with third parties to finally reach the promised eight-hour speeds, it could mean the firm meets its goal of 1,000 installs per week.

Update 10/19 5:35 p.m. Eastern time: An earlier version of this story described the price of the roof as $1,800 to $2,700 per square foot. It has since been corrected.

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