When Elon Musk isn’t making electric luxury cars or proposing we go to Mars, he’s trying to get people to install more solar panels via his company SolarCity. The next big step on that front comes in the form of his solar roof tiles — small textured glass solar panels that you install instead of traditional shingles. And if Musk’s claims hold true, there might not be a reason, pocketbook-wise, to not get a solar roof. And it’s not the usual “Oh, you’ll save on your power bill” promise, either; Musk is saying his shingles are better, deal-wise, before you see so much as a watt.
There are three problems with your typical shingle, usually made of asphalt; they’re bulky, they’re heavy, and they’re fragile, meaning a fair chunk of them are destroyed just getting them from the factory to your house. This is generally off-set by the fact that they’re cheap. Musk’s pitch, though, is pretty compelling; his glass shingles are a fifth the weight, and a lot tougher. Think the glass your iPhone uses, but on steroids. So, while you’ll pay more up front, for now, the roof will last much longer, since it’s made of stuff designed to take a beating. And then, of course, there’s the fact that your roof will be chewing into your power bill; depending on the size of your roof and where you live, over the average roof life-span Musk is claiming savings of up to $100,000, which is just a bonus.
These are, of course, claims that will need to be tested in the field. But if they hold up, and it seems fairly likely that they will, it’ll be a huge step forward for solar. People can argue about climate change all day on Facebook, but you’ll never see anybody arguing with a deal.