Electric car maker Tesla has added another product to its line-up: Solar roof tiles.
As of Wednesday, customers worldwide could order a solar roof on Tesla’s website. Installations will begin next month in the United States, starting with California. Installations outside the US will begin next year, the company said.
The glass tiles were unveiled by Tesla last fall just before the company merged with solar panel maker SolarCity Corp. They’re designed to look like a traditional roof, with options that replicate slate or terracotta tiles. The solar tiles contain photovoltaic cells that are invisible from the street.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said one of the drawbacks to home solar installations has been the solar panels themselves: They’re often awkward, shiny and ugly. Buyers will want Tesla’s roof, he said, because it looks as good or better than a normal roof.
“When you have this installed on your house, you’ll have the best roof in the neighbourhood. The aesthetics are that good,” Musk said in a conference call with media.
The roof is guaranteed for the life of the home, which is longer than the 20-year lifespan for a typical, non-solar roof, Musk said. It has gone through the same hail, fire and wind testing that normal roofs endure.
Tesla’s website includes a calculator where potential buyers can estimate the cost of a solar roof based on the size of their home, the amount of sunlight their neighbourhood receives and federal tax credits. They can also put down a refundable US$1,000 deposit to reserve a place in line.
Tesla said the solar tiles cost US$42 per square foot to install, making them far more costly than slate, which costs around US$17 per square foot, or asphalt, which costs around US$5. But homes would only need between 30 and 40 per cent of their roof tiles to be solar; the rest would be Tesla’s cheaper non-solar tiles which would blend in with the solar ones.
It would cost US$69,100 to install a solar roof with 40-percent solar tiles on a 2,600-square-foot roof in suburban Detroit, according to Tesla’s website. That includes a US$7,000 Tesla Powerwall, a battery unit that stores the energy from the solar panels and powers the home. The roof would be eligible for a US$15,500 federal tax credit and would generate an estimated US$62,100 in electricity over 30 years. Over that time period, Tesla estimates, the homeowner would save US$8,500.
Tesla said the typical homeowner can expect to pay US$21.85 per square foot for a Tesla solar roof. The cost can be rolled into the homeowner’s mortgage payments and paid for over time, the company said.
Musk wouldn’t say how many orders the company expects to get this year. He expects the initial ramp-up to be slow.
“It will be very difficult and it will take a long time, and there will be some stumbles along the way. But it’s the only sensible vision of the future,” Musk said.
Palo Alto, California-based Tesla Inc is making the solar tiles at its Fremont, California, factory initially. But eventually all production will move to a joint Tesla and Panasonic Corp factory in Buffalo, New York. Panasonic makes the photo-voltaic cells used in the solar tiles.
Tesla said it will be installing equipment in the Buffalo factory over the next few months.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) said it would consider financing projects for waste to energy in Jamaica, but cautioned that the cost of doing so would have to be around US$0.12 per kilowatt hour for it to make sense to consumers.
“We could finance waste to energy,” but “at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to the cost. I think that’s a key component which I don’t know if it has been fully analysed,” said lead investment officer at the IDB, Stefan Wright.
He said that if solar energy was currently being produced at US$0.12/kWh,”it makes no sense financing waste-to-energy at US$0.20/kWh because JPS [Jamaica Public Service Company] won’t buy that.”
Renewable energy is a focus of the Inter-American Investment Corporation, the private-sector arm of the IDB which last year reorganised three of its four private-sector windows specifically to be more strategic, align with the IDB’s country strategy and become more effective in terms of how the Bank deploys private sector resources, Wright told a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on Tuesday.
“We are working with entities in Jamaica now to finance renewable energy projects,” said Wright, noting that Jamaica has done a good job in bringing more renewable energy on the grid and reducing the 90 per cent oil bill, “and we are very much interested in partnering with those entities who want financing”.
Referring to Jamaica’s main garbage-disposal sites, including the Riverton dump in Kingston, Wright said it would be good to be able to use those resources in a more environmentally friendly way, “but at the end of the day it must make sense for consumers”.
He also pointed to the Government’s efforts, announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness with the formation of an enterprise team in October last year, to manage the State’s waste-to-energy programme, contracting out of solid-waste management and collection and divestment of the Riverton City landfill.
At that time, Holness was quoted as saying that the Government had received more than 30 expressions of interests to either bid on the waste-to-energy programme or to collect solid waste or both.
“We stand ready to finance projects which come out of that,” said the investment officer, noting that after the tender process is completed, entities wishing to invest in the facility would seek financing from the IDB to make the business a reality.
However, he pointed out that one of the key requirements is that such entities engaging in such energy supply programmes must obtain power purchase agreements from the JPS.
“So we are certainly willing to help to participate in that,” he said. “We will finance any sustainable project which is helping to generate economic growth,” he added, noting that the IDB was offering loans between US$5 million and US$200 million per project, “and we don’t have any country limits now in terms of what we can finance”.
Wright said “we are looking at a number of projects and renewable energy and waste energy is something that we would certainly consider.”
General manager for the IDB’s Caribbean Country Department, Therese Turner-Jones, who also participated in the forum, said she has been to a series of renewable-energy conferences where private-sector interests offer various solutions, “and they look at the Caribbean as being ripe for investment because we’ve done so little”.
Comparing Jamaica with Hawaii, where the goal is 100 per cent renewables, Turner-Jones, noted that the US state is “almost there”.
“So it’s possible (for Jamaica) to do it. The technology exists,” she added.
JPS, which controls power distribution, is now reporting that renewables should account for around 12 per cent of its electricity production this year. Jamaica is aiming for a mix of 30 per cent by 2030.
President of the Jamaica Public Service Company, JPS, Kelly Tomblin, is rejecting claims that she’s using scare tactics to keep businesses from turning to renewable sources of energy.
In an interview yesterday on Nationwide This Morning, Chief Executive Officer of Solar Buzz Jamaica, Jason Robinson, accused JPS of using ‘scare tactics’.
This was in response to comments attributed to Ms. Tomblin in a recent Gleaner report that the company could be forced to raise electricity rates if its top customers leave the grid.
But speaking with Nationwide News yesterday, Ms. Tomblin sought to clarify the comments she made to the Gleaner newspaper.
She’s insisting she’s not using a scare tactics.
Ms. Tomblin says she would prefer companies stay on the power grid.
This, as the intermittent use of the grid is more of a burden on JPS than if a company were to be removed completely.
And, Ms. Tomblin says the JPS doesn’t build LNG plants contrary to Mr Robinson’s claim.
He’d said the light and power company has been offering to set up small LNG plants for large companies, which would also take them off the grid.
She’s also refuting his claim that JPS’s rates are going up.
Solar power is now cheaper than coal in some parts of the world. In less than a decade, it’s likely to be the lowest-cost option almost everywhere.
In 2016, countries from Chile to the United Arab Emirates broke records with deals to generate electricity from sunshine for less than 3 cents a kilowatt-hour, half the average global cost of coal power. Now, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Mexico are planning auctions and tenders for this year, aiming to drop prices even further. Taking advantage: Companies such as Italy’s Enel SpA and Dublin’s Mainstream Renewable Power, who gained experienced in Europe and now seek new markets abroad as subsidies dry up at home.
Since 2009, solar prices are down 62 percent, with every part of the supply chain trimming costs. That’s help cut risk premiums on bank loans, and pushed manufacturing capacity to record levels. By 2025, solar may be cheaper than using coal on average globally, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
“These are game-changing numbers, and it’s becoming normal in more and more markets,” said Adnan Amin, International Renewable Energy Agency ’s director general, an Abu Dhabi-based intergovernmental group. “Every time you double capacity, you reduce the price by 20 percent.”
Better technology has been key in boosting the industry, from the use of diamond-wire saws that more efficiently cut wafers to better cells that provide more spark from the same amount of sun. It’s also driven by economies of scale and manufacturing experience since the solar boom started more than a decade ago, giving the industry an increasing edge in the competition with fossil fuels.
The average 1 megawatt-plus ground mounted solar system will cost 73 cents a watt by 2025 compared with $1.14 now, a 36 percent drop, said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis for New Energy Finance.
That’s in step with other forecasts.
The solar supply chain is experiencing “a Wal-Mart effect” from higher volumes and lower margins, according to Sami Khoreibi, founder and chief executive officer of Enviromena Power Systems, an Abu Dhabi-based developer.
The speed at which the price of solar will drop below coal varies in each country. Places that import coal or tax polluters with a carbon price, such as Europe and Brazil, will see a crossover in the 2020s, if not before. Countries with large domestic coal reserves such as India and China will probably take longer.
Coal industry officials point out that cost comparisons involving renewables don’t take into account the need to maintain backup supplies that can work when the sun doesn’t shine or wind doesn’t blow. When those other expenses are included, coal looks more economical, even around 2035, said Benjamin Sporton, chief executive officer of the World Coal Association.
“All advanced economies demand full-time electricity,” Sporton said. “Wind and solar can only generate part-time, intermittent electricity. While some renewable technologies have achieved significant cost reductions in recent years, it’s important to look at total system costs.”
Even so, solar’s plunge in price is starting to make the technology a plausible competitor.
In China, the biggest solar market, will see costs falling below coal by 2030, according to New Energy Finance. The country has surpassed Germany as the nation with the most installed solar capacity as the government seeks to increase use to cut carbon emissions and boost home consumption of clean energy. Yet curtailment remains a problem, particularly in sunnier parts of the country as congestion on the grid forces some solar plants to switch off.
Sunbelt countries are leading the way in cutting costs, though there’s more to it than just the weather. The use of auctions to award power-purchase contracts is forcing energy companies to compete with each other to lower costs.
An August auction in Chile yielded a contract for 2.91 cents a kilowatt-hour. In September, a United Arab Emirates auction grabbed headlines with a bid of 2.42 cents a kilowatt-hour. Developers have been emboldened to submit lower bids by expectations that the cost of the technology will continue to fall.
“We’re seeing a new reality where solar is the lowest-cost source of energy, and I don’t see an end in sight in terms of the decline in costs,” said Enviromena’s Khoreibi.
Rooftop solar energy is becoming a financially viable way for millions of U.S. consumers to generate their own electricity — and utilities are doing everything to kill the solar boom before it gains too much traction. Utilities in states such as Florida, Wisconsin, and Nevada have tried to undermine rooftop solar at the regulatory level and in ballot measures. As a reaction, voters have fought back and beaten the efforts to squash solar energy.
The impact on residential solar companies Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA), Vivint Solar(NYSE: VSLR), Sunrun (NASDAQ: RUN), and SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR) shouldn’t go unnoticed. They’re winning the policy war against utilities, and as they do, it’ll open a larger and larger market across the country.
The election earlier this month was accompanied by a number of ballot initiatives that will impact solar energy for years to come. And for the most part, solar energy was a huge winner.
Despite utilities’ spending $26 million to pass a referendum that would have undermined solar economics in the state, Florida voters rejected the utility referendum. The state now looks like it’ll have a bright solar future.
In Nevada, less than a year after the public utility commission essentially killed the rooftop solar industry, residents overwhelmingly voted to break up Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B)-owned NV Energy’s long monopoly in the state. Customers have to be given energy choice, meaning more solar in one of the country’s sunniest states.
In the past, Wisconsin has tried to add fees to utility bills that would kill solar energy before it ever got started, but those attempts were rejected by the court.
There’s an important trend here for utilities and solar companies: When solar energy goes on the ballot or to the court, it wins. That should have every utility in the country frightened because that gives millions of customers choice regarding their energy needs.
Policy wins are important because they lay the groundwork for future innovations to take hold in energy. Today, that means rooftop solar on more than 1 million homes in the U.S. — and that number is growing quickly.
The next step will be adding energy storage to homes, something that Tesla is leading on and that Vivint, Sunrun, and SunPower are all adding, as well. As energy storage is added, customers can use more of their own energy, making net metering less important and providing more flexibility for customers.
The holy grail for renewable energy is allowing customers to cut the cord to the utility altogether. We may be a decade from that being a reality, but the more utilities add fixed fees or demand charges, the more quickly the economics of cord-cutting will become compelling. Long-duration energy-storage technologies are already beginning to be deployed, and before long, a couple of Powerwalls and a long-duration energy-storage system may be a viable option for consumers, making utilities irrelevant.
Utilities are in a tough position, having incentives to apply policies that protect short-term profits but which may undermine long-term competitiveness. It’s clear that when push comes to shove, voters are willing to overturn utility policies, voting for solar energy across the country. That has to be a concern for utilities, and it shows that the future is getting brighter for solar energy companies providing the solutions customers want.
Electric avenues that can transmit the sun’s energy onto power grids may be coming to a city near you.
A subsidiary of Bouygues SA has designed rugged solar panels, capable of withstand the weight of an 18-wheeler truck, that they’re now building into road surfaces. After nearly five years of research and laboratory tests, they’re constructing 100 outdoor test sites and plan to commercialize the technology in early 2018.
The electricity generated by this stretch of solar road will feed directly into the grid. Another test site is being used to charge electric vehicles. A third will power a small hydrogen production plant. Wattway has also installed its panels to light electronic billboards and is working on links to street lights.
The next two sites will be in Calgary in Canada and in the U.S. state of Georgia. Wattway also plans to build them in Africa, Japan and throughout the European Union.
“We need to test for all kinds of different traffic and climate conditions,” Harelle said. “I want to find the limits of it. We think that maybe it will not be able to withstand a snow plow.”
The potential fragility joins cost as a potential hurdle.
“We’re seeing solar get integrated in a number of things, from windows in buildings to rooftops of cars, made possible by the falling cost of panels,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Pietro Radoia said. “On roads, I don’t think that it will really take off unless there’s a shortage of land sometime in the future.”’