The world witnessed the “Evolution of Roofing” late last month, when Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, took the stage at Universal Studios in Los Angeles to unveil the latest concept innovations from SolarCity & Tesla Motors—Solar Roofs, Powerwall 2.0 & PowerPack 2.
While the later two are products worth mentioning and delving deeper into them, this post will primarily focus in what many are still talking about today—Solar Roofs!
Solar Roofs—its cost, feasibility and is it worth it?
Details in regards to cost of the different solar roof shingle options were not disclose during the announcement. However, Consumer Reports Magazine, got themselves to work and made an analysis of it’s own with some interesting calculations.
Based on a 3,000 square foot home, upgrading to a solar roof will cost around $100,000. A staggering figure if you ask me, but based on it’s highly durable tempered glass composition and it’s aesthetically pleasing looks, the question remains the same, is it worth it? And how does it fare vs. conventional solar panels?
Using sources from the Slate Roofing Contractors Association, the Roofing Institute and the Remodeling 2016 Cost. vs. Value Report, here are some costs based on the same size home (3,000 sq. ft) for 3 different kinds of roofing material.
Roofing Material – Cost
1) Clay Tile – $16,000
2) Asphalt – $20,000
3) Slate – $45,000
Time for a Price Fight!
Let’s entertain the idea that Solar Roofs are now available and a homeowner is looking at re-doing his/her roof and going solar as well.
Estimating an average utility bill of $2,000 per year ($166/mo.) and considering the current national electric rate increase of 4.7%, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, this homeowner is looking at paying $78,890 in the next 25 years should they decide to stay with the utility and not going solar, so all things considered there are three possible outcomes:
1) Do nothing and just re-roof:
– Clay tile: $16,000 + $78,890 = $94,890
– Asphalt: $20,000 + $78,690 = $98,690
– Slate: $45,000 + $78,690 = $123,690
2) Re-roof and install conventional solar panels to offset entire electric bill = $14,000 after tax credits ($20,000 actual system cost)
– Clay tile: $16,000 + $14,000 = $30,000
– Asphalt: $20,000 + $14,000 = $34,000
– Slate: $45,000 + $14,000 = $59,000
3) – Re-roof with a solar roof: $100,000 – 30% Tax Credit = $70,000
Looking at these numbers it seems like option 1 is out of the equation.
If you need a new roof, why not take advantage of properly designing and mounting a system that will maximize the production from your rooftop? Why wait and risk having to deal with roof penetrations and broken tiles that could potentially void the warranty of your roof?
Going back to our cost comparison, it’s really up to 2) solar panels vs 3) solar roof.
Option 2 presents the most immediate return on investment, with almost $40,000 in savings within the 25-year comparison vs. the solar roof alternative. But if Solar Roofs are as durable as they originally claim to be and could last way beyond the 50-year mark, then a key deciding factor of which alternative is best relies in the degradation rate at which the solar cells lose it’s efficiency to produce power.
A top tier-1 panel with high quality solar cells (19% or higher efficiency rate) will lose
0.5%-0.7% of it’s annual power generation. Which means that after 25 years the yield in energy production will decrease 12.5%-17.5%. It may seem like a lot but in reality it’s easy to circumvent around this issue. Simply swapping a few panels for newer and more efficient ones will bring your production back to 100%.
In regards to solar roof cells, since not much has been said in terms of efficiency rate and degradation, we will have to wait for new announcements and draw better conclusions.
But for the time being, conventional solar panels are a very safe and cost effective alternative to cut down electric costs for good. While I cannot deny the cool aspect and the pretty looks of the new solar roofs, initial costs seems prohibitable for most. Perhaps the trend will be similar as to the 2011 Tesla Roadster, market to the affluent and generate investments to fund future products we can all enjoy.
For now, let’s give it up for the defending champion and still brightest star in the horizon of clean renewable power—our favorite—The “Not So Old” Solar Panel!