Elon Musk unveils solar roof shingles at Los Angeles event


San Francisco: Elon Musk showcased his ambitions to make Tesla Motors Inc. a clean-energy behemoth on Friday, unveiling a new “solar-roof” product at an evening event at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California.

As the sun set, Musk told hundreds of guests gathered outside that Tesla and SolarCity Corp., the company that he chairs and which he aims to acquire, will make solar roofs that look better than normal roofs. He then showcased several houses with different roofing styles and said they were all solar, with solar panels embedded into glass shingles.

“How do we have a solar roof that is better than a normal roof, looks better, last longer,” said Musk. “You want to pull your neighbours over and say ’Check out this sweet roof.”’

Musk’s presentation was short on details about the efficiency of the solar roofs, their warranty, cost or when they will be available. The solar roof is offered in four styles: Textured Glass Tile, Slate Glass Tile, Tuscan Glass Tile, and Smooth Glass Tile — due to a variety of architectural styles.

Home batteries

The idea is that homeowners will generate electricity for their home with solar power, then store that electricity in a home battery known as a Powerwall. You can “fill up” your battery during the day, then discharge it at night when the sun sets.

Tesla’s electric car, Powerwall and solar roof are shown by Tesla Motors in Los Angeles, California on 28 October 2016. Photo: Reuters

Tesla’s electric car, Powerwall and solar roof are shown by Tesla Motors in Los Angeles, California on 28 October 2016. Photo: Reuters

Musk and Tesla chief technology officer JB Straubel have long envisioned a clean-energy future of electric cars powered by an increasingly solar grid, with Tesla’s batteries optimizing both. The company also offers much larger Powerpack systems to commercial and utility customers and has deployed almost 300 megawatt hours in 18 countries to date, according to a blog post on Thursday.

Battery-based energy storage has the potential to revolutionize electricity for the world’s poorest citizens the way mobile technology disrupted the telecommunications industry. Coupled with solar panels or wind turbines, powerful lithium-ion batteries can store energy and provide electricity for the roughly 1.3 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to electricity and face what’s called “energy poverty.”

Friday’s event is part of concerted effort to make the case for the SolarCity acquisition to investors. More details, including financial information, will be revealed 1 November, when the company has said it plans to “create a clear picture of how a combined Tesla and SolarCity will make solar and storage as compelling as electric vehicles.” The proposed merger has been controversial because Musk is the chairman and largest financier of SolarCity, and the board’s of both companies are deeply intertwined. Shareholders are to vote on the proposed merger 17 November.