Last Friday, Elon Musk announced a solar roof made of glass Tiles. We've been hearing about this for sometime and now we're hearing all sorts of reasons of why this won't work.
I'm skeptical of the skeptics. This is a fantastic step for the solar industry. This is Tesla creating a brand, and building excitement around what was supposed to be a compelling product. If it works, solar will no longer a commodity, but a true fixture of the home - the muscle, the skeleton and the brain of your home.
Today, solar only has a ~1% market adoption. This is after 20+ years of large inverters & bulky panels. Only in the past 4 or so years, have we gone from bulky and funky to streamlined and sleek. The timing is perfect to start testing the waters with something significantly higher performance.
Solar is a commoditized product today and sold inefficiently by sales-driven companies. It's why the industry is so heavily dependent on lead generators, because solar companies themselves cannot (and have not) generated the brand traction and recognition needed to move to a more organic sales model. The traditional solar lead-gen business will go strong for another year or so, but it will change rapidly soon thereafter.
We're already seeing shifts in the solar model because of the need for differentiation. Sungevity is selling solar as a service, SolarCity is merging rooftop solar with actual rooftops. SunPower and SunRun are looking to control ecosystems through Apple-esque Equinox and BrightPath solutions. And of course, Google is investing in energy analysis, home automation and control.
The future of solar will be through the consolidation of energy products into a new type of packaged product. The future of energy management is what this product signals.
At the end of the day, Tesla is unveiling its first product in this area. This is not a product for a mature market. This is the equivalent of Tesla’s Roadster, for the roof. With Tesla, Elon started with the roadster, a high-performance sports car, meant to prove specific tech and establish a brand. That model has taken us to today, 8 years later, to a mid-size, consumer friendly, significantly lower cost, and significantly higher-tech model 3.
Moreover, you’d think with the solar growth levels we’ve seen in the past two years alone, there would be a dominant solar brand out there - but the reality is, there’s not. For those in the solar industry, we know who the top 5 installers are. For the average homeowner, you’d be surprised how few people even know “SolarCity” - better yet, you’d be surprised how many SolarCity customers actually remember the name of their installer.
As the Roadster of rooftop solar - this is Tesla pushing a combination of proven technology into an unproven market place. The number of homes that would qualify for v1 of this is going to be small: utility bill, utility co, shading, etc. Even psychographics are going to be a huge limiter. A complete roof rebuild with a completely non-traditional roof is something wealthy tech and environmental enthusiasts will risk - not the avg. homeowner.
But…if Elon and his teams can pull this off, then v1 of the solar roof will influence many more generations of technology until we have the equivalent of a Model 3 for your roof. And somewhere along the way, they'll introduce technology that homeowners actually want to buy.
For an industry so steeped in future-tech, yet so risk averse, this is an incredibly exciting development for the world of solar.