Solar energy is growing in popularity across America, with about one million homes reported to have solar panels installed in 2016. The typical solar panel vendor would come out to your home and install solar panels on top of your existing roof, but Elon Musk’s company Solar City wants to change that. They are in the process of developing a light-sensitive roofing material that would completely replace a traditional roof.
Solar City calls the product “solar shingles,” and its goal is to install these shingles on five million American homes in the coming months and years. According to Popular Mechanics, Solar City’s reasons for creating this product stem from the limited lifespans of conventional shingles. About five million roofs need to be replaced or repaired each year, so for Solar City, it didn’t make sense to create a product that would be installed on top of a roof that would eventually need to be replaced. Instead of adding their product to existing rooftops, they are creating their own energy-efficient roofing material.
The biggest issue with Solar City’s solar shingles is, of course, the cost.
For their product to be adopted by mainstream America, the shingles would have to be produced for about the same price as conventional shingles. Or, to account for the increased price tag, they’d have to be considerably sturdier, in addition to the added value of providing solar energy to the household. Plus, they’d have to account for installation, maintenance and upkeep costs.
Solar City is currently in the process of merging with Tesla, another one of Musk’s many enterprises, but there’s still no projection as to when these solar shingles could hit the market. We may be a bit skeptical of their staying power and mainstream appeal—solar shingles sound expensive, and they may not hold up as well as asphalt shingles to weather and general wear and tear – but for now we’ll be keeping an eye on the development of this interesting product.