In some ways, it is not entirely surprising that Tesla founder Elon Musk wants to reinvent the solar roof. After all, he also wants to make space travel to Mars possible.
But with the company’s recent acquisition of Solar City, and unveiling of the Tesla/Solar City sola roof, may have been asking, is it really possible? Can Musk really make solar more efficient, while also being more affordable?
For many critics, the initial answer was no. The roof Musk revealed was beautiful, yes, but the promise that it could be more efficient than traditional solar seemed impossible, because well, the shingles didn’t seem to be designed to absorb the most amount of light possible.
That was until Musk clarified just how his panels work. The words are “hydrographic coloring”. According to Musk, his solar panel uses a glass layer, and a film cover over the solar cells. When viewed from the ground, the film cover can make the panel appear to be the color of a typical shingle – such as slate or earth tone. Yet because the color of the panels is created through the films, it does not interfere with the panel’s ability to reflect sunlight.
Musk also elaborated on the glass innovations that would be used on the solar roof –many of which are also being used on Tesla’s upcoming electric car the Model 3, which is supposed to come out in late 2017. Noting that high volume glass is very inexpensive, Musk has suggested that the solar roof tile could potentially use a lot of techniques from the automotive glass business.
Lastly, Musk also announced that the merger between Tesla and Solar City would expand upon the relationship Tesla has with the Japanese-owned Panasonic. As Panasonic already makes battery cells for Tesla cars and buildings they would now work on the cells for the solar panels.
As Musk stated in an interview with Fortune, “I don’t know why nobody’s done this before. It blows my mind.”
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