Elon Musk tweeted at the end of last week that SolarCity will begin accepting orders for its new SolarRoof product in April. The SolarRoof is not a conventional rooftop solar system. It is the roof. Glass tiles with solar cells embedded in them replace conventional roofing materials like asphalt shingles, terra cotta tiles, or slate. The entire roof can now generate electricity, not just the portion covered with solar panels. The glass tiles will be available in four styles to resemble traditional roofing materials. Customers can choose a roof that looks like ordinary asphalt shingles or one that resembles the terra cotta ceramic tiles popular in southern California. Other offerings will look like slate or wood shingles.

Tesla SolarRoof tiles

Musk maintains that the glass tiles will be up to 80% lighter than the materials they replace — not hard to imagine considering how heavy slate is. Even ordinary roof shingles weigh a lot, as anyone who has ever carried two bundles up a ladder to the roof of a three story house will tell you. The light weight is one factor Musk says will keep the cost of the SolarRoof down because they will cost less to ship. Glass is also extremely durable, which will minimize breakage along the way from factory to installation.

Prices for the SolarRoof have not yet been announced but Musk says it will cost no more than a conventional roof. Most companies like to subtract the value of the electricity their products will supply to get to the net cost to the homeowner but Musk says the new SolarRoof will be competitive without taking the value of electricity into account. Production is scheduled to begin in the summer of this year.

Many customers will want to combine a SolarRoof with a Tesla Powerwall storage battery to maximize the benefit they get from their new solar system. Part of Musk’s strategy is to introduce those who visit a Tesla showroom to the SolarRoof and Powerwall products. That is one way to reduce the cost of residential solar installations, since sales costs form a significant part of purchase price of such systems at the moment.

Musk envisions Tesla as a seamless, fully integrated solar energy company whose mission is to show people how they can stop using fossil fuels in their personal lives. The SolarRoof will generate electricity. The Powerwall will store it. Both will help keep the electric car (hopefully a Tesla) out in the garage fully charged. All the customer needs to do is select the product desired and Tesla will make it happen. Delivery, installation, insurance, a warranty, and regular maintenance will all be included in one price.

It all sounds like a recipe for success. We will keep you updated as pricing information and sales data become available.