With Elon Musk’s varied pursuits receiving so much attention — electric cars, batteries, rockets and tunnels — one might forget that Tesla is also a solar company. Part of Musk’s vision is for Tesla to be a one-stop destination for customers looking to generate, store and drive on zero-carbon solar electricity.
Since Tesla acquired SolarCity in 2016, the focus of the company’s solar business appears to be shifting to its Solar Roof tiles.
GTM dug into pricing details and product specs for the solar roof last May, when Tesla started taking customer orders. A few months later, the first installations came, which were then limited to Tesla employees, including Musk and CTO JB Straubel.
But, last month, photos posted to Twitter were the tip-off that Tesla’s solar roofing tiles had reached their first customers. So far, the installations appear to be limited to California.
GTM recently reached out to one of the first customers to install Tesla’s solar roof, Twitter user @Toblerhaus, to ask about the experience. (Editor’s note: Feeling a bit overwhelmed by press inquiries since her solar roof was installed, @Toblerhaus asked that GTM not use her name.)
On March 23, @Toblerhaus tweeted, “the Tesla Solar Roof is every bit as beautiful as I hoped. I feel like we’re living in the future!” One week later, she added that “after the federal kickback, total price is mid 50k. We get lots and lots of sun in San Jose, and expect to produce more than we need. The Tesla install team was outstanding.”
GTM reached @Toblerhaus via email; here’s the exchange:
Greentech Media: Why the Tesla solar roof? Was it timing — you simply needed to replace your roof anyway? You wanted to generate your own clean energy? Climate change? It was cool? What was the inspiration for opting for the solar roof?
@Toblerhaus: All of the above! We’ve wanted to go solar for ages but lived in a condominium until about 18 months ago. We reached out to a number of solar companies when we bought this place and were dismayed that no one was willing to work with us because our roof had metal shingles. Since the metal roof was already 20-25 years old, we decided we were willing to consider roof replacement to allow us to add solar.
Tesla announced that they were accepting reservations for the solar roof shortly after we came to this decision, and we put our names on the list since we knew we had the right to cancel if we changed our minds. A representative from Tesla contacted us about moving forward a couple of months later, and we were convinced that we wanted to move forward.
GTM: What is the kW capacity of the system installed? What percentage of the roof does it cover? Did you opt to install a Powerwall(s), too?
@Toblerhaus: We installed a 9.9-kW system. Forty percent of the roof tiles are solar tiles, and they are strategically placed around the roof according to a design that Tesla engineers created based on our home and location. We opted for a single Powerwall because we want to be able to have backup power in case of outage, but didn’t have a goal of storing enough to keep us off the grid for a long duration.
GTM: Tell me about the interaction with Tesla. What was the sales process like? Did you simply get an estimate online and place an order? Or did you talk to a sales rep from Tesla? What about the installation itself — any problems/delays/hiccups? How long did it take?
@Toblerhaus: Interacting with Tesla has been a positive experience. We used the online Tesla calculator to get an idea of the cost and went ahead and paid the refundable $1,000 deposit when they opened the list for reservations in May 2017. I got an email confirmation that they’d be in touch. A couple of months later, an energy consultant from Tesla reached out to let us know that they’re ready to start the process. They asked to see information about our recent power bills and sent someone out to do a site survey of our home.
After that site survey, there was a long waiting period, but our consultant periodically called to let me know that we haven’t been forgotten. I’m not sure why the delay was so long, but we finally got word that they had a plan and price for us in January 2018. We initially planned to do the installation at the end of January, but there were some materials-related delays that pushed it out to a March install.
The installation took about three weeks. We had a lot of rain during this period, so there were some days that they were extremely limited in what they could do. The team was surprised to find a cedar shake roof underneath the metal one, which meant that roof removal took longer than expected. Other than rainy weather and a surprise roof, there were really no problems of note during the install.
GTM: Any final thoughts?
@Toblerhaus: Truly, I’m overwhelmed by the attention our roof is getting, but I am proud to be an early adopter and hope to be a part of helping this technology succeed.