Feature Friday: A Solar Roof
I think the product that blew me away the most this year is the Tesla Solar Roof. The idea that a regular looking roof tile could generate the solar power you need for your home and car is just great. And though I haven’t seen them in person, they look great on the web.
We own Tesla’s cars. We are in line to buy their Powerwalls. And I hope to build our next roof out of their roof tiles.
I love the entire vision. It’s great.
“So the basic proposition will be: Would you like a roof that looks better than a normal roof, lasts twice as long, costs less and—by the way—generates electricity?” Musk said. “Why would you get anything else?”Wow, nice pitch
“Nice pitch”, LOL, that’s a pun.
I agree, Fred. Solar is becoming more popular in my area in California, but I don’t care for the traditional installation appearance and impact. I was excited when I saw Musk’s new concept. I’d love to install it for my next roof.
The genius here is of course that the play is not roofing. It is creating an ecosystem for an electric self supported lifestyle including transportation.I’m with you.Btw–my second paid journalism job was writing for Citizens for Solar Washington as a stringer so I go way back and been a lifelong interest.
It is beautiful roofing. If you combine it with powerwalls and a backup generator if you have a car and not a long commute, you could be off the grid.If you combine with low financing, and the style……the payback must be pretty quick. No electric? Let’s say $250 a month, no gasoline, let’s say $200 a month add back in some propane for backup generator and maintenance you are at $4k+ a year, maybe as high as $8k. That means in around 15 years you are right into the bonus. No different than if you pay off your house in that period.
Probably not fully off the grid, if you drive electric cars and convert to electric heating. Most people use 1/3 energy for powering house, 1/3 for commuting (gasoline), and 1/3 for heating house (usu. natural gas). Solar roof will cover your current electricity needs, but if you also drive a tesla to work and decide to put in an electric heat pump to heat the house, you will need much more energy than your roof can provide. For that reason Musk forecasts that we will always need utility companies, but in the future they will get power from solar rather than burning coal/oil/gas.
Elon Musk is my favorite founder, bar none, because he does this: invention by first principles.Most of his peers in SV are incrementalists but Elon does this thing where he INTEGRATES scientific innovation with an artistry that sets him apart and enables quantum leaps forward.I’d say he and Steve Jobs are two examples of Da Vincian methodology at work and play.* https://www.youtube.com/wat…
Invent from first principles, market (including form factor / user design) from analogy. We’re excited about these because they still look like roof tiles, even though they don’t need to look like that from a first principles point of view.
Exactly, the artistry is in analogy.In Nat Lang AI, the focus has been on scientific form structures of the grammar and engineering the probabilistic approximations of words over vector spaces — such as done by Google, Microsoft, FB, IBM Watson.However, the meaning and understanding of language is in the analogies and perceptual resonance.That’s the intelligence chasm between humans and machines.
I was struck by the movement of Elon’s eyes in this video. It’s as if, as he looks away they are sorting all the info in his brain and making it accessible to the interviewer, then he looks to the right and words come out…just interesting how the brain and eyes work 🙂
Maybe this is what goes on inside Elon Musk and Steve Job’s brain, AT THE SAME TIME…* https://uploads.disquscdn.c…Einstein’s brain: https://uploads.disquscdn.c…Everyone else: https://uploads.disquscdn.c…https://uploads.disquscdn.c…
When people think their eyes move: http://www.simplybodylangua…It is why you wear sunglasses when playing poker. Good players easily read your eyes.
Damn as in you mean you didn’t know this? That is a very basic page. There are many, many, many more “tells” As in tell you what and how the person is thinking.
As I get more experienced in life and business, sure, I understand body language better and better, but still, it’s fascinating and scary that people can “easily read your eyes.”
Many of us do. It is why poker is such a great game. Fred said his investing is like poker: http://avc.com/2004/11/the_…
Yup, poker tests your intellect, your emotions, your tolerance for risk, and how you handle the after effects (win or lose)
What I like most about him is his calmness, he always seems so peaceful even those days when a spaceX rocket crashes. Truly resilient entrepreneur. The other is his apparent detachment from money, which I guess make his investors nervous. Maybe this is a consequence of the ‘reasoning from first principles’ approach.Mind freed from dogma. Awesome.
Calmness can mask nuclear activity in the mind, lol.Fred Wilson on what Trump means for startups: “If there is anything that investors hate, it is uncertainty.”Uncertainty is about not being able to “pattern recognize” or probability correlate the data points collected. It’s also about data points being sparse or missing all together.In first principles reasoning, probability is the first thing that goes out the window.Einstein being an example of a conscientious objector to probability. https://uploads.disquscdn.c… https://uploads.disquscdn.c…Yes, I have an extensive list (over 20) of objections to probability. Lol.
I would add that when one is in a rush everyday a lot of low frequency data points are missed, it takes some form of meditation or calmness or even some slack to capture those signals. He has that.
The high frequency points are all the “likes” and retweets.The low frequency points are the “Long Tail”.The data points within the probability Bell Curve are the white swans we’ve already spotted, keep seeing and keep recording.The data points beyond the probability Bell Curve are the black swans that the Elon Musks and Steve Jobs can see by applying first principles invention.The black swans beyond the Bell curve are what interest me. https://uploads.disquscdn.c…
His ability to handle and make decisions with facts that are lacking certaintly is remarkable.
Awesome biography, if you haven’t read it.
Thanks, Rich.There’s the term “tiger mother” and it could be that Musk’s dad was a “dragon father”. There’s a great infographic that summarizes his life here:* http://fundersandfounders.c…
Twain, can’t tell you how much I love that video. As a former student of physics who left the field upon graduation to join the world of business, I have been flabbergasted by this phenomenon, the same way Musk describes. In physics, when diving into counter-intuitive areas, we learn (over and over) to approach the problem from first principles and reason out what the answer must be, however non-intuitive the answer is. Upon joining the business world, it was shocking to me how rare that approach to problem solving is. Everyone does reasoning by analogy, often without realizing it. Trying to coach colleagues into reasoning by first principles when approaching new problems is like trying to teach them a new language. It’s a struggle. It absolutely does not come naturally to people. Even more than that, they will actively reject following that approach when suggested.
I’m with you, Rob. I do first principles every time.That may have to do with my training in chemistry and studying physics right up to university where my subject was maths.In the sciences, we always assume there are plenty of unknowns and as-yet unobserved and unmeasureds. We’re aware there are tools that’ve been built by people before us but we’re also free to make our own tools.We don’t think in terms of, “Oh, well, instead of the word “like” we’ll use a thumbs-up instead. And that’s innovation.”First principles people are the difference between us still using candles and us having lightbulbs.The smartest business people are the ones who enable and empower the first principles people to do their magic.The way to get the less smart business people round to first principles thinking is to give them a white sheet of paper, a pencil and a pair of scissors and ask them to make something from that that can sell.Whoever makes the origami pop-up card with the words “LOVE” that can convert into a paper aeroplane with the V as the nose of the plane is a first principles thinker, :*).
This is awesome… I’ve giving an innovation presentation in Minneapolis on the 1st… and my working title is “Innovation is what happens on the way to the future.”I love the exercise of future mapping. Divide a whiteboard into three sections – biggest in the middle.On the far right, list everything that you believe the future can be. For Musk’s world, it might be: Self driving cars / electric cars are common place / lower vehicle accidents / dramatically lower energy costs / etc.On the far left, list the current state of the world. Few Hybrid engine cars / accident rates XX/1000 vehicles / high energy costs/ etc.In the middle, start to imagine everything that needs to come true to get to the other side.Prototypes -> Mass Adoption, etc.Now fill in the blanks – connect the dots – what would need to happen in between all these steps? Drive down costs / Mass appeal / Home energy storageRinse and repeat…Along the way, he came up with the Tesla, the Powerwall, the roof…Would love to see his whiteboard…
We had solar at our place up in Grand Marais for years.
I’m also intrigued by the V3 Solar Spinning Cells that supposedly would generate 20x more energy than Flat Panels. https://uploads.disquscdn.c…
surface area multiplied by exposure time?
Something like that. The flat panels have limited tilting whereas these ones can collect energy at any angle.
Our other reference point for cyclonic spins. https://uploads.disquscdn.c…
Minimize surface dirt / maximize energy generation. Dirt and dust films can dramatically decrease maximum potential of each tile. Issue especially in desert areas for big solar generation plants.
Yes, and the desert installations kill a lot of wildlife.
Ooh, wait until carbon nanotubes get [email protected]:disqus — Bucky balls at work. https://uploads.disquscdn.c…
Is their main purpose to make energy travel further or more efficiently?
Both.The really exciting potential is in the liquid crystal version whereby it can transit between insulation and conduction.https://uploads.disquscdn.c…I keep tabs on materials science because some of it could fundamentally change Quantum Computing and chip structures. We’d move from binary logic Von Neumann and Turing machines into who knows what?!The liquid Terminator / sentient AI is not entirely out of the realms of possibility.
You are a commenting encyclopedia 😉
HA! My hiking friends are convinced I’m secretly a cyborg.Childhood fascinations with science and art combined with a good memory for things I’ve seen and read is lots of fun.
Solar-powering will also be in our clothing … It would be super-cool if wi-fi meshes could also be in clothing … Imagine not needing wires or batteries to charge the wearables that connect us to the Cloud.#gohumaningenuity* https://www.youtube.com/wat…
Thank GOD, Google didn’t come up with this idea. Otherwise they would own the ‘virtual grid’ (internet) and the power grid. Total control of world power.
What’s the ROI on this?
Supposedly it costs less than a traditional roof. So infinite
incredible.In a world where our VP elect denies the existence of dinosaurs while going all in on “fossil Fuel” deals…..ftw.
so Pence does not exist? I suspected it all along. Trumpism, undiluted.
I think Musk said it was “less than a traditional roof plus electricity.” Either way, I love the idea and hope that the economics can work for everyone (even those in the Northeast). I only wish this was available nine years ago when we replaced our roof.
He originally said “less than traditional roof + electricity”, but yesterday he provided an update. From Bloomberg: Tesla’s new solar roof product, he proclaimed, will actually cost less to manufacture and install than a traditional roof—even before savings from the power bill. “Electricity,” Musk said, “is just a bonus.”https://www.bloomberg.com/n…
Wow – hadn’t seen that. Thanks for the link, although his tiles are being compared to slate and terra cotta… Will be interesting to see pricing and electrical output.
I don’t think infinite because it will cost more than an asphalt roof.No brainer if true? Yes.I too if I was building a new house would put these on, look great, no asphalt, lasts twice as long, looks as good as slate or tile and make power without the ugly panels and all of their attachment apparatus?Totally.
Roof On Investment?
You had to top it off!
Jim’s got this one covered 😉
No leakage of humor here.
This part of the discussion has peaked.
Better that than in the gutter
This is interesting, but his global internet plan is as well, global internet needs a globally-transactable currency. If he makes his beam-stearing tranceiver an open platform it means there will be versions of it worldwide, including places oposed to the open internet. The only way to obtain service will be with transactions that bypass government influenced and controlled banking infrastructure. You peers are chasing IoT, Musk is already far past that.
Looking bright and sunny.
in the UK the government recently approved the building of a new nuclear power station. the official cost estimate is GBP 18 billion. i wonder how many Tesla solar roof tiles that would pay for?
“The sun provides more than enough energy in just one hour to supply our planet’s energy needs for an entire year.”so when the oil runs out (or becomes uneconomic to drill) will equatorial regions become the new power elite… of the Solar World Order?
Great Hollywood script in that there comment.
Could be the plot of the next Bond film.
Fortunately, solar is still plenty productive north and south of the tropics (of cancer and capricorn). The power of the sun is quite diffuse, which is part of the beauty. Clean, decentralized, locally harvestable energy source.
Agreed – Musk has done it again. Truly awesome! Very exciting.
What is the cost compared to a regular roof?We have a lot of trees, do you have to chop?
According to Musk it will be less expensive primarily because it is claimed that the cost of shipping the tiles is less. This doesn’t take into account installation costs and or durability over time or maintenance (well presumably he is including installation costs). And at what scale for manufacturing do the numbers work? People replace roofs probably every 15 to 30 years. Nobody is going out to replace a good roof with this unless they are needing a new roof. Installation would include hooking the roof tiles up to the system that converts and stores the power. Plus the specialized labor that would be needed to install it. This is not standard ‘prison grade’ labor that typically is working on roofs. As a homeowner that would be a target user I have a host of questions about the product that I can’t find any answers to (obviously because it’s not for sale).Quite frankly the product looks good (keeping in mind they are showing the equivalent of a high end tile not a standard asphalt roof.) But there is no question that Musk is following a very Jobsian “reality distortion field” in his marketing claims. It sounds to good to be true.
Thanks. We just put a roof on this Fall. It was app 30 years old. Everyone one told us we’d have to chop or top off some trees to do solar. We opted for the trees.
We have trees all around our house as well. Very particular about not cutting any trees unless they present a danger to the house. (The trees are nice enough to have to deal with the corresponding woodpecker problems). Trees, as you know, will tend to lower the energy costs in the summer by providing shade and cutting down on the sun baking the house. Even on the hottest days the house is nice and cool. The utility costs in the house aren’t really that bad and further we don’t plan to stay there forever.
Understand he is comparing the price of a slate roof and the durability of an asphalt roof.That isn’t me saying this isn’t great, It’s just that is what he is comparing. Yes, I know what a slate roof costs, and I would not bet against that he can’t get it down to that. (and you need very skilled labor to put on slate or metal) But understand those roofs last 200 years.Now an asphalt roof costs a tiny fraction of those roofs but only lasts 20 years.If you can get a roof to last 40 years, it looks great and produces electricity, that is a big win.
Understand he is comparing the price of a slate roof and the durability of an asphalt roof.To me you have to follow the money. He made this announcement prior to the vote on the Solar City deal.In the fog of war nobody sweats the ‘small stuff’. Even Fred in a comment said:Supposedly it costs less than a traditional roof. So infiniteThat said I do believe that people will pay a premium (the only question is how many) because it will make them feel good to be green as if they are doing the right thing by the world. The question is how many people can afford an expensive roof and are in a position both financially and geographically to buy one of these in the near future.
I would pay the premium for a new beach house in a second. I think asphalt shingles are ugly same for panels.Get a powerwall and a backup generator? You are off the grid. With today’s interest rates? I estimate you are whole in 15 years. That’s 25 of pure bliss.
Any ideas when this tech will be generally available? I did some searching and didn’t find any date commitments. (Bummer for us because we just recently re did our roof and added solar panels, but perhaps solar city will have some kind of upgrade deal.)
Love the solar roof idea. I have seen ideas with solar film that can be applied to skyscrapers that looks pretty cool. I have heard the Powerwall is nice, but not realistic from people in the alternative energy space. Was talking to a PhD that worked on battery storage at Argonne about it. He said the Powerwall’s storage would degrade over time-and that right when you were hitting the payback period financially on it you’d have to replace it. http://www.netenergytes.com/ this one might work better.I am a big fan of solar in an unbundled format. I am not a fan of solar in place of nuclear plants.
My favorite founder. He is a beacon of hope for humanity.
I want to add something about Tesla and Musk’s power to inspire young people.I live in Brooklyn and we got rid of the car we owned a few years ago for many reasons. A couple weeks ago I was on a bike ride with my son in Red Hook and he asked if we could go to the Tesla showroom. I had no idea he was interested in cars or Tesla.Below is a photo I took of my son sitting in a Tesla. The smile speaks volumes. He know all about both Musk and Tesla, including the technology, which heretofore I did not know. The ability for these new technologies to inspire young people to get into engineering, not dissimilar to the role the space program played in 60s, struck me hard. So a connection to the #CSForAll topic which is sometimes a topic here.(And thank you to our host for allowing us to say with a straight face “Oh, yes, we have a friend who has a Tesla and he loves it!”)https://www.instagram.com/p….
Agreed! So inspiring
i am so happy to oblige 🙂
Can’t wait to get those (well convince my parents to get them). They’ve been considering getting a new solar roof installed. In Mass, the incentives are quite good, but they were always put off by the looks – this changes everything and makes you home still feel like a home – less like a science experiment. Will go great with the new Tesla Model 3 I convinced them to pre-order as well 😛
CONTRIBUTORS:we are supporters of Elon Musk and his vision regarding alternative ways to save this planet.When you think with your head before your heart you read tea leafs differently.The street is looking for execution on those ideas. That will require seeking more capital by lessening equity. Tesla will need to borrow more money on unproven products. Blind faith. Elon has earned it. Wouldn’t doubt him.
LOVE THESE. Next up is making panels which come with your fridge to connect to your roof or exterior wall. And prob AC too. they suck tons of power.
There are few I would consider true visionaries, (I’m afraid the term is used too loosely today) but undoubtably, EM is in this rare class. His ideas alone are such a threat to entrenched industries (auto, energy, retail/service distribution and space), and they are reshaping everyones outlook of what the future will behold.Easy to see, he’s heaps ahead and solar is finally positioned to scale.
Let us not forget the satellites that will beam down fast internet and use the driverless cars as repeaters to provide ubiquitous coverage of really fast internet.
For anyone who wants to deeply nerd out on the tech, http://www.eevblog.com/foru…
I get a kick out of this story in today’s WSJ about Buckinham Palace getting a 10 year $450 million renovation.In particular:Solar panels will be fitted to the roof as part of the overhaul to make the building more efficient.http://www.wsj.com/articles…… https://uploads.disquscdn.c…
Remembering the effect the Hurricane Sandy had on you (@fredwilson:disqus) and other New Yorkers, and the difficulty of installing back-up generators in urban New York, Powerwalls make a lot of sense for back-up energy.
Fred, sorry, but in this case, Elon is fooling most people. This is not a product. It was a smoke & mirrors dog and pony show to justify the acquisition of SolarCity into Tesla.SolarCity was growing 80% year over year until 2015, when consumersgot too smart to buy SolarCity’s flagship product of the “20 year solar-lease”. In the last 4 quarters, SolarCity’s YoY growth fell from 80% to negative 10% and their margin shrank by almost half.Their market share went from 34% down to ~20%. If they had stayed independent for a few more quarters, I think their margin would have halved again. And in the best case scenario, their sales would have stayed flat. Elon did not want a stain on his collar, so he folded the company under his mothership.The sad thing is – Elon’s dog and pony show worked almost the same way Trump got elected – by making some audacious statements and wowing the masses by the craziness of their ideas.Who knows what really happened behind the scenes to get that acquisition approval (of SCTY by TSLA) for something that should not have been approved. Below is my take.But, first, my own disclaimer: I have been in tech all my adult life. I built (and sold) a leading internet company. After that, I got into solar. I am on the board of a number of leading solar companies. I respect Elon Musk a lot. I think he is the best among of all Silicon Valley entrepreneurs today. I am also thankful for SolarCity for accelerating the entry of solar into the mainstream. And, I drive a Tesla and love it. I think Tesla is an amazing product just like iPhone was when it first came out.Having said that, I always had a doubt on the validity of SolarCity’s business model (of capturing the ~60% tax benefits via various government incentives) and pushing “solar lease” product to less than well-informed consumers.Now, for the curious readers, here is a quick lesson on the history of the US residential solar market.In the 2007-2009 era, a number of the leading VCs funded companies like SolarCity, SunRun, Sungevity,… These companies figured out a way to further accelerate solar’s growth by creating these 20 year solar lease and PPA products powered by solar tax equity funds. The funds got the tax benefits, made 20+% IRRs. Usually in and out in 5years. SolarCity et-al kept the revenue stream from year 5 to 20… with a 10 yr renewaloption at year 20.At first, homeowners loved these products. Reason: Most homeowners were scared of owning the solar systems. They did not understand how they worked. What if it broke? Would it be eay to fix, etc? So they loved it when SolarCity said, “We will own and maintain the panels for 20 years and we will sell you the electricity at a 20-30% cheaper rate for 20-30 years.” It was a no-brainer and zero-down way of going solar.And as long as the SolarCity tax equity fund owned the assets, there was free money coming from the government. And a lot it. The tax benefits in most cases were 60%+ plus of the asset value. GAAP accounting made it look like SolarCity was making a 30% net margin on there sales. It all depends on the long term Operation and Maintenance costs if these profits will be realized real or not… But let’s assume the math is correct.What put a stop at this amazing run was the proliferation of “solar loan” products. After a few years, consumer got smarter and more knowledgeable. They learned that solar systems are super simple products. They almost never break. They have no moving parts. In most cases, they run for 20-30 years with no issues. And, in the rare cases, when issues come up, it will not cost more than 10% of the value of the asset valueto fix it… Once consumer awareness of products increased, consumer wanted to own the systems themselves and get the tax benefits themselves.In my case, for my California home, I got a quote from SolarCity. It would have saved me about 6 years of electricity costs over 20 years. I bought my own system got my tax rebates, and I ended up getting a 3 year payback. In other words, over the next 20 years, I will save 17 years of electricity costs (instead of 6 years).The fact of the matter is – installing a solar system is really not that different than installing a hot water heater or an HVAC system. It is essentially part of the construction and building materials trade. And SolarCity did not bring anything new to the table other than a financing scheme that helped tax equity investors (like Google, WellsFargo, GoldmanSachs, etc…). Once consumer got whiff of the scheme they started not falling for it anymore, and SolarCity had to tack course into selling “solar loan” products from otherplayers… where their margin shrank by a huge percentage.As for how this merger deal got approved, that is still a question for me. In the times we live now, there are less and less secrets. The Donald exposed some of the unfair structures of our rigged political system. Maybe some high level insiders from Tesla and SolarCity will out Elon on how he got that approval passed…As for the smoke & mirrors product he pitched to make the merger happen, I see tons of issues. But what is more important to note is how inconsistent it is with prior acquisitions of SolarCity, such as Silevo, the Buffalo based module manufacturer, and ZepSolar, the racking product.This new product is yet another solar product promise from the SolarCity team, and I believe that it will fade out in the next few years… (just like Silevo and Zep)… Btw, hereis an article from GreenTechMedia on Elon’s smoke & mirrors product:https://www.greentechmedia….My guess is that SolarCity will stop reporting “installed MW numbers” now that it is under Tesla. If they do, I will be very surprised if they can even keep their sales flat.
Gloomy forecast but good info. Thanks
Nice Feature Friday Post, could also be a little Fun Friday w/ Elon.1. Roofing shingles – It been done before…Companies like Dow – have had these in the marketplace for last 5+ years…recently announced they are going disco -2. I recently saw that the Tesla/Solar city deal did finally gain shareholder approval – I wish him very well on making this work3. Integrated Shingles is a different sale / different customer – you need to find someone who is building a new house, or someone that wants solar and thier roof needs replacing …vs just installing some Panels on the back side of my house.4. Powerwall – version 2. Fred – Assuming you installed solar panels on your LA home.A. I think this will sell a lot outside of the US where …in some counties where the grid is not as stable as ours in US,B. Ver 2 is a nice product – has built-in inverter- integrated within the unitC. If you lived off-grid – then this would be a product you needD. For me thought about it for load shifting – my CT based utility just changed us to time of Use – peak/ off peak – ran the numbers – back of envelop – did not seem to have good pay backE. Thought it would be great in lieu of Backup Generator ( we just installed a 20kW- whole house genset) …but worried if you were concerned about a long outage – this would not help…Instead – I want to see if they have any solution – that integrates /works w/ home generator, Re: Think Power wall = large UPS, provides power when grid goes down, defers Generator from starting – while battery powers house….and then when a certain battery millestone is hit, it fires up the generator – to power the house and charge the power wall (My concern is 20kW – is larger than I need for powering the lights …F. Owning a Tesla Car …and using the Battery in the car like the Powerwall – s/b a way to wire that…and have the wall mounted charger also act as an inverter…5. Owning a Tesla car – Yes feels like teh Apple experience – out of box, Apple store, Genius bar etc, – it is a different selling/buying proposition/experienceIt pissies my off that some states are baring Tesla from opening showrooms in their states – I can see possibly Michigan…but why in the great state of CT?PS – I placed my $ 1,000 deposit on a model 3.I am rooting for Elon!
I noticed that Tesla dropped off my index this year. I did a little digging to find out why, and I understand that he has decided to forego the patent process. I’m not sure whether or not this was wise, however I understand the motivation to avoid costly litigation. My concern is that they will have little way of protecting their inventions from competition moving forward, and that may or may not be an issue for Musk. I believe it should be an issue for investors.
Are you building with it? What?