Solar Panels becoming Indistinguishable from Traditional Roofs


Rachel Riddle – Week 10

I believe the transformation towards sustainability goes beyond implementing current responses to global change, and the more fundamental and innovative long-term transformations are needed in order to move towards a lasting sustainable future. This includes a significant shift in the way conventional structures are built in order to reduce their impact on the environment, and I believe implementing fully-integrated solar roof systems into houses is a step in the right direction.

 Many people are hesitant to incorporate solar energy into their homes because of the cost, capacity factor, and aesthetic appeal; however, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk unveiled a range of textured glass tiles, styles including Tuscan, Slate, Smooth, and Textured, that include solar cells that are indistinguishable from traditional roofs. The tiles have a special coating, series of micro louvers, on them that prevents viewers from seeing the solar cells at ground level, while the passage of sunlight is still permitted from overhead.  These tiles will also be integrated into Tesla’s Powerwall 2 home solar battery solving the capacity factor issue by producing all of the energy needed for one day, and “Musk claims that the solar roof could cost less than than the installation of a traditional roof combined with the cost of electricity from the grid (archdaily).”

My immediate concern with these tiles is the strength aspect, and I’m curious to see how they will respond to the elements, especially hail and snow. Since Tesla is known for being extremely innovative and technologically advanced, it would be interesting to see if they could incorporate technology to better respond to weather and climate like adding heat to melt snow for example. After some further research, I found that Tesla performed a drop test, and Musk stated that the fully-integrated solar roof system is “never going to wear out, it’s made of quartz, it has a quasi-infinite lifetime (Wired).” I find it extremely exciting that Tesla has created such an appealing, affordable, and seamlessly integrated solar roof that I believe will become irresistible in the future hopefully resulting in every roof incorporating solar power.





  1. Blog post #11 I found this article to be quite interesting too. I really like what Elon Musk to better change the environment around us. His inventions are revolutionary and help bring us to a better place in society reducing energy and innovating new techniques. He is really pushing the boundaries with innovation. I believe there is a video on the internet of them demonstrating the strength of the tiles. The showed a side-by-side of the new solar panels being struck with various things and the materials seemed to hold their own quite nicely. The test of strength compared tradition tile roof materials with a drop test. I agree with you that his main intention was for it to look better and last longer and cost less. They studied Terra Cotta, clay tile, and slate tile next to each other and the Tesla Glass held its own pretty good. I have linked the video below:

    Very good analysis and I agree with you on pretty much everything. I like how you mentioned that it is integrated with Tesla’s Powerwall invention. The work he is doing certainly is a step in the right direction.

  2. bmwarch

    Bringing up the topic of solar cells as a possibility for inclusion on all types of construction projects touches on another sensitive issue that pertains to materials innovation in typical residential building sectors. The perception of a house is too concrete for many people to accept any alterations, even when the users and the environment benefit from moving away from the norm. There are building codes that forbid material products and even traditional photovoltaics that are innovative because they supposedly detract from the appearance of the neighborhood. There are many different forces at work and to simplify it as simply aesthetic is an ignorance of many of the different issues that solar power faces (Los Angeles Times) but it cannot be dismissed as one of the problems this innovation is facing.
    Big names like Elon musk have sidestepped this issue by passing their “new” innovation, by disguising something that people already incorporate into their buildings around the world. Arguably this redesign of solar cells sends a message towards innovation that construction is unwilling to welcome innovation because often these processes change the perception of what we consider a typical house.
    Elon Musk has lofty goals and if even a fraction of them are realized the man could save the world many times over, but camouflaging a sustainable system to conform it to current building standards is a dangerous path to go on when the next new sustainable feature may be incompatible with current building appearances.
    – Blake Weaver week 11

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