This week sees the completion of the deal for Tesla to take over SolarCity, creating a company that captures energy from the solar tile on the roof to feed the home battery and the electric car. But SolarCity is not the first into the market for solar tiles and shingles in the US, and there are pitfalls.
Pricing is very much one of the challenges as solar energy goes mainstream. Elon Musk, founder and chief executive of Tesla, says that the cost of the more rugged glass-based solar tiles will fall to less than that of traditional tiles as a result of lower transportation costs and damage even if the cost of the photovoltaic cell is higher.
That is one of the key factors, says Oliver Koehler, founder and chief executive of New York-based SunTegra (formerly Integrated Solar Technology, IST).
“Solar shingles have been around for many, many years but typically they have had issues with cost or not professionally developed and supported, so there were issues out in the field,” he said. “Our vision was to provide an integrated product at a reasonable price point.”
“I used to be a product manager at BP Solar and SunPower and I always felt there was a need for something different in the market – the industry has standardised on solar panels which is a practical solution but now that solar is bigger and goes mainstream people don’t like how solar panels look,” he said. “So I left SunPower in 2012 and looked to develop different types of solutions, especially as crystalline solar cells are essentially modular.”
There is demand for the solar tiles at the right cost, he says. “We have both a solar tile and a solar shingle and we sell mainly in California and a few states in between, especially Colorado, and three quarters of home owners prefer to have