[Note: This item comes from reader Randall Head. DLH]
Tesla Unveils its New Line of Camouflaged Solar Panels
By Jack Stewart
Oct 28 2016
Ever the showman, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to the stage at Universal Studios in LA this evening promising to make solar sexy. To that end, he unveiled a range of textured glass tiles with integrated solar cells that are nearly indistinguishable from conventional tiling, along with a sleek update to the company’s energy-storing Powerwall.
A couple hundred invited guests, mostly Tesla owners, ooh-ed and ahh-ed as Musk revealed that a row of suburban American houses on Wisteria Lane—the old set of Desperate Housewives—were all, in fact, topped with solar roofs. Each house’s old roofing material had been stripped away, and replaced with one of four new styles of solar tile. From the street, it was virtually impossible to tell; the roofs retained a variety of traditional looks, from textured slate shingle to terra cotta tile.
Musk said the secret to the tiles’ appearance is a special coating that becomes more or less see-through depending on your viewing angle. He described it as a series of micro louvers that work like a privacy screen on a laptop, and said the company is working with 3M on the tech. The effect is dramatic in person. From shallow angles, the tiles appear nontransparent. But as your viewing angle approaches 90 degrees, the underlying solar cell becomes more and more visible. The result is a tile that permits the passage of sunlight from overhead, but still looks opaque to anyone at ground level.
For those concerned about the strength of a roof made of glass tiles, Musk showed the audience footage of a drop test to demonstrate that the glass was tougher than materials like clay and slate. “It’s never going to wear out, it’s made of quartz, it has a quasi-infinite lifetime,” Musk said.
“We need to make solar panels as appealing as electric cars have become,” Musk said. He wants to make every roof solar, by making it irresistible. “It needs to be beautiful, affordable, and seamlessly integrated. If all of those things are true, why would you go any other direction?” Why, indeed. Musk makes a strong case, but it’s one he only partially supported this evening; Tesla’s panels certainly look good, but Musk provided no details on pricing, availability, or the installation process.