A Solar Roof?

I found this on Bloomberg.


I would be interested to read peoples’ comments.


“Tesla Inc. has kicked off production of its long-awaited electricity-producing shingles that Elon Musk says will transform the rooftop solar industry.

Manufacturing of the photovoltaic glass tiles began last month at a factory in Buffalo built with backing from New York State, the company said in an email Tuesday. It comes more than a year after Tesla unveiled the shingles to a mix of fanfare and skepticism.

The appeal: a sleek, clean solar product, especially for homeowners seeking to replace aging roofs. The tiles — from most angles — look like ordinary shingles. They allow light to pass from above and onto a standard flat solar cell.

Tesla, the biggest U.S. installer of rooftop-solar systems, piloted the product on the homes of several employees. The company expects to begin installing roofs for customers within the next few months.


Solar shingles will cost more than a conventional roof along with photovoltaic panels — but not “wickedly so,” said Hugh Bromley, a New York-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst. He estimates a Tesla roof would cost about $57,000 for a 2,000-square-foot house, compared to about $41,000 for terracotta tiles along with a 5-kilowatt solar-panel system. A plain-old asphalt roof with panels would run about $22,000, Bromley said.

“It may actually do well in overseas markets where solar-photovoltaic is cheap and homeowners are used to paying a premium for building materials and cars — such as Australia,” Bromley said in an email.

Tesla started production of solar cells and panels about four months ago at its Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo. New York committed $750 million to help build the 1.2 million-square-foot factory, which currently employs about 500 people. The plant will eventually create nearly 3,000 jobs in Western New York and nearly 5,000 statewide, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in 2015.”

About Neil van Dokkum

Neil van Dokkum (B. SocSc; LLB; LLM; PGC Con.Lit) Neil is a law lecturer and has been so since arriving in Ireland from South Africa in 2002. Prior to that Neil worked in a leading firm of solicitors from 1987-1992, before being admitted as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of South Africa (a barrister) in 1992. He published three books in South Africa on employment law and unfair dismissal, as well as being published in numerous national and international peer-reviewed journals. Neil currently specialises in employment law, medical negligence law, family law and child protection law. He dabbles in EU law (procurement and energy). Neil retired from full-time practice in 2002 to take up a lecturing post. He has published three books since then, “Nursing Law for Irish Students (2005); “Evidence” (2007); and “Nursing Law for Students in Ireland” (2011). His current interest is the area of disability as a politico-economic construct. Neil is very happily married to Fiona, and they have two sons, Rory and Ian.
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8 Responses to A Solar Roof?

  1. pilibinuisce says:

    This is a very good development. Power generation from solar photovoltaic has long been recognised as a clean sustainable energy technology which draws upon the planet’s most plentiful and widely distributed renewable energy source – the sun. The direct conversion of sunlight (or daylight, as solar PV does not need direct sunlight) to electricity occurs without any moving parts or environmental emissions during operation. It is well proven, as photovoltaic systems have now been used for fifty years in specialised applications, and grid-connected PV systems have been in use for over twenty years. They were first mass-produced in the year 2000, when German environmentalists succeeded in obtaining government support for a programme which resulted in more than 100,000 roofs being fitted with solar PV panels.

    Driven by advances in technology and by increases in manufacturing scale and sophistication, the cost of solar photovoltaic energy has declined steadily since the first solar cells were manufactured, and the levelised cost of electricity from PV is now competitive with conventional electricity sources in an expanding list of geographic regions. Net metering and financial incentives, such as preferential feed-in tariffs for small-scale roof-mounted solar-generated electricity, have supported solar PV installations in many countries. With current technology, photovoltaic systems recoup the energy needed to manufacture them in 1.5 to 2.5 years in Southern and Northern Europe, respectively.

    Mass production has been the principal key to reducing costs and gaining competitiveness; historically, PV was an expansive technology, partly because, for a long time, its key market was extremely small and restricted to applications in space where the main criterion is weight rather than cost. Intervention by governments has been indispensable in providing the necessary impetus to get out of the vicious circle of “no market – no mass production – no market”.

    Government financial support was first tried in Germany and Japan for what were described as “PV roof programmes”; with the first such programme being initiated in Bonn by the German Research Ministry; it financed 2,200 PV roofs, beginning in 1989. From 1994, a similar programme was conducted by the Japanese. A new German 100,000 PV Roof Programme ran from 2000 until 2003; it was actually a 300-MW PV programme that included a “zero interest rate credit” and a 12.5% subsidy. The purpose of the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) subsequently applied was to strengthen the 100,000 PV Roof Programme and enhance its productivity.

    Solar PV is now one of the most important renewable energy source in terms of globally installed capacity, with more than 100 countries using solar PV. Installations may be ground-mounted (and sometimes integrated with farming and grazing) or built into the roof or walls of a building (either building-integrated photovoltaics or simply rooftop). China, followed by Japan and the United States, is the fastest growing market, while Germany remains the world’s largest producer, with solar contributing about 7% to its annual domestic electricity consumption (in 2015).

    While it is commonly believed that the Irish weather limits the potential of solar power, the amount of solar radiation in Wexford is around 78% of the level enjoyed in Madrid, and is equivalent to the levels found in most areas of Britain, and around the same as the amount of solar radiation annually per square metre in Germany.

    As far back as 1975, in the aftermath of the large increase in oil prices during 1973 and 1974, the National Science Council (NSC) undertook a number of research projects on renewable energy sources, one of which examined solar energy. The project report, written by Eamon Lalor , concluded that the amount of available solar energy in Ireland was, on a per-head-of-population basis, the same as in France! A surprising conclusion perhaps; but, as I was working as a Science Policy Analyst in the NSC at the time, I remember clearly the results obtained by Eamon Lawlor, and the unfortunate fact that when oil prices stabilised, the research project was terminated, and the proposed research programme was never carried out.

    A couple of years ago, a report by IBM and the City of Dublin Energy Management Agency (CODEMA) pointed out that “the amount of daylight, or the solar irradiance, Dublin receives is approximately the same as that received in Leipzig, Germany, home of one of the world’s largest solar electricity plants, Waldpolenz Solar Park.” The report also concluded that “Solar PV energy is a viable power strategy due to its scalability, its easy deployment and the abundant availability of solar radiation.”

    So why is solar PV not more widely employed in Ireland ? The problem is that Republic of Ireland does not currently have a renewable energy feed-in tariff (REFIT) for small-scale roof-top solar energy. The unfortunate result of this lack of financial support is that, unlike other countries, it is not economically viable in Ireland to generate electricity from solar PV, even if the electricity generated helps to reduce your electricity bill ! Furthermore, if you care to examine your electricity bill (from whatever supplier), you will find that a very high proportion of your costs are the meter rental, the Public Service Obligation (PSO), and VAT of these and on the cost of the electricity itself. There is no incentive to reduce electricity usage, as these fixed monthly charges will then occupy an even larger proportion of the monthly bill ! Even worse is the fact that if a domestic user reduces his or her electricity usage, the user is hit with a low usage charge by Electric Ireland !

    That’s enough said for the present; thank you Neil for raising this issue ! And I will try to add another comment.


    • Margaret says:

      I concur with every word you have said Jack…the real stumbling block is the REFIT or rather lack of it…and there is also the problem that installers cannot fit a system without connecting it to the grid…regulations you see !

    • Nigel de Haas says:

      Great application for Australia and Nevada, but Ireland only looks good if you compare it with high latitudes. The global horizontal irradiance map for 2016 tells a different tale –
      Bottom line for our cool, cloudy island is that if anthropogenic climate change α (population x individual emissions) we need to roll back on all those discretionary sun holiday CO2 emissions that solar PV is unlikely to compensate for.

  2. Ronan Browne says:

    Seems a good idea. But then so did wind turbines, blanket commercial mono-species forestry plantations, cheap apartment blocks, un-serviced housing estates, building on flood plains and hotels everywhere. They all needed to be presented in a particular way so that the great uneducated (and lazy) decision-makers would pounce. But looked at holistically, each one of those is a non-runner.

    I’m not up to speed on solar (other than knowing it is responsible for massive pollution and worker-exploitation, plus it appears to not work very well) but this looks like yet another scam on which the public can lose their shirt again.

    But it seems like a good idea 🙂

    • pilibinuisce says:

      A very good comment, Ronan. Every new technology is promoted as “the answer to everything” — for example, in the 1940s and early 1950s, the Government in Britain assured the public that nuclear power would make electricity so cheap that it could be supplied free of charge: an endless supply of power ! History has proved these predictions wrong !

      Solar PV has tremendous potential, the technology is well known, the increasing efficiency of photovoltaic and the massively reduced costs of production have brought down the cost of PV electricity to where it is more competitive than coal, and may even be more competitive than gas. And when solar PV is in operation, there are no emissions to the atmosphere.

      On the negative side, the PV cells currently require some exotic and rare metals (though that might change, as I saw recently some new development of solar cells based on aluminium, one of the most common minerals in the Earth’s crust), the environmental cost of production must be taken into account, and there is some evidence that birds can be disoriented and may be harmed by mistaking large-scale ground-mounted solar installations for water surfaces. Solar farms should not be sited where glint and glare from the reflective surface affects nearby homes or aircraft (I have not seen any photos, taken from an aircraft, of sunlight reflected from a large solar farm, but I guess that it would be a problem). Solar panels which are dark in colour, and which absorb both heat and light energy, are also being developed and manufactured; and these will supply both electricity and hot water to a building.

      The best way to consider solar PV is to take a quantified examination of the entire life-cycle of a solar installation, from raw materials, to production, installation, operation and final decommissioning; and, hopefully, re-use of the materials. With the correct policies in place, my guess is that the advantages of solar PV far outweigh the disadvantages, especially when the environmental and climate disruption costs of continuing to produce power from fossil fuels are taken into account.

      Policy decisions should be evidence-based, after careful evaluation of the consequences (including social as well as economic — so that empowerment of people, giving them the ability to develop their own energy systems, and providing some degree of freedom from large-scale producers of energy, is taken into account). The problem we have in Ireland (more acutely than in some other European countries) is that decisions about energy are currently influenced by large international companies, and by political issues. This was not always the case — the roll-out of rural electrification was not done for the benefit of any large industry or sectoral interest, and neither was the construction of the hydro-electric power scheme on the River Shannon at Ardnacrusha !

  3. Puzzled Electron says:

    Musk’s video makes it clear that he is promoting off-grid solar to car charging rather than electricity export to the national grid. Your roof will fuel your car with intermediate storage in a Powerwall battery (at this stage – maybe supercapacitors next?). As such, this is clean petrol/diesel substitution, and there is no relationship to REFIT or any other subsidy and no requirement for fossil fuelled spinning reserve. You simply look at the ROI and decide whether that sways you to switch to CO2 emission free motoring.
    Of course if you still want the certainty of a backup charger from the ESB, you will forfeit the right to claim exclusively green motoring, and will rightfully be charged a premium for increasing the power rating of your electrical mains supply. Overnight charging is an electrically hungry activity, and one for which the existing distribution network was never designed. Those who are fortunate enough to afford an EV have to be prepared to bear the cost of beefing up the associated network. Socialising this cost by means of the PSO is simply a wealth transfer from the poor to the wealthy.

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