Tesla Gigafactory Starts Production of Solar Roofs

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Tesla Inc. kicked off the production of its long-anticipated shingles that produce electricity and CEO Elon Musk claims will be a transformation in the rooftop solar industry.

The manufacturing of photovoltaic glass tiles started in December at a Buffalo factory built with support from the state of New York, said the company Tuesday. This comes over one year after the unveiling by Tesla of the shingles to much fanfare as well as skepticism.

What is appealing is a clean, sleek product, especially when it comes to homeowners looking to replace their aging roofs. The solar tiles appear to be for the most part, ordinary roof shingles. However, they allow the light to pass through onto a standard solar cell.

The company has become the largest installer in the U.S. of solar systems for rooftops, and piloted its latest product on the homes of many of its employees. The company is expecting to start installing the roofs for regular customers over the upcoming months.

The solar shingles will be more expensive than conventional roofing as they carry the photovoltaic panels, but not by all that much more, said a finance analyst on Wall Street.

The analyst estimates that a roof by Tesla would cost $57,000 for a home that is 2,000 square feet compared to approximately $41,000 for a regular terracotta tile roof with a solar panel system of 5-kilowatts. A plain asphalt roof that has panels would cost $22,000.

The same analyst said that the roof might do very well overseas, where solar photovoltaic has become inexpensive and homeowners have been used to paying premiums for cars and building materials.

Tesla began the production of its solar panels and solar cells four months ago in its Buffalo Gigafactory 2. New York’s state government committed over $750 million in aid to help the construction of the factory that is 1.2 million square feet and that at this time is already employing 500 people.

At some point in the near future, the plant will have a capacity of nearly 3,000 jobs for the western part of New York and over 5,000 statewide, said the state’s Governor Andrew Cuomo back in 2015 when the news was first released.

Solar power has seen its ups and downs across the U.S. and has yet to catch on like many had hoped it would with much of the reason being the high initial investment of the solar system.

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