Could Solar Roofs Become Less Expensive Than Traditional Ones?

Environmental, Money Saving Tips

Solar Roofs

In light of his recent acquisition of SolarCity Corp., Elon Musk (billionaire owner of Telsa Motors) is making some bold predictions about the future of solar roofing. And unlike many of Musk’s previous bold ideas and innovative concepts, the visions he’s sharing about a clean-energy world with smart solar homes at the heart of it is generating plenty of interest and support. So, what can we expect from this latest in solar technology – particularly as it applies to the multifamily industry? Let’s take a look.

Solar roofing certainly isn’t anything new. In fact, it’s a concept that’s been around – and in practice – for decades now. But while most people generally agree that harnessing clean, solar energy in lieu of traditional means of consumption is great in theory, it’s really never taken off – at least not on a widespread basis. The main thing standing in its way, of course, is the higher costs and lower output associated with this type of roofing. In order for solar roofing to really become a viable option for the housing industry, it would need to be more affordable.

That’s precisely what Musk proposes to accomplish with this latest takeover. In fact, according to recent news reports, the finished product will purportedly cost less to manufacture and install than a traditional roof. And that’s not even counting the money solar roofing can save homeowners on their electric bill. How will this be possible? Well, according to Musk, it’s all in the actual design, which is currently in the works. Tesla will be teaming up with Panasonic Corp. to produce solar roofs that contain high efficiency cells at the lowest possible cost.

Of course, actually figuring out the logistics of such a product will certainly be a challenge, particularly since Musk’s vision for his new rooftop power system involves an entirely unique design compared to the solar roofs we’re used to seeing today. Rather than a series of panels, Musk is proposing a product that is basically one huge solar shingle. Or, as he describes it, “not a thing on a roof, it is the roof.”

What would this mean for the multifamily industry? There are savings to be had, but unless the property owner pays for tenants’ energy expenses, it won’t be in that area. Instead, there may be a case for solar roofing based on tax incentives. For example, the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is a federal policy that is currently in place providing a 30 percent tax credit for solar systems on residential properties. It is a dollar-for-dollar reduction that can be claimed against tax liability. The credit percentage steps down over a designated amount of time until it reaches a permanent flat rate of 10 percent.

In reality, while plenty of Musk’s business ventures have never quite gotten off the ground, even if this one is a raging success and all of his claims turn out to be true, it doesn’t necessarily mean much will happen any time in the near future. In fact, CapEx Roofing owner and CEO Jason Berry believes it will still likely be many years before such a product makes its way to the mainstream housing, let alone the multifamily industry.  Still, it’s certainly a story worth following because, if Musk’s predictions are accurate, the idea of a clean energy society could very well become a reality.

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