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 textured-glass tiles began last month at Tesla’s Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, N.Y., according to a statement from the Palo Alto, the Calif.-based company on Jan. 9.
It comes about four months after the plant, built with backing from New York State, started making solar panels and cells and more than a year after Tesla unveiled the photovoltaic 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 of its employees.
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.
“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.
New York committed $750 million to help build the 1.2 million-square-foot factory in Buffalo, which currently employees 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.
By Brian Eckhouse