Tesla will not be alone in the solar PV roofing tile market

Apple’s success as a company under Steve Jobs’ leadership was rarely about being first to market. Rather, Apple’s most successful products so far (Macintosh, iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch) were challengers in existing product categories (personal computing, MP3 players, smartphones, tablets, wearables).

Apple’s entry into established categories was disruptive and ultimately successful due to superior design, quality, and empathy for the end user.

Tesla’s dramatic move to develop solar PV roof tiles as part of a complete system has clearly caught the attention of the building industry. However, one of Tesla’s market advantages may prove to be one of its biggest challenges: As the single-source provider for the product, many well-established potential distribution channels — through remodeling contractors, retailers, and others — are eliminated.

Which makes the following news from Scott Gibson at Green Building Advisor so very interesting:

The Forward Labs product, called Solar Roofing, looks like a direct competitor to Tesla’s Solar Roof, in which solar cells are embedded in glass-topped shingles. Tesla started taking orders for its roofing several weeks ago.

Forward Labs says that all wiring connections for the roof are made inside the attic. A roof can be composed of solar and non-solar panels, with the mix depending on the amount of electricity the homeowner wants to produce. Solar and non-solar panels look the same, with roofing available in eight colors.

Non-solar roofing — galvanized standing-seam panels — cost $8.50 per square foot. Solar portions of the roof produce 19 watts per square foot; at Forward’s list price of $3.25 per watt, that’s an installed cost of $61.75 per square foot for the solar collectors. By contrast, the estimated cost of Tesla’s active PVPhotovoltaics. Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic (PV) cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow. roofing is about $42 per square foot. (Tesla’s non-solar tiles are about $11 per square foot.) Tesla, however, has not disclosed the output of an individual tile. An analysis by PowerScout estimates that the price of energy generated by the Tesla roof is about $4.75 per watt.

What’s more? The CEO of Forward Labs claims that their product can be installed in about half the time of a conventional solar panel array.