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Tesla moves into solar panel business

Home inversion: Tesla’s new Powerwall 2 unit will be able to store more energy and features a built-in, fully-integrated inverter.

Upgraded Powerwall and Powerpack units to support Tesla’s new solar panels

Tesla logo31 Oct 2016

By TUNG NGUYEN

TESLA is continuing its push into the sustainable energy market with the introduction of its new Solar Roof, designed to hide the typically unappealing look of a traditional solar panel.

The new technology was revealed by Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk in Los Angeles on the old set of the Desperate Housewives television show – whose houses were retrofitted with the Solar Roof technology – and features a unique design that hides its sunlight absorbing solar cells beneath one of four roof-like patterns.

Available in Tuscan, Slate, Textured and Smooth, the tiles feature a layer of tempered glass on top, protecting the high-efficiency photovoltaic cells and giving Telsa’s Solar Roof its near-invisible form.

Tesla compared its own glass tile against a traditional terracotta, clay and slate tile in a weight drop test and its own tile was the only one to remain intact – albeit with a few cracks and a large dent in the middle.

According to Tesla, “the goal was to create the most beautiful and efficient roof ever – one that would make homes look better while reducing the cost of electricity”.

During the announcement, Mr Musk said he wanted make solar energy more attractive to customers and designing an invisible solar panel was crucial to that.

“The key is to make solar look good,” he said. “We want you to call your neighbours over and say ‘check out this sweet roof’.”

Mr Musk also hinted in a tweet that the Solar Roof technology would likely make its way into Tesla’s future all-electric vehicles.

“Solar glass tiles can also incorporate heating elements, like a rear defroster on a car, to clear roof of snow and keep generating energy,” he said.

Coinciding with the announcement of the Solar Roof was the introduction of the Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2 units, upgrades to Telsa’s electric energy storage solution.

The second-generation Powerwall now utilises a larger 14 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, up from a 7kWh capacity in the first-gen, but still has the same peak 7kWh power draw.

Tesla has also included a liquid thermal control system, integrated invertor and new software, as well as reducing its physical size in the Powerwall’s latest iteration.

The price of the new Powerwall has also jumped up from $US3000 ($A3939) to $US5500 ($A7223).

Tesla’s Powerpack – a commercial-level Powerwall – also received similar upgrades and is now scalable from 200kWh to 100+MWh.

Australian pricing and availability is still yet to be confirmed on the Solar Roof, Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2 units.

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