A DAY ON THE TILES We compare solar roof tiles

 In News

In the words of David Lee Roth, ex lead singer with Van Halen, “It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it’s whether you look good.”

Aesthetics – another word for lookin’ good and not necessarily a precondition when exploring the undisputed advantages of investing in renewable energy. Or is it? You’ll remember back in June 2015, the LNP’s former front row forward, Tony Abbott described wind turbines as “ugly, noisy and visually awful” while his dutiful 2nd rower, Joe Hockey chimed in with “utterly offensive”. Obviously these are men of inherent good taste, having been raised on a diet of raa raa rugby, old school ties and weekend wear, beacons of what-was-once-long-ago. I often ask my kids when we’re driving in the bush and are “visually affronted” with that tapeworm of electricity towers, chaining off into the distance over hill and dale, giant wicker men of progress, hey kids what would you prefer to see- one of those giant steel scarecrows or…a wind turbine. (you can’t say ‘neither’). Wind turbine is invariably the answer. Caveat: my kids aren’t stupid – they will tell me what I want to hear, but I’ve still made a point.

The same goes for solar panels. Back when I was selling domestic solar systems, my heart would sink as I arrived at my next appointment only to find the north facing roof of the property was the one that faced the street. Don’t waste your time – establish quickly that the best way for the household to benefit from solar power was to mount a row or two of black or blue solar panels on the front of the beloved property, alerting the neighbours and interrupting the house’s lines. Round the back was ok, just never out the front. Strike rate – 1 from 10.

So, ever the optimist, I began investigating alternatives. I thought of designing solar roof sheeting and gave up and then found a few firms designing solar roof tiles, which tweaked my interest. Free electricity generated by your roof, not your roof with a few acres of panels screwed onto the top of it. Makes sense and opens up previously untouchable markets, those who hate the look of solar panels and those from the design/architectural community who… hate the look of solar panels.

Here is what I’ve managed to find in todays Australian marketplace. There may be more options out there but I’m limited by what my search engines dig up, as I expect, most of everyone else is too. I doubt there is a ‘magic mile’ of solar roof tile suppliers in each city. I found 5 companies that market solar roof tiles – Tractile, Monier, Bristile, Nulok and Tesla.

We really can’t compare apples for apples as each of these brands require their own compatible tiles for the rest of the roof, necessitating a complete roof replacement or complete install for a new build.

So a regular 4kW solar system, designed to fit to either tile, corrugated or kliplock with tilt options to maximise sun exposure will cost on average $5,000 to $6,000. The average costs of the solar tile brands listed below include the cost of the solar component plus the cost of the rest of the roof as well.

Other non-negotiables with solar roof tiles are roof orientation and pitch, both of which may affect the tiles performance output.

 

The Bristile Solar Roof Tile Solution

 

 

Brand Size Roof space needed Cost of Solar Tile component Cost of Balance of Roof
Regular PV 4kW Approx. 25-30m.sq $6,000 (average) Nil

$6,000 Total

Bristile 4kW Approx. 25-30m.sq $16,000 (approx.) $17,500

$33,500 Total

Tractile 4kW Approx. 25-30m.sq $13,000 (approx.) $55,000

$68,000 Total

Nulok 4kW Approx. 25-30m.sq $11,000 (approx.) $61,000

$72,000 Total

Monier 4kW Approx. 25-30m.sq $18,000 (approx.) $32,000 ave

$50,000 Total

 

Tesla 4kW ??? ??? ???

 

In conclusion, I felt it important to address the musk flavoured elephant in the room and highlight the lack of available information (or even product itself) from the Tesla camp. At this stage in the Aussie marketplace, they will happily accept your $1300 deposit for first dibs at their solar roof tile system when it is available. If it becomes available, if it adheres to Australian building standards, if the tiles are not shot into space first.

Otherwise, for the aesthetes among us, be prepared to invest a significant figure into your new roof line that incorporates solar tiles. Right now, 6kW of regular solar with 10kW of battery storage is still   50% cheaper than the most affordable roof tile system without storage. These solar roof tile prices will invariably fall as demand increases but if it comes down to dollars, in 2018, solar roof tiles are not running in the same race.

If you are in a position to consider solar roof tiles I certainly would recommend an investigation. The four Australian companies featured have all created beautiful, practical, efficient and robust products for the Australian marketplace, combining good looks with strength and performance, and we wish them all every success.  Not fussed about the American mob, though.

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