The Tesla Solar Roof now has a competitor. Forward Labs, based in Palo Alto, California, is offering a solar roof product it claims produces twice as much electricity — 19 watts per square foot — as competing products at about two-thirds the cost. Tesla says its Solar Roof will have an installed cost of about $4.75 cents per watt. Forward Labs quotes the installed cost of its roof as $3.25 per watt, according to Curbed. It also says its roof can be installed in just 2 to 3 days — faster than other products, although Tesla might dispute that claim.
The Forward Labs product looks like a metal roof, a style that may not be familiar to many. It is very popular in northern regions for its ability to stand up to winter cold, snow, and sleet. The finished roof is attractive if not quite as stylish as the terra cotta tile roofs so popular in southern California and other sunny climes.
The company says the roof has a tempered glass outer layer, backed by an “optical chromatic cloaking” layer that allows the color of the roof to be whatever the customer prefers without decreasing power generation. The photovoltaic cells are mounted beneath the two outer layers. The Forward Labs roof is currently available only in the San Francisco Bay area but the company would be happy to hear from potential customers in other parts of the country as it strives to increase its business.
“We use more affordable materials than our competitors and employ standard manufacturing processes,” said CEO Zach Taylor. “The roof’s installation process is simple and quick. We can install our system in half the time that other companies can. The benefit to homeowners is a return on their investment that cuts the usual solar payback time in half.”
Competition is good, they say. The Forward Labs product certainly seems to be a worthy competitor to the Tesla Solar Roof, although there is no laboratory testing data available yet to back up its performance claims and the Tesla warranty is better than just about any other company — all factors that a careful homeowner would want to consider before investing in the Forward Labs roof.
Now that Elon has thrown down the gauntlet on solar roof products, perhaps others will be encouraged to bring competing products to market and make “old fashioned” rooftop solar systems obsolete.
Photo credit: Forward Labs
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