High resolution aerial photography has been a catalyst for growth and competitive advantage within both the solar and roofing industries. Will new products that seemingly blur the lines between roofing and solar find enough early adopters to reach critical mass and alter the competitive landscape?
It's possible that construction innovation with dual-purpose roof tiles may inject new energy into each sector. Similar innovation in aerial imaging content and delivery from Nearmap promises to keep pace and serve industry adoption, solar lead generation and roofing estimation for this intriguing future.
Beauty, the Mother of Invention. Just ask Apple.
Tesla (TSLA, that other silicon valley darling) has certainly turned the automotive world upside-down, with a current capitalization that has surpassed both Ford and General Motors to become America's most valuable car company. Tesla's forward-thinking design language and engineering moxy brought fresh perspective to the automotive sector, and hatchbacks (yes, the Model S) are impossibly now in vogue. If their stock price, earnings and multiples are justified, Tesla's effectively leapfrogged a storied and mature industry with massive barriers to entry. Think about that.
When Tesla founder Elon Musk doubled-down and announced a "merger" with Solar City last year, the pundits were understandably wary. Following a slough of solar industry failures, the move seemed dubious at best – while stratosphericly valued, Tesla had yet to show a profitable year and Solar City was deeply in debt , its stock in freefall. That, and Musk himself sat on the Solar City board (with other extended family members). It just didn't make sense.
Disruptive Technology Strikes Twice. Or Thrice.
And then this -- if successful, Tesla's latest product leapfrogs TWO more mature industries as bulky and ungainly photovoltaic solar panels give way to stylish, durable solar roof tiles. And what of the ramifications? Would wholesale adoption of Tesla's disruptive product collapse the solar and roofing industries into a single hybrid entity? Time will tell, but their offer of a lifetime warranty has us thinking that the future is now, and it's looking good.
True to Tesla's MO with their vehicle releases and Powerwall, they're now taking deposits and promising deliveries late next year.
Connecting Their Technology Grid.
Tesla's home of the near future also disrupts utilities and our antiquated US power grid. Powerwall batteries level the field by storing and distributing energy locally and equalizing use around the clock (including vehicle charging, of course). They're not aiming to be independent of the power grid, but still to be an enclosed loop that removes much of our need for external infrastructure. Like most new technologies, the tiles come at a price. Tesla does a decent job of showing value over time to mitigate up front expenditures, though Consumer Reports questions their math with regard to rising energy prices.
Wait – Weren't We Already Promised Solar Roads?
Solar roadways were broadly promoted through social media, and in fact have been in testing (parking lots, limited road stretches). They still have mountains to climb, however. Public infrastructure spending on such a grand scale is tricky, and typically takes very long cycles to prove out and enter budgeting. In contrast, Tesla's roof tiles go direct to consumer and their projected lifetime duty cycle is far more predictable. Disruptive technologies are inherently risky, and often take decades to gain market traction. The path to trial and adoption here is much shorter, however. The union is more intuitive, and with Tesla's track record of innovations we'll likely see them in common use within three to five years.
High Definition Aerial Imagery for Solar or Roofing.
Nearmap's advantage is your ability to scan entire neighborhoods remotely, and at a level of precision you just don't get with the best satellite imagery. Mouse over the San Diego neighborhood below to see what kind of detail we're talking about. Higher income neighborhoods like the one below will be first to adopt Tesla's solar roof tiles, so as you scan the photo, see if you can identify likely candidates for early adoption. If you're a solar or roofing company, aerial prospecting dramatically cuts down your number of site visits and similarly increases the number of homes you can qualify each day. And when you're preparing a quote, remote measurement tools enable more accurate estimates and material cost control.
Ironically, Tesla manufactures its Model S and Model X in Freemont, CA at the famously defunct Solyndra solar plant. Previously, Solyndra had taken the plant over from General Motors where it had manufactured joint venture vehicles with Toyota (Geo Prism = Toyota Corolla, Pontiac Vibe = Toyota Matrix).
They now come full circle with the reinvention of solar as a naturally integrated extension of both their automobile and energy storage lines. What's next for Tesla? Ask Elon.