• 08.11.16

Elon Musk Is Getting Into Architecture Now

The chairman of SolarCity takes his first steps into architecture by proposing to expand the company’s presence in the roofing market.

Elon Musk Is Getting Into Architecture Now
[Illustration: almagami/iStock]

Elon Musk’s latest venture is closer to home than his rockets. In a recent earnings call, he announced that SolarCity, his solar power company, is developing a “solar roof.”


This represents Musk’s first real foray into architecture-scale systems. “It’s not a thing on a roof, it is the roof,” Musk said, clarifying the product’s difference with the solar panels SolarCity already sells. Five million new roofs are installed in the U.S. every year. An integrated solar roofing system would have the potential to tap into that market. Musk claimed that the solar roof wouldn’t cannibalize business from the company’s central product because it would tap into a different set of customers. SolarCity has not responded to Co.Design‘s request for comment.

The chairman didn’t explain much more–the company will announce details in September–though he did say that the roofs would be customizable. SolarCity, which is already the biggest installer of residential solar panels in the country, has grown rapidly, with a new plant opening in 2017 that will be able to produce 10,000 solar panels a day, or one gigawatt of energy per year. It will be the largest solar production plant in North America and will provide the manufacturing capability to produce Musk’s solar roof in a cost-effective way.

It makes us wonder if full-scale solar homes are next. Even if roofing is all SolarCity has in store for the foreseeable future, it’s clear that the company is moving toward integrating solar technology more seamlessly into architecture itself.

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About the author

Katharine Schwab is a contributing writer at Co.Design based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture. Follow her on Twitter @kschwabable.