Did Tesla just make solar power mainstream?

We need power for our digital lives. Did Tesla just announce tech that could make widespread adoption of photovoltaics feasible? It rather looks like it did…

It’s a bit of a big week for product launches, with both Microsoft and Apple promising big things.

But I wonder if the most significant in the long term will actually prove to the be the Tesla announcement. In partnership with SolarCity, the firm is offering a whole new approach to solar panels. Take this “before” image:

Solar roof

No, wait, that’s the after image. Rather than covering your roof with visually distinctive solar panels, the firm has integrated them into roofing tiles, giving a far more conventional aesthetic for the building – and a larger potential area for the tiles.

From the release:

The solar roof consists of uniquely designed glass tiles that complement the aesthetics of any home, embedded with the highest efficiency photovoltaic cells. It is infinitely customizable for a variety of different home styles, each uniquely engineered so that the photovoltaic cells are invisible. Customers can choose which sections of their roof will contain the hidden solar technology while still having the entire roof look the same. These new roofs will seamlessly and beautifully supply renewable energy to homes, battery storage systems and back into the grid creating savings for owners. When combined with Tesla Powerwall, the solar roof can power an entire home with 100% renewable energy.

Here’s the whole launch event:

Electricity is, of course, critical to our digital lives. And tech that turns our homes into self-sustaining power generators has the potential to transform our approach to powering our devices – and the cost to the planet of doing so. Creating a means of doing that while maintaining the aesthetic appeal of both new and existing homes will be a huge boost to mainstream adoption.

This is why people sometimes call Tesla the new Apple: not because it’s a financial powerhouse like the fruit-logoed company, but because it’s so good at relentlessly iterating on fringe tech to bring it quickly and affordably into the mainstream.

This is tech to watch.