Visitors to South Edgewood Street in September might have been under the impression that Elon Musk had moved in. Stacks of boxes marked Tesla lay neatly stacked in the driveway and a fleet of vans marked “Tesla” parked in front.
When they first got the dumpster and the pallets, homeowner Ronald Bynoe said, “it was really much more obvious because every pallet had boxes with the Tesla logo on it.”
The driver delivering the port-a-potties warned Bynoe that this was a residential neighborhood, and Bynoe replied, I am a resident. “Then why do you have pallets of car parts?” the driver asked.
Bynoe answered that the car parts were his new roof. “He had never heard that Tesla does roofs,” Bynoe said. “And I’ve had numerous neighbors come by and watch the whole process. Initially, they were also all very surprised that Tesla does roofing and that it can look like this. “It’s very unique, and it’s the first of its kind in Seaside.”
Bynoe, an engineer with Intel, has always been a bit of a tech nerd, he said. With his wife, Judith, a teacher, and their son, James, the family moved to Seaside from St. Helens a little more than a year ago.
Noting that local electric power on the coast has “intermittent issues during the winter,” he wanted to secure his supply and also become a little bit greener.
“We didn’t want to have that concern of ‘Well, the power went out, the refrigerator’s out, we can’t turn on our computers and our work is an hour-and-a-half away,” he said. “So it has made us want to be a little bit more proactive about keeping the power stable at the house.”
They priced the roof and determined that while it was significantly more expensive than a conventional roof, the Tesla roof stores more power than the house uses and could provide electricity savings for the life of the roof, which is guaranteed for 25 years.
A regular roof for the 3,500-square-foot property would have been about $50,000, Bynoe said. The Tesla roof, including solar panels, batteries and installation, came to about $75,000.
“It took about three weeks to install,” he said. “Tesla solar roofs do take longer than a regular roof, also because of COVID. They’ve had a hard time with staffing.”
Other supply and labor delays also delayed the project substantially.
The glass roof is a mix of inert glass panels and photovoltaic active solar tiles, Bynoe said, with metal flashing.
They researched the Tesla roof and found that there is one in Astoria in a much smaller house, and they’ve done about 30 in the Portland metropolitan area. They are more popular in California and Hawaii, he said. “We got on a waiting list about a year ago and six months later approved for the process.”
A local roofing company tore off the old roof like any other job.
The next day, 36 pallets stacked three high were delivered and a contractor from Hillsboro came to begin the installation process.
Plastic hooks and tabs are screwed down through that into the roof. Each panel latches into that and then plugs in. Fabric underlayment makes everything watertight.
“If one panel breaks, they just unlatch it, unplug it and plug in its replacement,” he said. “The whole thing’s kind of like a floating roof, in a sense sitting on these plastic tabs and wires underneath.”
Any one of those can be removed individually, he said. Fabric underlayment makes everything watertight.
“It’s eerie and it’s kind of unnerving, because it creaks a little bit when you walk on it,” he said, but sturdy enough to withstand 138-mile-an-hour winds, and the stress of a 200-something pound person walking across it.
The roof delivers 18.5-kilowatts, about twice the power of a traditional solar roof, Between two and three days power is stored in power walls, batteries in the garage.
“Right now we’re paying a regular electric bill at night,” Bynoe said. “During the daytime, we generate electricity and it either goes into the battery or we’ll get credit.”
Two batteries automatically kick in when the power goes out, no more generator needed.
The Bynoes are still in the permitting process and haven’t signed any contracts with the utilities yet.
When those are in place, they will sign a contract for wholesale power, selling power back to the power company. When those are in place, they will sign a contract allowing export of excess power generated back to the utility, effectively banking excess power for when there’s no sunshine, retrieving the credit at night.
The family can track their power consumption on a 24-7 basis, showing how their power is stored during daylight hours. Graphs show spikes when the home appliances like washer, dryer and dishwasher are in use.
If other homeowners make similar changes, there could become a “community power grid,” he said. “If we have a blackout, maybe the power doesn’t go out because there’s enough houses with batteries sharing it. Tesla has a virtual power plant with this setup in California.”
Clatsop County sent someone out the next day, but the inspector wouldn’t do anything because he didn’t recognize the solar roofing material. “It was just something very new he hadn’t seen before,” Bynoe said. “So he wanted to be cautious about signing off on it because it’s structural as well as electricity generating. The Tesla rep said it can take up to three months for counties to approve it.”
Bynoe is patiently waiting for an OK from the county so he can put his investment to work. A county inspector is scheduled this week to review the project. This time Tesla is scheduling their electricians to be present during the inspection so that they can answer any questions he has while he’s here to ensure it has the best chance of success.