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Tesla Could Turn Your Roof Into a Solar Panel

Tesla will begin taking pre-orders for its solar roof next month.

 

Want to turn your roof into a giant solar panel? Tesla’s solar-powered roof shingles are designed to do just that.

Tesla Unveils Solar Roof

Tesla, Inc. acquired the solar panel maker SolarCity Corporation back in November 2016. Since then, there had been little news from either Tesla or SolarCity about the company’s touted solar roof shingles – until last week.

On March 27th, Tesla CEO Elon Musk suddenly and casually announced via Twitter that the company will begin taking pre-orders for its solar shingles in April.

Casual as it may have been, the news immediately sparked massive interest in the product. After all, while traditionally solar panels are powerful and eco-friendly, they tend to be large and unsightly. Tesla’s solar shingles are designed to blend seamlessly onto an existing structure.

In fact, Musk claims they look better than a normal roof.

That’s an entirely subjective view, of course. But it’s typical of the confidence we’ve come to know from Elon Musk. And it’s not his only big claim about solar shingles – he also says they last twice as long and cost less to install than their old-fashioned counterparts.

 

Solar Shingle Technology

SolarCity makes its solar shingles from panels of quartz glass, which come in four different styles.

The tiles integrate into a roof in three layers. The top layer of impact-resistant glass is designed to protect the sensitive bits from weather. The solar cell lies at the very bottom layer, where it stores energy from the sun shining down from above. Sandwiched between them is a layer of film that makes the tiles nearly invisible from street level.

 

Will Solar Roofs Catch On?

Tesla and SolarCity are not the first to try their hand at solar roof technology. Whether they can succeed where others have failed will depend largely on cost. Cost is the main reason previous contenders struggled to market their product. Solar roofs have been a dream of solar enthusiasts for years, but the average person simply couldn’t afford to retrofit their entire roof.

Even if solar shingles cost less than the typical roof tile, installing them still means financing completely new roof. Traditional solar panels, on the other hand, can be installed one at a time based on the homeowner’s budget.

Consumer Reports estimates that a 3,000 square foot solar roof will cost an average of $73,500, whereas the average solar panel installation costs between $25,000 and $35,000.

Solar roofs could represent a technical and design breakthrough in the world of renewable energy. But that’s only if Tesla can get the product off the ground.

How the UK Reduced Carbon Emissions to the Lowest Levels in 100 Years

The collapse of the coal industry is a driving factor.

For the first time in history, the carbon emissions in the United Kingdom are as low as they have been in 1894 – the year the first car went into mass production.

How did the country accomplish this incredible feat? The change didn’t happen overnight. Rather, it was the result of several intertwining factors that, together, produced the right conditions for widespread reduction in carbon emissions.

Collapse of Coal

Ten years ago, the coal industry was responsible for a staggering 137 million tons of carbon emissions in the U.K. Today, that number has dropped to 37 million.

This is in large part due to the gradual decline of the coal industry that began decades ago. However, the numbers shifted sharply in 2016, with a 52% drop in demand for coal from the previous year.

Less coal means less carbon emissions.

Carbon Tax

In 2013, the U.K. became the first member of the European Union to institute a carbon tax. This was despite fierce lobbying from energy companies, who claimed the tax would kick up energy bills and reduce the U.K. competitiveness on the global market.

Regardless, the carbon tax made polluting fossil fuels more expensive to produce, encouraging growth and investment in renewable energy sources.

Of course, with the changing government and the impact of Brexit, many wonder if the carbon tax is long for this world.

Rise in Renewable Energy

2016 was the first year that wind farms in the U.K. generated more electricity than coal. Today, 24.6% of its energy comes from renewable energy sources. Wind and solar farms are springing up in fields across the U.K., following a global trend towards investment in renewable energy sources.

If the country stays the course, the U.K. is set to meet its target of being 15% renewable by 2021.

 

How Green is Your City? Treepedia Has An Answer

Toronto as seen on Treepedia.

Researchers from MIT Senseable Labs have partnered with the World Economic Forum to bring us Treepedia, an interactive map of green space in cities around the world.

The Treepedia project aims to catalog and compare tree density in world-class cities like New York and Boston. Since its launch in 2016, Treepedia has grown to include 13 major cities around the world, including Toronto and Vancouver.

Why Count Trees?

Because trees are awesome, and the World Economic Forum wants us to recognize it.

Not only are trees a welcome respite from the towers of glass and concrete lining our streets, they provide immeasurable health benefits and contribute to the growth of our cities. Trees shade us from the sun and block shortwave radiation to mitigate extreme temperatures. They naturally dampen the noise from traffic and congestion. Their absorbent roots help stem the tide of floods in severe rain and storm surges. And, of course, trees play an essential role in fighting air pollution.

By measuring and ranking tree density, the researchers hope cities will understand how far they’ve gone in greening their streets – and how much work is to be done.

As this image shows, Treepedia pegs Toronto at 19% green. Meanwhile, Vancouver ranks at 25%. So what does that mean?

The Green View Index

TreepediaRather than put on their hiking books and set out to count each individual tree, the researchers developed a method to measure tree density using Google Street View. They then used the data to develop the “Green View Index”, which can be applied to any city in any country across the globe.

See for yourself how your city ranks on Treepedia’s index.

And just for the record – while Vancouver (25%) trumps Toronto (19%) on the Green View Index, Toronto beats New York (13%) by a long shot.