A solar roof installed on a house looks from a distance somewhat like a newly shingled roof. COURTESY HILTON HEAD SOLAR AND ROOFING

His name is synonymous with innovation, and now, he has decided to partner with a local company to introduce his latest game-changing product to the Lowcountry.

Elon Musk’s Tesla solar roofs will be exclusively installed in South Carolina and Georgia by Hilton Head Solar and Roofing.

Yes, we said “solar roof.” Tesla has taken the technology behind solar panels and applied it to create roof tiles that become a full roof system.

“We could not be more excited and honored to be the team trusted to bring this innovation to the East Coast and the Lowcountry,” said Hilton Head Solar and Roofing regional manager Douglas Paige. “Tesla is looking to introduce this to the masses and we fought hard to show them that we were worthy of being a certified and premier installer of these roofs.”

Tesla’s car design has led a revolution in the automobile industry toward sustainable energy vehicles. They have been just as forward thinking with solar energy, first creating panels that were, on average, one-third as expensive as the industry leaders with more efficient technology to create energy bill savings.

The new solar roofing product is a full roof system that will replace existing shingles or other covering on a home. No more awkward panels that often don’t pass muster with Lowcountry neighborhood design boards.

In its place is a patented rubberized underlayment and solar roof tile system that is engineered specifically to the client’s home location.

“Pitch, shading and a family’s specific kilowatt consumption are all factors that make this install unique for each home,” Paige said.

The solar cells are embedded in each individual textured solar roof tile. The end result is a full-roof system producing solar energy. And the tiles themselves provide a high-end look that Paige said has design boards smiling in his early consultations.

“The aesthetic concern of your standard solar panel is now gone. The design here is now adding value to the overall aesthetic of the neighborhoods. It is a gorgeous looking product as well as being a new chapter for preservation of our natural resources,” he said.

The installation process is more involved than a typical solar transition due to ensuring the engineering fit for each individual household. And many of the same qualifiers that make homes the right fit for solar panels apply here as well – including the pitch of the roof and the home’s alignment with the sun. Northern-facing houses have the least direct contact with sunlight, but Paige said one factor alone won’t exclude a client from being a strong candidate for solar roof replacement.

The product has become a must-have in western-U.S. home builds and renovations both for the design innovation and the durability of the roofs, with more than 400,000 home installs and roof conversions done providing the equivalent clean solar energy of 10 million traditional solar panels.

The solar roof tiles paired with Tesla’s Powerwall battery storage system provide a new sustainable energy alternative to powering homes – especially during power outages.

The tiles utilize smart panel management systems from SPAN and Lumin, and combined with the Tesla app, owners can control and monitor energy production from a smartphone.

The tempered glass roof tiles have a Class A fire rating (the highest rating possible) and last up to five times longer than a standard asphalt shingle roofing system. The Tesla solar roof comes with a 25-year manufacturing warranty and, whereas typical roofs often need replacing every 15 years, Paige said the Tesla roofs have been tested to endure for 50 years and beyond.

The intensity and duration of sunlight in the South mean Lowcountry homeowners (and their respective homeowners’ associations) are especially concerned with the glare coming off the roof. The Tesla roof tiles have grooves that help absorb the light instead of reflect it, and they deflect water more easily toward a home’s eaves and gutters.

Thus, the systems have shown to create less than two percent reflexivity, performing even better than standard metal and asphalt roofing systems. So, golfers concerned with facing roof glare during their round will be thanking homeowners as well.

Tesla did extensive vetting as they move from in-house installers to partnering with companies nationwide to roll out the roofing system coast to coast.

“We have a long history and a strong reputation, and all of our installers and project managers are full-time employees, so we knew we would live up to their standards,” Paige said. His team traveled to California for extensive weeks-long training with Tesla officials.

“Between the courses and the mock roof installs, our team rocked it and impressed their team,” said Paige, who was even more impressed in person with the roofing system. “All the reading, all the research we did, to see it in person, see the tech and meet the minds behind it, we were as sold on them as they were on us. This is truly going to take renewable energy to a whole new level for the mainstream.”

Paige said that while the Hilton Head Solar team will continue offering solar panels, the benefits of a solar roof system make this a win-win concept to sell to the real estate community.

“The tax incentives and rising utility company costs made solar a real winner for homeowners. And whereas you lease the panels, you own the roofing system. It’s part of the house,” Paige said.

That eliminates one of the barriers that many solar panel homeowners we talked to have found frustrating – transferring the lease of the panels when you sell the house.

The Hilton Head Solar team has completed a year-long certification process with Tesla, including the first live installation of a Tesla roof on a home in South Carolina – in Palmetto Dunes on Hilton Head Island.

Paige said he and his team will spend the next 12 to 18 months educating the Lowcountry real estate community about the benefits of the Tesla roofing system. That education begins with a two-day-long launch event at the company’s Ridgeland headquarters from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 3 and 4.

“It’s now a matter of just getting this in front of builders, engineers, architects, designers and homeowners associations,” Paige said. “We feel like we have an amazing story to tell and are presenting a pivotal moment in the evolution of home building. We could not be prouder to be leading that charge.”

For more information on the Tesla solar roofing system, visit hhsolarpower.com.

Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton. Contact him at timwood@blufftonsun.com.