Australian solar roof tile manufacturer, Tractile, has unveiled ambitious plans to go head to head with Elon Musk’s Tesla Solar Roof in its home territory of the US, and is backing its “better” solar power and solar thermal integrated offering to be “very competitive” in the American market.
The Queensland-based company, which is owned by public unlisted company Trac Group Holdings, is seeking pre-registrations for a capital-raising round to help fund the planned expansion into the US, where it is currently in the process of getting its solar tile product certified.
The capital-raise is offering $A3.5 million in convertible notes, which converts to roughly 10% of the company, over a two-year term, with 10% interest per annum, and at a conversion rate of 40 cents per share.
In a video presentation, Tractile CEO Jason Perkins said now was the time for the company to scale up, having secured global patents and set up a manufacturing base in Malaysia with the ability to produce 1,000 solar roofs a year.
“We believe the future of roofing is integrated solar and that Tractile has the best technology,” said Perkins in the investor briefing.
“Generating both electricity and heated water inside a lightweight tile system that is Category Five cyclone and bushfire rated make Tractile unique.
“An Australia story of innovation, with international patents, we now have an amazing opportunity for you to invest alongside us in this next phase of growth for the company,” he said.
Tractile’s solar tile is building integrated photovoltaic thermal – or BIPVT – technology that produces thermal energy as well as electrical energy, and serves as both roofing tile and solar panel, in one.
As the investor video explains, the solar thermal component of the technology is achieved by running water through tubes beneath the PV panels, which has the added benefit of cooling the panels down and boosting their generation efficiency in hot sun.
The Sydney-based company has been around for some years now, and according to its website, is having reasonable success with installations around Australia.
Trac Group has previously held successful fund-raising rounds, including when it raised $765,000 in May of 2015, ahead plans to list on the Australian Stock Exchange. The company, which remains unlisted, raised a further $3.35 million in 2017.
Perkins said the company’s current strategy was to keep growing Tractile in Australia and to focus on getting costs down, which would revolve mainly around achieving economies of scale and reducing them through vertical integration.
“We’re investing more into manufacturing, we’re investing more into installation, and then a big part is getting our certification of the product into the USA – a market with 10 times the potential,” he said.
“We’re already working with a number of large companies over there to introduce the product, and we’re working with a large Australian public listed company to set up manufacturing in the US.”
The move to the US and into competition with Musk is a bold one, but perhaps well-timed, with Tesla currently struggling to keep up with orders in its home market, and still a way off delivering to customers in overseas markets like Australia.
As One Step Off The Grid reported recently, the solar roof tile market has so far failed to pose any sort of significant threat to traditional rooftop solar panels, particularly as global PV giants continue to drive down module costs and drive up efficiencies.
There have also been a number of false starts by companies over-promising and under-delivering, including Musk’s Tesla, which opened to Australian orders – with a $1000 deposit – about a year ago, but now looks like being 12 to 24 months away from becoming available.
In the meantime, Tractile is getting busy building a case for why its tiles are “better” than anyone else’s, including Elon Musk’s.
“We didn’t come at this from trying to turn a … solar panel into a solar tile. We came in from the angle of ‘if you could re-imagine roofing, because it’s such a huge market that’s lacked innovation, if you could re-imagine roofing, what would you do,” Perkins said.
“This is a real product. We’re making the product now. We’re selling the product now, we’re installing now.
“We have a roof that gives you electricity, gives you hot water … ready now.”