Tesla's solar roof tiles are revolutionary because they look like regular shingles. They cut out the need for unsightly solar panels while delivering about 98 percent of the efficiency of normal solar panels, which is quite the feat. Now, thanks to Electrek's discovery of Tesla's patent application for these tiles, we have a better idea of how they work.
As you can imagine, the technology is incredibly complicated. Basically, the solar cells are under a special louvered glass. The way this glass reflects light makes the tiles look like normal shingles from the street level. However, the glass is transparent from an overhead view. which allows the solar cells to do their job. "The louvers are designed to provide viewing obstruction to the photovoltaic cells . . . when viewed from a side angle but to minimally impede solar energy passed to the photovoltaic cells."
The application contains these images which demonstrates how these solar tiles work.
The application also elaborates on how the solar roof tiles can have different colors when viewed from certain angles. "The plurality of louvers may have a design color that causes the solar panel to have the appearance of the design color when viewed from a side angle, thereby obscuring the solar panel from view," the patent application says. "Further, with this construct, the solar panel may have the design color when viewed from the side angle and a differing color when viewed from the other side angle."