When it comes to the emerging technology of solar roofs, Tesla's quite probably the name that's being passed around most of the time, but other players are part of the race, too.

Forward Labs, a Palo Alto, California-based startup is one of them, offering its own solar roof technology that's not only surprisingly 33 percent cheaper than Tesla's solar roof, but can be installed much faster.

Tesla Has Forward Labs To Beat

As opposed to Tesla's individual shingle design, Forward Labs's solar roof is a standing-seam metal roof made up of one large, layered piece. Sitting atop is a tempered glass surface, and beneath it sits an "optimal chromatic cloaking" layer.

The roof is available in eight colors, namely Sandstone, Patina Green, Dolphin Grey, Colonial Red, Slate Grey, Sherwood, Charcoal, and Aged Bronze. But keep in mind that thanks to the chromatic cloaking technology embedded within the roof, it can produce "any color imaginable, while keeping the solar cell efficiencies high."

The company has already begun taking preorders for its solar roofs in the San Francisco Bay area, and according to Forward Labs CEO and product architect Zach Taylor, the company is targeting people looking to replace their roof or those looking to design and build a new home, or new-construction professionals.

Taylor claims his company's solar roofing system includes features that differentiate it from conventional solar roofs. For one, the construction is "a five-layer build — we've got glass, our optics, the cells, of course, and the encapsulant — and all of that goes into a metal frame that's made at the factory," says Taylor. "It's completely integrated."

Forward Labs Solar Roof: Cost

The system goes beyond design. The roof's non-solar portions cost only $8.50 per square foot and the solar roof will cost about $3.25 per watt — 33 percent less than Tesla's offering on average.

"We use more affordable materials than our competitors and employ standard manufacturing processes," says Taylor.

What's more, installing Forward Labs's roofing system only takes about half the time as other solar roofing systems, with an install time of two to three days. Taylor also claims that replacement is easy — if a panel breaks, simply pop it out and slap on a new one.

Multiple beta installations are already in operation, and Forward Labs is now taking reservations with a refundable $1,000 deposit for preorders of the company's first production roofs in 2018.

It's interesting to see how Forward Labs's presence impacts Tesla, and by extension, how the solar industry landscape pans out moving forward. Tesla just recently opened up preorders for its solar roof, and it's easy to imagine that if Elon Musk's company is on track to dominate the solar energy market, other entrepreneurs and firms, just like Forward Labs, will slowly emerge to try and have a crack at beating his company.

Thoughts about Forward Labs's solar roofing system in contrast with Tesla's? What do you think about the future of mainstream solar energy? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!

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