Elon Musk’s next move? Solar roofing

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk wants control of your roof.

On a conference call yesterday announcing SolarCity Corp.’s second-quarter earnings, Musk announced the company is planning a new solar roof product, rather than just offering solar modules to place on roofs. He didn’t provide details on exactly how a full solar roof would operate, but it is expected to be manufactured at SolarCity’s planned Gigafactory in New York.

“It’s not a thing on the roof. It is the roof,” Musk said on the call, adding that the product is an “engineering challenge.” It’s one of two major products SolarCity is expected to release soon.

The announcement provides insight into Tesla’s vision for being a one-stop shop for solar power, storage and electric cars. Earlier this month, Tesla reached a $2.6 billion agreement to acquire SolarCity, pending shareholder approval.

In announcing the acquisition this summer, Musk said he planned a “vertically integrated company,” where customers could buy electric cars and solar panels tied to batteries in one store (ClimateWire, June 22).

In proposing an entire solar roof, Musk is targeting the millions of U.S. customers annually who replace their roofs.

“If your roof is nearing end of life, you definitely don’t want to put solar panels on it, because you know you’re going to have to replace the roof,” he said. That’s a “huge market” that currently is inaccessible to SolarCity, he said.

The roof demonstrates why it is important for SolarCity to do its manufacturing in-house, Musk said, to control the aesthetics of the product. He compared it to a custom-made car.

Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity has faced mixed reviews from Wall Street, with some investors saying the company should work on perfecting its electric car business (Greenwire, June 22).