Tesla solar bounces back as Musk launches new product

Source: By Tamara Ward, E&E News reporter • Posted: Sunday, October 27, 2019

Elon Musk. Photo credit: OnInnovation/Flickr

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Inc. OnInnovation/Flickr

Tesla Inc.’s solar deployments in the third quarter rose by almost 50% compared with the prior quarter — the first time in a year installations have increased for the technology company.

The California-based business also announced on its earnings call this week that it would be releasing a new version of its solar roof product this week, although CEO Elon Musk delayed the original scheduled announcement until today.

“Q3 was obviously a very strong quarter, and we had record deliveries. We were able to make great strides in controlling our costs,” Musk said during the company’s earnings call Wednesday.

The development follows rumors that the solar arm of Tesla was struggling due to a steady loss of both residential and commercial market share to its rivals that surfaced as recently as March of this year (Energywire, March 8).

Analysts said the progress in sales can partly be attributed to the company’s recent relaunch of rooftop solar panels in North America in three sizes (small, medium and large). In California and five other states, consumers can buy a Tesla solar subscription or solar rental with no upfront costs and make six monthly payments.

“There’s no money down, and you instantly save on your utility bill, and there’s no long-term contract. So, it’s kind of a no-brainer,” Musk said, likening the process to being able to print money. He said new solar pricing structures at the company are part of a goal to be “a giant distributor of global utility on the energy front” and facilitate solar energy for protection from power outages.

Musk said most customers are buying panels, which he said is the better investment, pointing to real estate studies saying that solar increases home values.

In addition, the company said it has streamlined its timeline and permit approval process by offering jurisdictions a generic permit template. Kunal Girotra, Tesla’s senior director of energy operations, said 350 counties and cities have jumped on board, allowing Tesla to reduce the customer order-to-installation timeline from months to days.

Tesla unveiled its solar roofs in October 2016 with the goal of accelerating the advent of sustainable energy (Greenwire, Oct. 31, 2016). Analysts have questioned whether the product would live up to the company’s promises or just be a financial burden on Tesla. So far, installations have been limited.

Last August, Musk announced on social media that he had a manufacturing goal of 1,000 solar roofs a week by the end of the year (Energywire, Aug. 1).

A response from Tesla as to whether the company was on target to meet that goal remained unanswered by press time.