Sunrun is closing in on Tesla’s SolarCity as the nation’s top residential solar installer, all but erasing a huge advantage that SolarCity had just three years ago.
The New York Times reports that SolarCity is currently installing 9.3% of the new residential photovoltaic (PV) systems in the U.S., followed by Sunrun with 9%. In 2015, SolarCity had a third of the market and Sunrun could claim 5%.
SolarCity was founded in 2006 by brothers Peter and Lyndon Rive. It was acquired two years ago by Tesla, which is run by their cousin Elon Musk. Both SolarCity and Sunrun are headquartered in California.
Tesla’s non-car battery business is booming, The Times said, but its solar installations have declined sharply. Allison Mond, a senior analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said, “Tesla’s residential solar business is in rapid decline as the company has cut many sales channels.”
Tesla has other issues. Separately, Bloomberg reported that Tesla has acknowledged another delay in producing large numbers of its glass-topped solar roofing tiles. Three months after saying that Tesla would ramp up production of the tiles by the end of the year, Musk cited the “complexity” of the project and said the company would increase production “more quickly during the first half of 2019.”
Musk announced the launch of the “solar shingle” project almost two years ago. Unlike conventionally racked solar panels, the building-integrated photovoltaic tiles take the place of roofing shingles. Solar cells are covered by a sheet of tempered glass that can be manufactured to look like another material — clay roofing tiles, for example, or slate.
The tiles aren’t cheap — more than twice the cost of an asphalt roof with solar panels, according to Bloomberg’s estimate — but they also are much less obtrusive.
In a call to discuss third-quarter earnings last week, Musk said the company is still tinkering with the design and installation process for the tiles.
“That’s quite a long development cycle because anything that’s roof has got to last 30 years,” Musk said, according to Bloomberg. “There’s a lot of engineering — not just in the tile, but in the way it’s done.”
Still, the company reported a third-quarter profit of $311.5 million, compared with a loss of $619.4 million a year ago. Tesla was able to report that sales of its electric cars were better than expected. That sent the price of its stock up sharply.