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Green Building News

Tesla’s Solar Slowdown

Sunrun is expected to overtake Tesla's SolarCity as the biggest residential solar installer in the U.S.

Sunrun is poised to overtake Tesla as the country's leading residential solar installer. (Photo: National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

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.








  1. Trevor_Lambert | | #1

    "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."

    Insert clip here of Musk asserting that his tile roof would cost less than a conventional roof (a conventional roof alone, not one with solar panels on it).

    1. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #2

      But Trevor - he meant a conventional slate roof, with platinum flashing.

  2. jackofalltrades777 | | #3

    "Last century, we had two massive world wars — three if you count the Cold War. I think it's unlikely that we'll never have another world war again. If and when that next big war occurs, it could usher in a planet-wide dark ages. Then we want to make sure that there's enough of a seed of human civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and perhaps shorten the length of the dark ages. I think a moon base and a Mars base that could perhaps help regenerate life back here on Earth would be really important, and to get that done before a possible World War III."

    " Mars base would be a sturdier civilization bulwark than a moon settlement because the Red Planet is farther from Earth but it's worth setting up shop on both worlds, as each outpost would thin our risk."

    - Elon Musk

    Reserve your tickets now for your trip to Mars. Limited seating available.

    1. JC72 | | #4

      Meanwhile NASA reported that there's a concern about rates of cancer from interstellar travel.

      Musk should get working on better shielding.

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