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Tesla Slashes Solar Panel Prices

By Marlena Chertock | May 14, 2019
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In an attempt to jump-start its residential solar business, Tesla has lowered the prices of its solar panels and solar equipment so much that they cost 16 percent less than the national average, according to an article in The New York Times. The company also reported a $702 million net loss in the first quarter of this year. Its stock price also lowered by nearly 30 percent.

Tesla no longer holds the title as the United States' leading rooftop solar company. Sunrun and Vivint Solar now lead solar installations in the United States, with Tesla coming in third, according to research and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. Lowering the price of its solar panels is Tesla’s attempt to reinvest in residential solar.

The price reduction also comes with standardizing installation. Customers can now purchase solar panels on Tesla’s website, though the options are limited to 4-kilowatt (kW) increments, or a 12-panel array. An average U.S. solar power system can generate 7.6 kW, according to The New York Times.

Customers also will have to handle some of the upkeep themselves, including photographing and sending images of electric meters and circuit breaker boxes to the company, which will reduce site visits, according to an article in The Verge.

Tesla expects these techniques to boost its residential solar and energy storage sales.

“We aim to put customers in a position of cash generation after deployment with only a $99 deposit upfront,” Tesla said in its Q1 2019 Update. “That way, there should be no reason for anyone not to have solar generation on their roof.”

The company’s energy generation and storage revenue decreased because it had fewer solar deployments than last year—47 megawatts (MW) in 2019 versus 73 MW in 2018, though a 2-percent increase in storage deployments partially offset it, according to its First Quarter 2019 Update.

Tesla also plans to push its solar roof offering, which it designed with SolarCity. In 2016, Tesla acquired SolarCity, which was founded and run by two of Elon Musk’s cousins. The solar roof, made up of solar shingles that look like typical roofing materials, can replace an entire roof and connects to a Tesla battery pack. But so far, the company has merely taken reservations for the product instead of installing any.

While 64 gigawatts of solar capacity has been installed in America—enough to power 12.3 million homes—only 3 percent of U.S. homes have solar panels, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. This provides a ripe opportunity for Tesla and other solar companies to step in.

About The Author

Chertock is a poet and renewable energy and science journalist in the Washington, D.C., area. Contact her at [email protected].

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