Elon Musk calls for an ‘immediate’ and ‘significant increase’ in Tesla’s solar installs

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From pv magazine USA

Elon Musk announced to employees, in a company-wide email obtained by Elektrek on Wednesday, that Tesla has “two most critical priorities” that demand its attention in the last month of 2019.

One of those priorities is solar.

Tesla’s first priority, according to the email, is that Tesla deliver “all cars” by year end — before the expiration of Tesla’s EV tax credit.

The second priority, “just as important, is that we immediately increase the rate of solar deployments by a significant degree,” said Musk in the memo.

Return to solar

This seeming return to solar comes after Tesla decimated what was once Solar City’s dominant position in residential PV.

Tesla’s solar business plummeted to a startlingly small 29 megawatts in Q2 of this year, down from 47 megawatts in Q1 and a far cry from the 253 megawatts installed by SolarCity in the boom days of Q4 2015. The most recent quarter saw a small improvement to 43 megawatts.

Tesla was once the unquestioned leader in the residential rooftop market with a market share of around 33 percent, but today, the company is No. 3, and its market share during the first quarter was a little more than 6 percent, according to analysts at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. Sunrun has become the residential solar market leader.

As pv magazine has reported, Tesla made some major and contrarian changes in its solar sales structure over the last few years:

  • Tesla shifted from door-to-door sales to in-store sales, and then to online sales.
  • Tesla launched a solar rental service allowing homeowners to rent a solar system for $50 per month.
  • Tesla also launched a new commercial solar online ordering platform.

Although Tesla had said that it is “in the process of improving many aspects of this business to increase deployments,” its solar free-fall in a modest growth market looked like a deliberate curtailment of its business.

Tesla’s strategic shifts have not yet resulted in increased solar revenue, but they have reportedly lowered Tesla’s customer acquisition costs.

“The year of the solar roof?”

Earlier this year, Musk dubbed 2019 “the year of the solar roof.”

Tesla did sort of launch its solar roof version 3, a new version of its solar tiles, although one would be hard-pressed to locate a roof with version 1 or 2. Musk is characteristically optimistic, claiming that the company is going to ramp production to 1,000 roofs per week.

But, three years after its introduction, and after having received deposits from interested homeowners, Tesla has connected just a handful of solar-integrated roofs to the grid.

Tesla planned to ramp up production of the solar roof with “significantly improved manufacturing capabilities during 2019,” but has not provided an update on the production of the roof in its Buffalo, New York factory and the 1,460 jobs the company has pledged to create there by next year.

Perhaps the tailwinds of lower solar module prices; legislation such as the California requirement for solar panels on all new homes; aggressive pricing; and new sales techniques will help restore Tesla to its former residential solar glory.