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Tesla’s Solar Bet Could Be A Game-Changer For U.S. Renewables

Last year EV news site Electrek reported that, according to Elon Musk, "the company's energy division, Tesla Energy, is becoming a distributed global utility and it could eventually outgrow Tesla's automotive business." And back in October of last year, Musk himself told investors that "Tesla Energy is going to be a major part of Tesla's activity in the future. And Tesla's mission from the beginning has been to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy - that means sustainable energy generation and sustainable energy consumption in the form of electric vehicles." Just this May, Musk expanded the purview of Tesla Energy with the unveiling of a new Tesla Energy software asset called Autobidder, which enables both providers and consumers to exchange their energy capacity to help take Tesla energy to the "giant distributor global utility" level. "The idea," according to Electrek's reporting, "is that Tesla would keep deploying more solar and energy storage systems, big and small, at the residential level and on utility-scale, and manage those distributed systems to act as a giant electric utility."

Now Tesla has made another move to bolster its non-EV enterprises with a bold slashing of its solar panel and installation prices, claiming to be "one-third less expensive than the average solar industry" prices. The company's Saturday statement stated: "Today we are introducing the lowest-ever cost to go solar in the United States. Our average system size is now one-third less expensive than the industry average and we have recently introduced a lowest-price guarantee. If you change your mind after purchasing or are unhappy with the system, we will uninstall it and issue a full refund within seven days from system turn on."

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According to Tesla, the effect of this new cheaper pricing model will be that "an average customer buying a large system in California will make their money back in only six years by reducing their electric bill, ultimately making an average of $88,000 over the system's lifetime. In New Mexico, that same system will make an average of $55,000 over its lifetime and in Vermont, $47,000. All systems, in all states, generate more value than ever when purchased with cash or financed with a solar loan."

How was Tesla able to undercut the rest of the market by a third? According to the company, it was thanks to some "simple improvements to a decades-old industry" which included implementing fixed panel sizes that are easier to order and install, eliminating the need for costly consultations. As Electrek reported, 

Our new pricing is made possible by several simple improvements to a decades-old industry. "With the update to its solar panel configurator, Tesla also updated its website to prominently feature its solar panel installation offering [...] It might be the first time that a product other than a vehicle is featured first on Tesla's website, which says a lot about Tesla's commitment to expanding its solar business."

Tesla's ramped up solar sector comes at the same time that a massive debate over renewable energies in post-corona economic recovery plans is taking place. The pandemic has created a unique interruption to business-as-usual that many experts and pundits see as a singular opportunity for the world to effectively transition to clean energy. The World Economic Forum has questioned whether this disruption could bring a "new energy order" and a Forbes headline proclaimed that "In A Post-Pandemic World, Renewable Energy Is The Only Way Forward." 

These arguments are not without economic merit. In recent months, what PV Tech reports is "a raft of new studies" has "come to underscore the business case of pushing renewables to the heart of the COVID-19 recovery, amid claims green energy plays offer a low-cost, high-return opportunity for investors." So far, the United States is lagging far behind the rest of the world in terms of including renewables in their COVID-19 stimulus packages, but in any case, Tesla is clearly charging ahead with or without Federal government subsidies.

By Haley Zaremba for 

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Haley Zaremba

Haley Zaremba is a writer and journalist based in Mexico City. She has extensive experience writing and editing environmental features, travel pieces, local news in the… More