On March 14th, 2019 at the Design Studio in California during the unveiling of Tesla’s Model-Y compact SUV, founder announced a new focus for his company in the coming year. Musk declared that he and his associates at Tesla are now allocating funding and manpower towards producing panels. Now that the drama surrounding their Tesla Model 3 has subsidedfor the most part, Musk is anxious to move onto working towards creating and producing rooftop that also serve as storage units. 

Coming Back from Near Bankruptcy 

Since 2017, solar has been placed on the back burner for Tesla due to a litany of manufacturing and production problems associated with Tesla’s Model 3 vehicle design. The Tesla Model 3 was originally produced in order to appeal to a mass market of consumers compared to their more expensive models. The Model 3 had the lowest starting point of any vehicle model in Tesla’s history, with a market price of just $35,000.  

However, it was not long before Musk realized that this plan was not just overly ambitious, but would also cause major problems for Tesla in terms of production and manufacturing. Just a month after Tesla announced the release of the Model 3 back in August of 2017, the company had a backlog of nearly 455,000 requests for the Model 3. Musk cited “excessive automation,” as a major cause in the delay in production.  

Of course, with threats of bankruptcy looming, much of the focus for Musk and Tesla was placed on fixing issues surrounding this particular vehicle. Now that the storm has passed, solar energy is next up on Tesla’s list of innovations. 

Elon’s Solar Rooftop Panels 

Although rooftop solar panels have been around for years, Musk has declared that 2019, “is definitely going to be the year of the Solar Roof and Powerwall.” While at the Tesla Design Studio unveiling of the Model-Y SUV, Musk touched on the importance of solar energy and transitioning to resources that are both renewable and sustainable for future generations. Tesla is planning to make a special type of solar rooftop panel that will combine both solar panels and battery storage, allowing homeowners to utilize clean energy immediately, but also store solar energy for later use. Tesla is currently working on gaining federal solar tax credits in order to begin production on the solar panels as soon as possible. The company plans to mass produce the solar panels by early next year. 

Early Adopters of the Tesla’s Rooftop Solar Panels 

In April of 2018, California resident Amanda Tobler elected to have a Tesla Solar Roof installed on her home. She was one of the first residents to try out the solar panels. In an interview with Inverse last year, Tobler stated several important things she had learned since she first had the solar panels installed.  

One major difference in the Tesla solar panels compared to traditional solar panels is the material in which they are made of. Although Tesla’s solar panels look nearly identical to traditional models, they are extremely strong. In fact, the solar panels are so strong that one could walk on them without breaking them. 

Tesla’s solar panels also come with a power wall that can be used to charge electronic vehicles and provide additional power to one’s home. The power wall sits on the side of one’s house and homeowners have the option to add additional power walls, if necessary, for even more solar power usage. 

With residents like Tobler utilizing the Tesla solar panels in real time, Musk and his team can gather data from these early adopters and use it to influence the final production of their solar panels. When Tesla does eventually release their solar panels for purchase by the general public, it will be interesting to see the outcome of their solar energy research and how their panels will ultimately compare to regular models. There has been some skepticism surrounding Musk and Tesla’s plans to revamp rooftop solar panels as we know them, but at the very least, we can expect to hear more from Tesla and their plans for the solar energy realm soon. 

Resources: 

https://www.inverse.com/article/51201-tesla-model-3-elon-musk-says-company-faced-severe-threat-of-death 

https://www.inverse.com/article/44778-tesla-solar-roof-8-things-to-know 

https://www.inverse.com/article/54085-tesla-solar-roof-elon-musk-declares-2019-will-be-the-year-of-the-roof 

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