Tesla’s plans to make solar panels have been known for years. The company is constructing a factory in Buffalo, NY, specifically to produce Tesla solar panels, but until recently not much more was known about their plans.
In April 2017, the much-discussed solar panel product was finally revealed, but the company didn’t announce it with the fanfare usually reserved for Tesla product releases. Instead, the Tesla Energy website was quietly updated to include a page specifically dedicated to solar panels alongside its other energy products like the Powerwall and Tesla solar roof.
Tesla solar panel technology: what we know so far
Tesla hasn’t released detailed technical information about their solar panels. What we do know, however, is that at the end of 2016 Tesla finalized a manufacturing agreement with Panasonic. While relatively new to the U.S. market, Panasonic’s solar panel technology is some of the most efficient on the market in 2017. If Tesla’s panels use similar technology, they will likely be anywhere from 19% to 21% efficient, placing them among other premium solar panel manufacturers.
What we don’t know yet is how much Tesla solar panels will cost. Recent research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has found that large installers like SolarCity (Tesla’s solar brand) typically price their products at a premium of 10 to 20 percent when compared to smaller local installers. Considering Tesla’s history as a manufacturer of high-end automobiles, it’s safe to assume that their new line of solar products will be significantly more expensive than a standard solar PV system.
We also don’t know exactly when these panels will hit the market. The company currently has a form available on its website to request a custom quote. According to Electrek, which was the first news site to note the launch of Tesla solar panels, the new Panasonic/Tesla panels will go into production at Tesla’s Buffalo factory in the summer of 2017.
It’s worth noting that the solar panels revealed on Tesla’s website are a distinct product that’s wholly different from the Tesla solar roof announced in October 2016. The solar roof is an integrated solar tile roofing system, which has a striking look but can be more complicated to retrofit on existing homes. Tesla’s solar panels, by comparison, are better suited for a standard solar installation that can be affixed to an existing roof.
What makes Tesla low profile solar panels different?
One striking difference between Tesla’s new solar panel product and other solar panels is how they look on the roof. Images of Tesla’s solar panels portray a product with a sleek all-black finish, consistent with Tesla’s reputation for impressive design. However, Tesla isn’t the only company that offers an all-black solar panel – premium panel manufacturers LG and SunPower have been producing black panels for years, as has Tesla’s new manufacturing partner, Panasonic.
What is more distinct is the design of the system as a whole. The Tesla website states, “Our solar panels blend into your roof with integrated front skirts and no visible mounting hardware.” SolarCity (Tesla’s solar brand) acquired Zep Solar, a company that manufactures low-profile solar panel mounts, back in 2013. The upcoming Tesla solar panel system will likely includes a version of Zep’s previous mounting design.
The system also includes “skirts” that create a beveled edge wrapping around the solar panel installation, which makes the system appear visually more integrated into the roof. While neither the skirt nor the low-profile mounting panels are Tesla-exclusive innovations, it’s clear that Tesla has dedicated significant resources to creating an aesthetically pleasing panel installation.
Should you wait for Tesla solar panels?
The real question, now that the first glimpses of Tesla’s new solar panels have been revealed to the public, is whether you should wait for them to hit the market before going solar.
First and foremost, no homeowner should make a final decision on their solar purchase without comparing multiple offers from different solar installers. Use a website like the EnergySage Solar Marketplace to find qualified solar companies near you and get quotes to give you an idea of what solar costs in your area.
If you’re familiar with the Tesla brand, then you already know the company is notorious for production delays, most famously with the Model X. While Tesla states that the first panels will be produced this upcoming summer, the reality is that we have no way of knowing when exactly they will become available. Depending on your priorities, waiting may be worth it, but know that you could be leaving major electricity bill reductions on the table.
If you’re a diehard Tesla fan willing to wait it out and pay a price premium, it may be worth waiting until the new Tesla solar panels eventually hit the market. However, there are other companies that manufacture all-black panels today, including Panasonic, the very company that’s producing Tesla’s solar panels. When you join EnergySage, simply request quotes that include all-black solar panels so that you understand how much of a price premium you’ll actually pay, and how that impacts your long-term solar savings. You can even request all-black Panasonic solar panels when you join the EnergySage Solar Marketplace today.