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 and the Tesla Solar Roof, but until recently not much more was known about their plans.
Tesla solar panels: what you need to know (updated May 2019)
In addition to their various electric car models, Tesla offers solar panels for installation on your property. The company offers solar installations of their low-profile panel option in sizes ranging from 4 kilowatts (kW) to 16 kW, in increments of 4 kW. That comes out to between 12 solar panels and 48 solar panels, in increments of 12 panels. Going through the solar panel buying process on Tesla’s website, you’ll also encounter a recommended number of Tesla Powerwalls to add to your solar installation.
It’s not yet clear who manufactures Tesla’s solar panels. However, Elon Musk has said that Tesla Solar Roof production at the Buffalo Gigafactory 2 will ramp up in 2019.
Tesla solar prices decline to near the national average
Recently, Tesla announced a new price cut and philosophy in its solar panel business. Sanjay Shah, Tesla’s head of solar, said that the reason they were able to reduce pricing is in their new methodology, which includes standardized system prices and having homeowners photograph and upload images of their electric meters, breaker boxes, and other equipment to reduce the need for individual site visits. “We spent hours and hours and days and days on the process,” he said. “It adds cost. It adds time. We needed to have a very streamlined process.”
What to Tesla’s new prices look like? Check out our table below to see what solar energy systems offered by Tesla will cost:
Tesla solar panel system prices
|System size (kW)||Tesla solar panels cost (before incentives)||Cost per watt ($/W)|
NOTE: these prices are from the Tesla website and are for solar energy systems in California. Pricing varies by state.
The above table does NOT include the federal investment tax credit (ITC) that can lower the cost of installing solar by 30 percent. Here are the numbers you can expect with the tax credit factored in:
Tesla solar panel system prices post-ITC
|System size (kW)||Tesla solar panels cost (after incentives)|
A recent history of Tesla’s solar panel products
At the end of 2016, Tesla finalized a manufacturing agreement with Panasonic. Panasonic’s solar panel technology is some of the most efficient on the market. Tesla released detailed technical information about their solar panels in 2017 and hasn’t given information since. Their panels were supposedly 325-watt models with an impressive 21.76% efficiency, bringing them in line with most premium solar panel options on the market at the time.
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.
What we didn’t yet know in 2017 is how much Tesla solar panels cost exactly. Research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has found that large installers like SolarCity (Tesla’s phased-out solar brand) typically price their products at a premium of 10 to 20 percent when compared to smaller local installers. Based on data from the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, along with word-of-mouth, we saw Tesla solar panels being quoted at around $3.25/W, which equated to about $19,500 for a 6kW system before any tax credits, rebates, or incentives.
In January 2019, Tesla seemed to be using mainly their own Tesla-branded solar panels made by Panasonic in quotes for installations. In a 2018 report by Electrek, it was revealed that Tesla’s deal with Panasonic to produce panels at Gigafactory 2 finally began to ramp up significantly. According to the report, Tesla’s purchasing of panels from other suppliers dropped, while the share of installations done by Tesla with Tesla-branded panels jumped up over the second half of 2018. In fact, the company reportedly installed 93 megawatts (MW) of solar panel capacity in Q3 2018.
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 solar panels and other solar products 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 Tesla solar panel system likely includes or in the future will include 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.
Tesla solar panels also come with integrated functionality to the Tesla app, allowing property owners to monitor their panels from a smartphone or other device. One of the major benefits of any Tesla-branded product continues to be their usability and overall experience, and it seems that their low-profile solar panels are no different when it comes to ease of use and modernization.
Should you install 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 try to get a quote for them for your solar installation. 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 a diehard Tesla fan willing to wait out possible production delays (for which Tesla has become notorious) and pay a price premium, it may be worth looking into Tesla solar panels. 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.