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Elon Musk wants to sell you a better-looking solar roof amid slowing development for panels

Like some type of 21st century Willy Wonka, audacious entrepreneur Elon Musk chose a prime spot on the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot tour to unveil his most current attempt to energize an industry - roofs that generate solar power but look like no other.

Musk, the chief executive of Tesla Motors and chairman of SolarCity, showcased a line of high-design solar roof tiles that would replace clunky solar panels and tie into an upgraded version in the Tesla wall-mounted battery for all those times when the sun does not shine. The glass solar shingles resemble French slate, Tuscan barrel tile or more traditional roofing materials with a textured or smooth surface.

“The key would be to make solar appear fantastic,” Musk said throughout the item introduction staged around the old set of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” series, exactly where he had re-roofed four in the Wisteria Lane homes. “If that is carried out correct, all roofs may have solar.”
The move comes as California’s solar industry grapples with slowing development and other challenges regardless of aggressive state mandates to enhance the usage of renewable power.

Nationwide, sales of residential solar panels have held pretty steady inside the year ended June 30, in line with the Solar Energy Industries Assn.

In California, solar photovoltaic panel sales rose 12% within the very first nine months of 2016 compared with the very same period of 2015, state data show. But that pales compared using the 66% jump within the initial 3 quarters of 2015 compared with the identical period a year earlier.

Experts attribute the slowing to depletion of your pool of early adopters in addition to to policy modifications in California and also other states governing how solar owners are compensated for electricity they make and sell to utility companies.

Furthermore, many home owners had been worried regardless of whether Congress would renew a 30% federal tax credit set to expire at the end of 2016. Congress extended the credit by means of 2019 at 30%, right after which it gradually phases out for residential solar buyers.

The California solar market nevertheless expects 2016 to finish with an expansion.

“We’re seeing a slowdown inside the marketplace but it is not a downturn,” stated Bernadette del Chiaro, executive director from the California Solar Power Industries Assn. “We’re going to install a lot more rooftop solar this year than we did in 2015.”

A substantial driver within the solar industry may be the continued drop within the value of solar panels. The typical residential solar method runs about $8,000 with government incentives, which includes the 30% federal tax credit.

The supply of solar panels for residential and other utilizes almost doubled from 32 gigawatts in 2012 to 60 gigawatts in 2015, in accordance with Navigant Study of Chicago. That is sufficient to energy roughly 45 million houses.
But capitalizing around the falling price of solar panels has been tricky for an business that continues to struggle with other high charges like labor.

Technological advancements in rooftop solar will enable push general market sales from $3 billion in 2016 to $38 billion by 2025, Navigant projects. And by supplying shoppers a number of solar technique solutions, industry executives believe they will have an improved ability to compete using the cost of electrical energy produced by utilities.

Price and styling will probably prove vital for the industry in attracting prospects as existing solar energy owners have seen a few of the benefits of self-generating electrical energy erode. Utility corporations have complained that solar owners haven’t been paying their share in the expense to keep the network of energy lines, substations, transformers and energy plants that make up the electric grid.

Regulators across the nation have added expenses to solar energy owners like higher price tiers and mandatory charges that have enhanced per-household costs by as substantially as $10 to $20 a month in California, Del Chiaro said.

In some states like Florida, utility corporations have fought the development of rooftop solar with ballot initiatives that safeguard their monopolies on centralized energy although penalizing solar owners.

Virtually all quarters agree that the genuine future for solar - and a lot of your power sector - will depend on electricity storage, which banks solar power for when the sun is not shining. The price of electricity storage is high but, as with solar panels, is dropping quickly.


Quite a few solar firms in current months have announced partnerships with storage corporations to provide a package to consumers. Nonetheless, it remains too pricey for the average consumer.

“All of these strategic alliances are intelligent,” Del Chiaro stated. “They’re vital. We essentially must sell solar packaged with storage.”

Last week, residential solar giant Sunrun Inc., based in San Francisco, mentioned it had entered an agreement with South Korea’s LG Chem, the world’s largest supplier of automotive batteries, to supply dwelling energy storage to shoppers.

In July, Musk’s Tesla Motors presented to purchase SolarCity for extra than $2 billion. As a battery maker, Tesla combined with SolarCity gives the enterprise its personal version of a storage and solar partnership.

Tesla is anticipated in November to finalize its acquisition of SolarCity, which can be run by Musk’s cousins Lyndon Rive, who is chief executive, and Peter Rive, the chief technology officer.
But Musk, with his flamboyant style, didn't cease there. Alternatively, he is looking to one-up his competition.

Musk is operating to develop a private option power ecosystem connected by software and harmonious design and style, all under the Tesla brand name. The idea is that green-minded home owners will mix with performance-oriented automotive geeks at Tesla retail retailers to shop for electric vehicles, charging stations, solar rooftops and wall-mounted batteries for energy storage, readily available separately but designed to work finest as a system.

Friday’s solar roof unveiling also incorporated an upgraded Powerwall, Tesla’s sleek wall-mounted property battery, which can shop roof-generated solar power for household makes use of and recharge the Tesla inside the garage.

Throughout an August conference contact with analysts, Lyndon Rive all but bet the announcement would trigger growth in SolarCity sales as the firm lures home owners off the sidelines with its new design and style. Rive noted that five million U.S. homes get new roofs annually - “a genuinely huge market segment” that will not cannibalize sales of SolarCity’s classic item.

Revenue through the 1st six months of the year nearly doubled that in the exact same period in 2015, but the company’s net loss for 2016 was much more than $230 million larger.

SolarCity’s value is far from its February 2014 higher of $84.96 per share. The company’s stock price tag hovers about $20 a share now.

Julien Dumoulin-Smith, an analyst with UBS who focuses on electric utilities and option energy, mentioned new items and flashy presentations are significantly less significant to SolarCity than the fundamentals.

“What they ought to do is bring down the fees,” Dumoulin-Smith said. “The meat and potatoes difficulties for this business are much more pressing.”

In an effort to curb fees, SolarCity and home-sharing corporation Airbnb this month announced a partnership beneath which Airbnb hosts and renters are eligible for a rebate of up to $1,000 on solar panels via SolarCity. Also, SolarCity shoppers who come to be Airbnb hosts get a $100 travel credit.

With this kind of partnership, solar firms cut down the cost of consumer acquisition, a big expense.

Solar firms also have already been adding financing selections aside from the leasing model that was a signature method of SolarCity.

In June, SolarCity said it had begun supplying 10- to 20-year loans to prospects that would permit property owners to acquire the benefit of government incentives the leasing applications didn't supply. The loan program permits homeowners to own the panels without the need of large upfront charges and obtain the 30% federal tax credit - an incentive SolarCity and also other solar leasing companies claimed themselves since they nonetheless owned the solar panels.

For Musk, who just reported a surprise quarterly profit at Tesla, design has often been supreme.


The company had fashioned its Powerwall residence storage batteries with lines that complement the silhouette of a Tesla Model S; but to Musk, SolarCity’s solar panels looked like the very same commodity merchandise just about every other solar installer was selling.

He pushed the corporation to create the solution not just less expensive and more power efficient, but in addition much better looking.

"This must be an asset to your home,” he mentioned, repeating it in public appearances over the previous couple of weeks. “It needs to be so excellent that when it really is done you get in touch with your neighbors more than to show them how proud you will be.”

The new Tesla-SolarCity roof tiles will likely be readily available next summer season, Musk stated Friday, with rollout beginning in California. He didn’t give information about price or efficiency.

Musk says he spends the majority of his time on engineering and style, and on Wednesday emphasized the crucial partnership among the two in a conference get in touch with with stock analysts.

“It’s essential to possess tight handle over the production of solar panels … to possess a gorgeous roof item,” he stated. “We’ve got to become in a position to iterate swiftly and have them made exactly how we want them.”

A 2014 survey by home-solar power provider Lumeta discovered that slightly under a third of respondents deemed appearance really or incredibly essential, although slightly more than a third mentioned the appear was slightly important or not crucial at all.

“People devote a lot of time trying to create an attractive household,” stated Andy Ogden, chairman of the industrial style graduate program in the ArtCenter College of Style in Pasadena. “They do not want funny glass boxes stuck on a single side of their roof.”

Creating solar roofs a lot more desirable, he stated, “increases the number of folks who will set up solar.”

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