Tesla Unveils New Solar Products

Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Chairman and CEO Elon Musk wants to expand from electric vehicles to clean energy systems for homes and offices. Edging closer to that goal, the company unveiled new solar panel tiles and energy storage units for homes at its latest show. The unveiling showed the products on four of the Wisteria Lane houses that once served as the set of the television show “Desperate Housewives.” The rollout of the products is expected as soon as next summer.

The solar panel tiles were the star of the show. The tiles contain photovoltaic cells that Tesla says are invisible from the street. Musk said that the tiles would be more durable and have better insulation qualities than conventional roofs. The glass tiles will be available in four styles, including French slate, Tuscan barrel tile, and more conventional roofing materials with a textured or smooth surface. No pricing details have been announced for the tiles.

Tesla also unveiled its new version of its Powerwall energy storage units. The units can be mounted on the wall or kept on the ground. The new version of the Powerwall costs $5,500. Currently, less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity generation comes from solar power. Musk estimated that one-fourth of Tesla owners currently have solar energy panels.

In June, Tesla proposed buying SolarCity in an all-stock deal worth around $2.45 billion. According to Musk, SolarCity’s installation network and Tesla’s global stores could provide a one-stop shop for sustainable energy and transportation. If the merger is approved, SolarCity will adopt Tesla’s name and sell its solar panels through Tesla’s stores. Shareholders are scheduled to vote on the deal on Nov. 17.

The merger is controversial. Neither company has been able to achieved sustained profitability.
Tesla reported a $22 million profit in the third quarter. It was the company’s first quarterly profit in three years. SolarCity lost $250 million in the second quarter. It reports third-quarter earnings in November.

Some shareholders have said that the merger is an attempt by Musk to use one company to bail out another. Musk owns 26.5 percent of Tesla and 22 percent of SolarCity. Musk is also chairman of SolarCity, which is run by his cousins.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, sales of residential solar panels have held fairly steady nationwide in the year ended June 30. In California, solar photovoltaic panel sales rose 12 percent in the first nine months of 2016 when compared with the same period of 2015. The California solar industry expects 2016 to finish with an expansion.