Tesla to hide ‘solar test-house’ under tents at Fremont site


Lora Kolodny at CNBC uncovered a recently granted building permit that allows Tesla to put up “two canopy covers” over its new “solar test houses.” The canopies are to be removed after two months, according to the permit from the city of Fremont, California. Tesla used tent-like structures to meet its aggressive weekly production targets for the Model 3 electric vehicle in 2018.

Tesla’s solar business has been neglected in the wake of the EV firm’s struggle to survive its massive production and delivery challenges. Quarterly solar installations fell to a low of 29 MW in the second quarter but rebounded a bit in the third quarter.

Earlier this year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that 2019 was “the year of the solar roof.” Musk has said that the solar roof product is already on “version 3,” although one would be hard-pressed to locate a roof with version 1 or 2.

The elusive solar roof

Three years after its introduction, and after having received deposits from interested homeowners, Tesla has reportedly connected just a few dozen solar-integrated roofs to the grid.

Tesla said, “We are in the process of improving many aspects of this business to increase deployments,” but Tesla’s solar free fall in a modest growth market always looked like a deliberate curtailment of its business.

Electrek obtained a price quote, along with diagrams of the expensive and beautiful solar roof tiles. The product line includes custom fittings, flashings, vents and ridge caps to better match the roof. Tesla did not provide an update on the production of the  roof in the Buffalo, New York factory and the 1,460 jobs the company has pledged to create there by next year.

The author of this article received a call from a “Janis” at Tesla a few months ago, letting me know that I could order and place a $1,000 down payment on solar roof tiles directly from the company website. Janis said that, after providing some basic home information, the website would generate a price quote for the roof tiles. She noted that only the textured tile option was available right now. Tesla has not disclosed how many prospective customers have paid to pre-order the roof.

Musk was characteristically optimistic in July, claiming that the company would ramp production to 1,000 roofs per week by now, the end of the year.

Solar test houses?

Kolodny suggests that placing canopies over the solar test homes “should help Tesla evade prying eyes and conduct its research and development without rain delays.”

Presumably a company like Tesla would test its new solar products extensively before deploying them on people’s homes.

Perhaps the tailwinds of lower solar module prices, legislation such as the California mandate for solar panels on all new homes, aggressive pricing, and new sales techniques will help restore Tesla to its former residential solar glory.

In the meantime, we’ll keep an eye on the tents.

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