Tesla held its annual shareholder meeting on June 6th, 2017, at 2:30pm Pacific time. The meeting included a summary of progress to date as well as a look into the future for the company. The major milestone for the last year and what Tesla kicked the meeting off with was that, with the acquisition of SolarCity, Tesla became the world’s first vertically integrated sustainable energy company.
Elon’s vision from back in college was for solar energy, electric cars, and batteries to reach their full potential, and he has had a hand in bringing that to reality. Furthermore, Tesla is involved in all three goals since the acquisition of SolarCity last year. Tesla now has the ability to deliver a full sustainable energy solution to consumers:
“It’s a fully contained energy solution that can scale for the world,” Elon noted in the meeting.
The message further drives home the point that, even beyond Tesla, sustainable energy generation, storage, and electric vehicles are mature products with no technical or financial gaps preventing mass adoption around the world. Elon Musk stated plainly that “there are no unanswered questions” with regards to the trio. Tesla even took into account building the factories that produce its products with sustainability in mind.
“Even the Gigafactories that will make the products will be powered by sustainable energy.”
Solar Roof Tile
To talk about sustainable energy generation is to talk about Tesla’s hottest new energy product — the Tesla Solar Roof Tile. Elon took the first part of his hour in the annual shareholder’s meeting to talk about the new tiles. He reiterated that a Solar Roof Tile roof will cost less than a traditional roof plus the avoided cost of the electricity consumed over the life of the panels in most areas of the country.
With such large variability in sunshine, in electricity costs, and in net metering policies across the nation (and around the world), payouts will vary considerably, which makes sense. California has very favorable net metering policies, comparably high energy costs, and lots of sunshine in the south making, which together make solar a lucrative option for many homeowners. Texas, on the other hand, has decent amounts of sunshine but low energy costs and unfavorable net metering costs, making it a difficult location for solar, financially speaking.
To streamline the installation of the new Solar Roof Tiles, Tesla is taking a new approach to installation to drive the time required down and the cost along with it.
“It should be like LEGO.”
Elon shared that Tesla is working to make the installation of the tiles as easy as possible, building it into a “kit” that would essentially snap together like Legos. This puts a lot of the standardization back into the manufacturing process which helps ensure a more consistent and reliable installation. Both of these work in Tesla’s favor from a warranty standpoint.
Tesla is working hard to minimize the amount of work that happens at the installation to drive install costs down and to make the process as painless as possible. Elon highlighted that a more streamlined installation would also drive the cost of the installed system down for customers.
All the Solar Panels
Many people think that the introduction of the Solar Roof Tile means traditional solar is dead. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many roofs are in great shape and have lots of life left in them. Some rooftops are not visible from the street or are flat. In these cases and many, many more, traditional solar panels are still the best bet.
“Traditional solar will still be an important part of Tesla’s solar roof going forward.”
On top of that, traditional solar panels are way cheaper and less complex to install making them a great option for property owners looking for the most affordable solar option. A solar roof for my house in Ventura, California was estimated at over $50,000 after rebates. A new (boring, traditional) roof and an array of solar panels to power my home and 2 cars would cost an estimated $42,000 after rebates. It is true that the Solar Roof Tiles will last much longer with their infinite warranty along with other considerations, but at the end of the day, traditional solar panels remain competitive and a great option for many buyers.
Tesla is building in storage as a base assumption with Solar Roof Tile assessment for new customers. Storage is not as important to the equation for the average homeowner today but it becomes increasingly important as the percentage of solar generation on the grid continues to increase.
Having energy storage in the home in the form of a Powerwall or similar home energy storage product also allows homeowners to have power in the event of a grid power outage. With our continued progress toward digitization and the heavy reliance we have on all our devices, Elon shared that we are increasingly dependant on power for those devices. If the power goes out and all of the sudden we can’t charge our precious devices, it would make the potentially dangerous power outage that much worse.
Powerwall enables homeowners to run critical devices during a power outage. Because of its integration with the solar system on the home, Powerwall will recharge from the solar system during the day, maximizing the amount of available energy during the outage.
Utility-Scale Stationary Storage
Not to let its grid-scale batteries slide by under the radar, Elon noted that Tesla had also installed it’s Powerpacks at the world’s largest lithium-ion stationary storage installation in Southern California. The unit is especially important and relevant to many utilities since it replaced a natural gas peaker unit. Grid-scale battery installations using lithium-ion batteries are able to respond in a matter of milliseconds in the event of a demand spike — compared to the 10–12 minutes required for a natural gas peaker plant to ramp up to full capacity. Startup and shutdown of natural gas fired turbines are also the points of highest emissions as units warm up or ramp down.
Another Tesla Energy lithium-ion stationary storage installation allowed an entire island to go off the grid in American Samoa. This demonstrates the flexibility and the impact grid-scale batteries can have. Elon pontificated aloud that if an entire island could go off the grid with a strategic installation of grid-scale batteries, why not an entire nation?
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