With 2,200 stores, Home Depot is one of the largest retailers in America. By July of this year, 800 of those stores will have high-profile, 12 foot high, 7 foot wide displays advertising Tesla kiosks located inside. Staffed by Tesla employees, they will feature Tesla solar products — solar panels, rooftop solar systems, and Powerwall storage batteries. Bloomberg reports some locations will also have interactive demonstrations of how the products work.
The new marketing strategy replaces the direct door-to-door marketing approach previously employed by SolarCity, which Tesla purchased outright at the end of 2016. Reportedly, a third of the cost of the rooftop solar systems SolarCity sold was eaten up by commissions, promotional costs, and office overhead. (CleanTechnica reported on its abnormally high costs in 2015.) The company now has solar product displays in its automotive showrooms, but the new link-up with Home Depot will give it exposure to a much broader market.
Bloomberg suggests that only Tesla’s solar panels and rooftop systems will be featured in the Home Depot sales locations initially, but that Tesla’s new Solar Roof could be added in the future. Production of Solar Roof tiles is just now ramping up at Tesla’s Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, New York. Tesla is partnering with Panasonic to manufacture solar panels at that location as well. Prices for a Tesla rooftop solar system range from $10,000 to $25,000, according to the company’s website. The Powerwall energy storage battery is an additional $7,000.
It is unknown how the new tariff on solar cells and panels imposed by the Trump administration last week will affect Tesla. Certainly, the residential solar market has been a challenge for many companies who got in early. Investors have been treated to a virtual train wreck as several companies have gone bankrupt trying to navigate the turbulent waters of the residential solar industry.
Elon Musk has said several times he wants the process of adding a residential solar system to be a seamless proposition. Once the customer chooses to go forward, Tesla will take care of everything — permitting, engineering, installation, service, and repairs under warranty. There are lots of independent entrepreneurs in the residential solar industry. Some of them are reputable; others are like the snake oil salesmen who sell driveway sealants door to door. Doing business with established companies like Tesla and Home Depot may give people the peace of mind they need to sign up for a residential solar system of their own.
There is a rumor that Lowe’s, another large home improvement chain, may be talking to Tesla about adding displays in its stores as well. Neither Tesla, Home Depot, nor Lowe’s would confirm or deny that report.