Friday, November 4, 2016

SolarCity Releases New Type of Solar Panels in Response to Decreasing Growth in the Industry

One of the biggest complaints that homeowners have against solar panels is that they "look ugly." Homeowners claim that the normal glass and metal panels clash with the look of their house and negatively affect the feel of the neighborhood. Fortunately for them, Elon Musk, the chairman of SolarCity, has revealed a whole new line of solar panels that look more like regular roofing tiles. Ivan Penn and Russ Mitchell, in their L.A. Times article, discuss what this innovation means for consumers and how it ties into all of the other technology being designed by Musk's companies.

Not only do these re-designed solar panels address the "ugliness" issue, but Musk also hopes that these panels will provide homeowners with more of an incentive to invest in one of Tesla's wall-mounted batteries. When the sun is shining, the tiles provide energy for current use and charge up the battery. When the sun isn't shining, the charge in the battery can be used to provide energy for the house. Eventually, he hopes that every home will have its own personal "alternative energy ecosystem" made up of Tesla and SolarCity devices. His goal is for green-minded homeowners to mix electric vehicles, charging stations, solar rooftops, and wall-mounted batteries to create the perfect blend for an energy-efficient home. Realistically, all of those devices are very pricey, so the components are sold separately, but Musk makes it clear that they work best as a total system.

Analysts believe that SolarCity's big announcement regarding the new-and-improved solar panels was due to the slowing growth of Southern California's solar industry. Where solar panel sales rose by 66% in the first three quarters of 2015 compared to the previous year, sales only rose by 12% in the same period of 2016. They believe the slowing growth is caused by the dwindling number of early adopters for the technology. The hope is that the new style of solar panels and the introduction of Tesla's new Powerwall home electricity storage batteries will help them quickly move on to the early majority segment of potential customers. Additionally, the slowing growth could be due to changes in state and local regulations. Rules are changing regarding how solar companies can sell their energy to utility companies, and tax credits for green energy are running out, so it becomes a less affordable proposition by the day.

Still, overall, analysts believe that the solar industry will continue expanding through the end of 2016. Prices on solar panels and wall-mount batteries are continuously going down, which helps those on the fence to make a decision. It is believed that overall sales in the solar industry will reach $38 billion by 2025, from $3 billion in 2016. While utility companies and local regulators have been targeting solar providers, making their costs rise, the solar companies have responded by partnering with electricity storage companies. It is sensible that a package of solar energy with a way to store it can be optimal based on customer demands. But, Musk already has a head-start on everyone else, since Tesla and SolarCity already make up their own strategic alliance. If other companies want to catch up, they will have to figure out a way to cut costs significantly, or accept lower profits until they have been able to get a substantial market share.

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