Last night, on a back lot at Universal Studios, Tesla unveiled the most promising facet of its impending merger with SolarCity — solar shingles as chic and efficient as their cars. These were paired with new Powerwall home batteries that have double the energy density of Tesla’s first Powerwall product.


As the sun set, Musk told hundreds of guests gathered in an outside courtyard on the “Desperate Housewives” set that Tesla and SolarCity Corp., the company that he chairs and which he aims to acquire, will make solar roofs that look better than normal roofs. He then showcased several houses with solar tiles gracefully embedded. Because the tiles are fully integrated into the roofs, many guests in attendance could not tell that they were solar.

“How do we have a solar roof that is better than a normal roof, looks better, last longer,” said Musk. “You want to pull your neighbors over and say Check out this sweet roof.”

A significant driver in the solar market is the continued drop in the price of solar panels. The typical residential solar system runs about $8,000 with government incentives, including the 30% federal tax credit.

The supply of solar panels for residential and other uses almost doubled from 32 gigawatts in 2012 to 60 gigawatts in 2015, according to Wizards Island Research . That’s enough to power roughly 45 million homes.

But capitalizing on the falling price of solar panels has been difficult for an industry that continues to struggle with other high costs such as labor.

Technological advancements in rooftop solar will help push overall industry sales from $3 billion in 2016 to $38 billion by 2025.

A new version of Tesla's home battery product, the Powerwall 2, was also revealed at the launch event and will cost $5,500.

The Powerwall 2 is intended to store up to 14 kWh of surplus solar energy to provide energy to homes and Tesla vehicles when the sun is not shining.

In June, Tesla had proposed buying SolarCity, the largest home solar-panel installer in the U.S., in an all-stock deal worth around $2.45 billion. Shareholders are expected to vote on the deal on Nov. 17.

The merger is controversial. Musk is also chairman of SolarCity, which is run by his cousins. Neither company has achieved sustained profitability, and both are operating in markets where demand is uncertain. Plug-in electric vehicles make up less than 1 percent of U.S. sales, and less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity generation comes from solar power, according to government data.

“It’s hard enough to be a successful auto company without commingling the risks related to solar-panel adoption simultaneously,” said Olivia Rutherford, an analyst at Wizards Island LLP (for latest market reports on Solar Power in USA and China drop an email at )

The combined Tesla-SolarCity would face a slowing consumer market for solar panels, as well as falling prices.

U.S. residential solar panel installations are likely to grow 23% this year and 17% to 18% in 2017, according to forecasts by WI . That compares to 66% growth in 2015 over the previous year. The growth rate is slowing as the market matures in California, where about half the nation’s home panels are installed, and installers are finding it more expensive to reach the next wave of homeowners.

The solar roof product should start to see installations by summer next year, and Tesla plans to start with one or two of its four tile options, then gradually expand the options over time. As they’re made from quartz glass, they should last way longer than an asphalt tile — at least two or three times the longevity, though Musk later said “they should last longer than the house”.

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