In late 2016, Tesla, Inc., announced plans to buy SolarCity with the hopes that it could be a promising development for the solar industry. Tesla wants to create a sustainable energy company that powers both homes and cars. 1
Tesla is an American automaker, energy storage company, and solar panel manufacturer, and SolarCity is an American company that specializes in solar energy services. Tesla had already experimented with solar technology before the merger, and is looking to expand its reach with solar power innovation.
An Innovative Solar Powered Roof
A month before the Tesla-SolarCity merger announcement, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk presented solar roof tiles that look like regular shingles. Musk believes that Tesla’s new solar shingles will be cheaper than a regular roof. He said the shingles would “look better, last twice as long, cost less, and generate electricity.”
The shingles include tempered glass, a newly designed solar film, and solar power technology. Musk’s vision is to combine SolarCity’s solar panels with Tesla’s batteries. This would allow homeowners with a SolarCity roof to store excess power generated during the day in a Tesla Powerwall battery that they can tap into at night. 2
The Impact on the Solar Industry
U.S. demand for solar energy has soared in recent years, and it is now cheaper to invest in solar than fossil fuels. SolarCity is actually the nation’s biggest solar-power provider, thanks to its leasing program and government tax credits. Tesla’s energy storage technology could give SolarCity’s panels another edge on the energy market. 3
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SolarCity’s solar panel factory is being built in Buffalo, New York, one of the country’s poorest Rust Belt cities. It is part of a billion-dollar plan to stimulate the economy in upstate New York and is supposed to bring thousands of new jobs in the next years. However, the viability of solar varies from state to state and has received backlash in some states.
What is the Future for the Solar Industry
Musk claimed that the installation of SolarCity’s roof panels might be even cheaper than the installation of a regular roof. This could be a big boon to the industry as solar panel’s typically high upfront costs can turn off homeowners. Musk believes that Tesla’s single roofing supply chain and high-strength glass tiles will reduce costs, possibly even eliminating the need for government subsidies.
This innovation could further propel the U.S. solar industry, which is already estimated to grow in the years to come. 4 Nearly 209,000 Americans now work in solar at more than 9,000 companies in every U.S. state. This is more than double the number in 2010. By 2020, that number is expected to double to more than 420,000 workers. 5
Considering a Career in Solar?
If you are interested in a career in solar technology, The Refrigeration School’s electro mechanical technologies program offers a solar technology module where you can learn the fundamentals of solar energy.
1 – http://money.cnn.com/2016/11/17/technology/tesla-solarcity-merger/
2 – https://buffalonews.com/2016/11/18/musks-solar-roof-may-not-pricey/
3 – http://www.salon.com/2016/12/28/here-comes-the-sun-can-a-giant-solar-panel-factory-thrive-in-the-u-s-without-state-subsidies/
4 – http://www.seia.org/research-resources/solar-industry-data
5 – http://www.thesolarfoundation.org/solar-jobs-census/