Tesla is About to Buy America's Biggest Solar Energy Provider

By Alissa Walker on at

Elon Musk is on the brink of acquiring the next critical component in a solar-electric transportation future. Tesla Motors has made an offer to buy SolarCity, one of the largest solar providers in the US — a company founded by Musk’s cousins, which Musk holds a large stake in already.

According to a post on Tesla’s blog, this move will allow the people who own Tesla vehicles to achieve complete energy independence, using Tesla’s coming-soon Powerball batteries paired with SolarCity’s photovoltaic solutions. But it also will accelerate solar adoption by integrating the panels with Tesla’s suite of products:

The SolarCity team has built its company into the clear solar industry leader in the residential, commercial and industrial markets, with significant scale and growing customer penetration. They have made it easy for customers to switch to clean energy while still providing the best customer experience. We’ve seen this all firsthand through our partnership with SolarCity on a variety of use cases, including those where SolarCity uses Tesla battery packs as part of its solar projects.

Musk imagines that people purchasing new Tesla vehicles could simply include solar as an add-on at the time of purchase. “You can go into a store or go online and with a few clicks you can have everything from solar panels to batteries to electric cars.”

The other benefit Musk revealed during his public call is a total technical integration with the Powerball batteries — so homeowners will have the ability to control and monitor their energy needs using a single system. There will also be a commercial programme as well.

Interestingly, Solar City saw its stock downgraded on Monday in anticipation of interest rate hikes that might lead to more solar lease defaults. But when asked about that concern, Musk said that the timing is more about working on integrating the panels with Powerwall batteries before they hit the market. It’s also good timing as the also-coming-soon Model 3 is poised to make EVs more mainstream.

There’s a lot that still needs to be worked out — like how SolarCity already works with utility companies, and how different the regulations and incentives are for customers from state to state. But Musk emphasised several times on the call that this was the right thing to do on a global scale. “It’s a thing that matters 10 times more than the product itself,” he said. “The world doesn’t lack for automotive companies. The world lacks for sustainable energy companies." [Tesla]