The attention around Tesla’s solar products is mostly focused on its solar roof tiles, but those address only a new segment in the market – the new roof segment. Tesla is also trying to innovate for homeowners who don’t need a new roof, but who still want to generate their own solar energy.
This weekend, Tesla updated the ‘Energy’ section of its website to unveil new pictures – see above and below – of a new exclusive solar panel made by Panasonic. Electrek has also learned some details about this new product that will apparently shape the future of the company’s offering in the residential solar industry.
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The new panels are part of Tesla’s deal with Panasonic at the ‘Gigafactory 2’ in Buffalo. They will be manufactured by Panasonic at Tesla’s factory for Tesla’s exclusive use. They don’t plan to make them available to third-party installers or individuals.
As of now and since before the acquisition by Tesla, SolarCity, like most solar installers, used solar panels from several different suppliers for its residential and commercial projects, but that’s about to change.
Tesla told Electrek that once the new Panasonic module will go into production at Gigafactory 2 this summer, they will be used for all new residential projects going forward.
Update: Tesla sent us an update to clarify that they will still make less powerfull 250-260 watt panels from other suppliers available.
Like the solar roof, the move is part of Elon Musk’s plan to offer solar products with better aesthetics in order to create a distinctive brand that can be differentiated from other installers on a product basis. He said when first announcing that they were working on such solar products:
“I think this is really a fundamental part of achieving differentiated product strategy.
For the solar panels, that means a ‘sleek and low-profile’ look for all residential installation. Here are the new pictures:
They achieved that “with integrated front skirts and no visible mounting hardware”. That’s a system developed by Zep Solar, a mounting equipment company acquired by SolarCity before it was itself acquired by Tesla.
For years, Zep Solar’s engineering team has been working on new mounting systems to deploy modules faster, reduce installation cost and make solar systems look sleeker. Now those engineers have joined Tesla to work on the mounting system for the solar roof tiles and other modules.
Zep co-founder Daniel Flanigan is now Senior Director of Solar Systems Product Design at Tesla and leads a significant team of engineers that have been with him since the early days of his startup founded in 2009 and acquired by SolarCity in 2013. They were behind the “rail-less” system that SolarCity has been using to help cut its installation time in half.
It’s likely that we will see some of their technologies in the solar roof products, but for now, they enabled this streamlined look for solar panels.
As for the modules themselves, we learned that they are 325-watt and Tesla claims that they “exceed industry standards for durability and lifespan”, but we don’t have the full specs yet. The non-exclusive 325-watt panels that Panasonic sells to other installers have a module efficiency of 21.76% and a 25-year power output warranty, which is quickly becoming standard in the industry.
Tesla started taking requests for quotes for the new solar panels on its website. The viability of solar prices is highly dependent on your market (electricity cost, gov incentives, etc.) and your property. We suggest getting quotes from more than one installer to make sure you get the best energy solution for your place. UnderstandSolar is a great free service to link you to top-rated solar installers in your region for personalized solar estimates for free.