When I was in seventh grade, I made a presentation on renewable energy technology at the time and delivered it to my middle school science class. At that time, solar energy was prohibitively expensive, poorly distributed, and an impractical alternative to just paying your energy bill, even in the Sunshine State. Today, in my junior year of college, it is so cool to look at a company like SolarCity with awe and respect at how they have almost single-handedly transformed the solar power industry and made solar tech a viable option for our homes.
Solar power is still not cheap but because of SolarCity, your money now goes a long way into buying a visually gorgeous and technically powerful array of solar panels for your home along with Tesla Powercells to back them up.
In the way of residential solutions, Tesla, through SolarCity, offers solar panels, solar roofs, and powerwalls. Let's dive in.
I think that solar panels are the image we all have in mind when we hear talk of solar power. Solar Panels are perfect for those looking to go partially or fully off the grid without redoing their entire roof. SolarCity's panels can be mounted on top of your existing roof to capture energy from the sun's rays and turn that into electricity to power your home. During the day, the panels capture enough energy to both power your home and charge a battery which kicks in during the evening or a cloudy day to provide power to your home when solar capture is decreased or paused due to lack of brightness outside. Depending on the size of your solar panel array and the energy usage of your home, you can either go partially or fully off the grid with this tech. Fully off the grid, as it sounds, means that your home draws no power from the power utility lines in your neighborhood. You won't receive an electricity bill and your home will be totally powered by 100% renewable and sustainable solar power. Going partially off the grid means that in times of high energy usage your SolarCity system will partner with your power utility's power lines to draw supplemental power.
Though solar panels themselves are not a new invention, SolarCity has innovated this product significantly. Their solar panels are more affordable than those of competitors, outperform and outlast their peers, and aesthetically blow other solar arrays out of the water. Check out this picture comparing competitor arrays to SolarCity's array.
Even with SolarCity's aesthetic improvements to solar panels, they are still additions to your existing, beautiful roof. Moreover, for structural reasons, solar panels cannot cover the entire area of your roof, so you are losing panel surface area that could be capturing more electricity for your home.
To answer these problems, SolarCity has developed my favorite product offered them by far -- the Solar Roof. This revolutionary tech allows you to replace your existing roof with a new solar roof. The solar roof will be comprised of a customizable combination of normal glass and solar glass tiles. The solar glass tiles will harness solar energy with embedded solar panels while the normal glass tiles will be there to fill in your roof so there aren't gaps. Both will look identical from the street level. Solar Roof is an attractive and virtually zero profile solution to allow you to power your home from solar energy without compromising sophistication and style. To accommodate your home's architecture, SolarCity currently produces two styles of tiles with two more on the way in 2018.
These roofs are awesome because 1) they are GORGEOUS! and 2) you can customize how many of the tiles are solar glass, allowing you to customize how much solar energy your home captures, with maximum capacity being the entire surface area of your roof.
The final piece to SolarCity's solutions allowing you to go totally off grid -- on the power of the sun alone -- is the Tesla Powerwall. The Powerwall is essentially a large battery equipped with Wi-Fi and smart technology that stores power generated by your solar system (whether it be solar panels or a solar roof) for moments when your home's energy needs go beyond the real-time production of your system (panels or roof). Whenever you need more energy than the solar system provides (like at night time or during a cloudy afternoon) back-up power. One Powerwall has enough energy to power a medium-sized home for about 17 hours. Depending on the size of your home and how long you want to be able to run your house for on batteries alone, you get to choose how many Powerwalls you need. Each one costs about $6200.
Powerwalls are equipped with smart technology allowing you to control them and monitor charge and output from your phone.
In late 2016, Tesla acquired SolarCity for $2 Billion. This move was brilliant for Elon Musk. Before the acquisition, Tesla was just a car company. Now that they own SolarCity, Tesla has rebranded as a clean energy company that makes the world's cleanest electric cars. Tesla has sinced merged their vehicle production factories and technology with SolarCity's technology and home installations.
As a result, all solar roof, panel, and powerwall orders and systems are technically provided by Tesla... which is a good thing because Tesla doesn't mess around.
Finally, expect to see solar roofs on Tesla cars soon post the SolarCity acquisition!