Tesla is often synonymous with high-end, luxury renewable technology but their solar panel business can be a bit confusing. Tesla got into the solar industry in 2016 by acquiring SolarCity, with the goal of streamlining solar panel and battery storage manufacturing.
On this page:
This acquisition made sense because at the time, SolarCity was the largest residential installer in the country. Their solar business grew at an exponential rate, and were forced to outsource many of their panels from third-parties.
When Tesla took over, they retained the same sales and marketing infrastructure, but lacked the ability to produce solar panels at scale, so they partnered with more solar manufacturing companies like Panasonic, in their Buffalo, New York gigafactory.
Panasonic provided Tesla with solar cells, the component within solar panels that converts sunlight to electricity for energy generation. While Tesla and Panasonic have recently ended their solar cell production partnership, they remain in conjunction to build Tesla solar batteries for Tesla Powerwalls and electric vehicles.
Because of the mix of parties that can fall under the Tesla brand, clarity about what panels you receive when you purchase Tesla panels is a challenge. In this blog, we lay out what to expect.
Your home can be completely renewable, thanks to Tesla solar panels, Tesla batteries, and a chargeable Tesla electric vehicle. Image source: Tesla
Does Tesla manufacture its own solar cells?
No, Tesla is not the manufacturer of its solar cells.
As noted above, until very recently, Tesla had a partnership with international electronics giant Panasonic to create Tesla solar panels. The partnership was based around using the highly-regarded Panasonic HIT cells to create Tesla’s solar panels.
With Panasonic’s departure from solar cell production for Tesla, it is not yet known what Tesla’s plan is to replace solar cell manufacturing. SolarReviews will monitor the situation for further detail as we are sure Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has a plan in place.
Because of lower-than-expected demand for Tesla solar panels, Panasonic would produce solar cells in Tesla’s factory and then sell those cells to overseas customers. This turned out to be an unprofitable partnership for Panasonic, leading them to part ways with Tesla.
So what exactly are Tesla solar panels?
With Panasonic out of the picture, Tesla is working with a company called Hanwha to supply their solar panels. Specifically, they use the QPeak Duo Black solar panels.
Although, when you call Tesla and ask for a quote for solar panels for your home, there’s a good chance you won’t even see a brand of panel listed aside your estimate.
Even though Tesla does manufacture solar roof shingles, or solar tiles, for the Tesla solar roof, they do not have their own solar panel brand. You’re likely going to have to ask for the specific makes and models but for now, Hanwha is the most likely brand.
One of the biggest benefits of a Tesla solar panel system is the aesthetic appeal. Typical solar installations include skirting, in an effort to hide all solar panel mounting hardware from the ground view, ensuring seamless integration into the roofing material. Tesla’s panels will also be black in appearance, which ensures the panels are as aesthetically pleasing as possible.
Why are Tesla solar panels sourced from third parties?
Tesla uses third-party panels for a few reasons.
SolarCity’s business always sold third-party solar panels for their solar systems and this practice carried over to their relationship with Tesla. Because it makes sense for Tesla to quote the cheapest cost solar panel to customers, it is not in their benefit to disclose the solar panel brand.
With the former Panasonic partnership, those solar panels would technically be the “Tesla brand” solar panel. But, purchasing solar panels from other companies, like Hanwah, was still practiced. The issue for consumers is that they cannot easily compare solar panel costs because company quotes generally do not break down the cost and brand of solar panel they are using.
You can specifically ask for a certain brand of solar panels to be quoted but it also might not be worth it. Many solar panels these days are pretty equal in efficiency and cost and all provide great solar power.
The solar panels might not be produced entirely by Tesla, but as long as you understand Tesla’s warranty, you should feel comfortable trusting a Tesla quote. Tesla does provide a 12 year workmanship warranty and at least 80% of nameplate power capacity after 25 years.
Additionally, Tesla has recently started a price match program. So if you do compare solar panel costs and happen to find a cheaper alternative versus what Tesla quotes you, you can apply for a price match!
How much do Tesla solar panels cost?
Estimating your potential cost for Tesla solar panels is pretty straightforward.
You can go through their online portal and enter in your address and your average monthly electric bill to get a quote. In a trial run, we estimated the cost for a 2,300 square foot home with an average electricity cost of $100/month, $175/month and $200/month. Tesla recommended their 8.16 KW system, their 12.24 KW system, and the 16.32 KW system, respectively.
Using the estimate portal on Tesla’s website, we then entered in the same home address with an average monthly electricity bill of $400. With that information, Tesla recommended the 16.32 KW system. For a residential property, it seems that 16.32 KW is the maximum size that is installed by Tesla.
It is pretty simple to figure out the cost of Tesla solar panels for your property based on your average electric bill.
Tesla will provide the exact amount of solar panels your home needs to offset your average electric use. Image source: Tesla
Check out the breakdown below of what you can expect to pay based on your electricity use. To determine the kilowatt hours(kWh) your home will need per day, and thus the system size you need, you can look at your monthly electric bill to see the amount of kWh’s your home used that month and divide that by the amount of days in that month.
For example, if your home used 1,200kWh in July, you would divide 1,200 by 31 to get an average of 38kWhs used a day. Based on that information, you probably need the 12.24 KW system. The costs do include solar panel installation, and necessary equipment like inverters and racking, from Tesla partners.
|System size||kWh produced||Number of solar panels||Cost before incentives*|
|4.08 kW||10-15 kWh/day||12||$8,200|
|8.16 kW||20-30 kWh/day||24||$16,400|
|12.24 kW||31-44 kWh/day||36||$24,600|
|16.32 kW||41-59 kWh/day||48||$32,800|
|*Based on 340 watt solar panels||*Includes installation costs|
Tesla solar panels range in price from $8,200 to $32,800, before incentives, depending on the system size that is best for your home. For information on incentives near you, use our solar cost calculator!
How can you pay for Tesla solar panels?
Tesla is unique – you can either pay cash, finance, or rent their solar panels by paying a monthly subscription fee, like the Netflix for solar – as the Tesla sales representative compared it to.
So far, only six states have this option. So if you live in California, New Jersey, Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, or New Mexico, this could be a great choice.
The subscription cost covers installation and maintenance of the panels, and you are able to cancel the subscription at any time. Upon cancellation, you would pay $2,500 for Tesla to remove the panels from your roof.
The benefit of this option is that you can pay less upfront and have solar panels installed on a home you do not plan to live in for 10+ years. But ultimately, the best way to save the most money and ensure you receive tax credits is to pay for solar panels in full.
How efficient are Tesla solar panels?
Currently, the Hanwha solar panel that Tesla is quoting has a 19.6% solar panel efficiency.
SunPower solar panels have a 22% efficiency rating and most Chinese Tier 1 producers achieve 17%. This means that the amount of solar energy a Tesla solar panel absorbs from the sun is higher than lower-quality products.
It is also important to consider the real-world performance of the Tesla solar panels, with a temperature coefficient of .39%. This means the panels’ power output falls only 0.39% for every degree Celsius above 25 degrees. A .39% temperature coefficient is not the most efficient, but it will keep your solar panels producing enough energy even on the hottest days.
What does 2020 have in store for the Tesla solar panels?
Like many industries, 2020 will be a trying year for Tesla due to the COVID-19 economy. Tesla as a company is doing well and has even turned a profit so far in 2020, already hitting last year’s goal.
However, there are a few things we need to be on the lookout for, like what will happen with Tesla solar roof installations, which are being implemented more slowly than consumers hoped. Or, what will happen in the coming months after Panasonic’s final departure from Tesla’s Buffalo gigafactory plant. We will keep our eyes peeled for updates.
Final word on the Tesla solar panels
If you are a Tesla fan, Tesla solar panels are a great choice and can easily be installed with a Tesla Powerwall home battery for a completely renewable house. But, Tesla solar panels are not the best option in the market in terms of panel efficiency.
SolarReviews recommends these brands if you choose to shop for solar panels based on efficiency.
Shop around and use our solar calculator to get a few competitive quotes before choosing a company and solar panel brand. After comparing costs, perhaps take advantage of Tesla’s price matching option if Tesla is your brand of choice.