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Commercial Solar (tesla.com)
124 points by lelf 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments

This is the sort of thing I've come to expect from Elon Musk, the plan that once you see it you think "oh...yeah. Of course." Tacking the removal fees to the end of contract is a little iffy to me, but overall, what. a. move.

This gives consumers who want a way to get into solar a low-cost, low-risk entry point where they'll probably break even, do a little better, or at least be somewhere in that neighborhood month to month. There is a $1,500 removal fee (which could be done for private contractors for less) but that's also kind of peanuts for anybody who's looked into solar and realized the massive up-front investment. I know that's why my house doesn't have solar.

For Tesla this gives them them the ability to ramp up production, have a huge testing base, and start lowering costs while raising quality. If costs get low enough and quality high enough they could push solar technology to the point that it makes sense for the average consumer to purchase off the shelf. Short of that they're getting a whole bunch of solar panels out there.

Talk about a win-win, this is amazing.

edit: I just woke up and kind of jumped the gun here, didn't even realize I was looking at the 'commercial solar' page.....but it's too late to delete this comment. I do think it's a really cool business model and it's also really cool that SunRun has been doing it, too.

Most solar companies I know of do removal fees of some kind. Costs of operating past a certain point in the installation process make a fee-free cancellation a risky thing.

Beyond Tesla's rental I'd also like to see combinations of financing and service / upgrade & optimization contracts. Power usage, and optimal tech changes over time. Most solar installation contracts are inflexible to modification over time. This is mostly due to the single transactional nature between financing companies and installers.

I believe Tesla dropped the $1,500 removal fee from residential rental installations for the time being. They charge a time and material rate for removal of their commercial rentals (section 8).


> This gives consumers who want a way ...

The title is "commercial" not consumers. This isn't for residential, which was already soft-launched months/one-year ago.

What I never got about all these solar business es (models) is why everybody considers them in the first place. They are capital intensive because the installing company has to pre-finance the whole thing which means it is also likely to be cash negative. Selling to the actual users, commercial or private, means high sales efforts and especially for private customers low lifetime value.

With the ever decreasing costs of solar I'm not sure what the exact value proposition is here. Financing can be done by banks and installation / sale can be done local installers. The latter are anyway needed to plan and ultimately install the whole thing.

Sunrun has been doing this for a while.

[1] https://www.sunrun.com/solar-plans-and-services/monthly-sola...

Unfortunately, they don't show any numbers at all.

I think that makes it a lot less compelling.

What folks want to see is: my power company charges x/kwh, what is each plan per kwh?


Multiple large companies have abandoned Tesla's commercial solar installations because of the fire risk they seem to present.

Aren't some of these installations from quite a while ago, i.e. the Solar City days?

Has management changed significantly from Solar City days?

Its "reasonable" to make a mistake. The problem wasn't the fires per se, but the management of the fires.


Solar City did NOT issue a recall or a notice to their customers. So if Tesla makes another screwup, they will likely keep it secret.

This is a company which operates in the shadows. If they make a mistake, they'll keep it quiet. Compared to a "typical" company who will issue a public recall notice and inform customers.

Solar City was run by Musk's cousin, and is now owned by Musk himself under the Tesla company. The general management chain has not changed.

That is not accurate. Tesla regularly issues recalls (some of which can be fixed in the field) proactively, and a "typical" company may try to keep a problem quiet or wait until forced to by safety bodies. I mean for goodness sake, look at the behavior of "typical" German carmakers with the dieselgate scandal (which continues). Against that backdrop, Tesla is a model of upright behavior.

I realize that not everything Elon Musk does is rainbows and unicorns, but there's some serious animus against Tesla in the comments here that is not borne out by objective facts (although plenty of cherry picking is, of course, possible to exaggerate problems that are not uncommon across these industries).

I'm talking about the SolarCity case, as well as Walmart's allegations against Tesla.

SolarCity knew that their solar panels were catching on fire. There was NO recall issued in the past years. Period.

Another note: Walmart's dealing with SolarCity (AND Tesla, post-purchase) is horrifying.


> Moreover, Tesla's wire management practices were negligent and inconsistent with prudent industry practices. Loose and hanging wires were present at multiple Walmart locations, resulting in abraded and exposed wires, decreased insulation, and a phenomenon known as arcing that substantially increases the risk of fire by causing electricity to travel through an unintended path. Tesla also failed to "ground" its systems properly, violating basic practices for the installation and operation of electrical systems in a way that increased the risk of electrical fire.


I don't care how cheap you make your system! The fact of the matter is, SolarCity / Tesla's reputation is in tatters because of this fire incident, and Tesla management has done NOTHING to reassure its customers that they've got the fires under control.

Looking at legal briefings from only one side in one court case is not going to leave you with a realistic, objective look at the situation. It is the starting point in a negotiation, and is by definition one-sided. It's an example of the kind of cherry picking I was referring to.

Using hyperbolic language in comments may be an effective rhetorical tool, but it reduces the credibility of your argument.

The objective fact is that Tesla and Walmart are working together to solve these problems as it's literally in everyone's interest to solve them.

> The objective fact is that Tesla and Walmart are working together to solve these problems as it's literally in everyone's interest to solve them.

Not really. Walmart is well past that point. Walmart is literally suing Tesla over what Walmart perceives as gross incompetence on this issue.

> Looking at legal briefings from only one side in one court case is not going to leave you with a realistic, objective look at the situation.

In general, no. But in practice, Walmart has a very strong reputation in the business world. Walmart is well known to be an upstanding business that gives lots of leeway to its contractors. In fact, its pretty rare for Walmart to sue contractors, despite the fact that Walmart is a huge business with probably thousands of contractors working with them.

Furthermore, the Legal Briefing Walmart has prepared is unusually well-researched. The briefing makes clear that Walmart went to extraordinary lengths to help Tesla in this case:

> Walmart nevertheless worked closely with Tesla to explore a potential path toward re-energization of the systems. Walmart discussed with Tesla in detail the concerns it had about the conditions it discovered at the sites, and Walmart's consultants helped educate Tesla's personnel on how to conduct solar system inspections properly, including the types of conditions that can contribute to the risk of fire, how to use equipment and tools properly to look for and correct such conditions, and how to follow site safety and inspection protocols.

Walmart gave Tesla over a year to correct the defects and to raise the quality of the inspections. And yet fire-after-fire continued to break out at Walmart stores across the country.

This wasn't some sort of one-off crazy event. And all the evidence has been documented already. Sure, these court documents show Walmart's perspective on the matter, but they're not allowed to lie or slander in these court documents.

Walmart started to move and investigate after the 3rd fire. A total of seven fires took place before Walmart sued (and even after Tesla allegedly de-energized systems). This is a systemic issue.

From whom did SolarCity source their modules? Seriously asking because it was either faulty modules or faulty installations. And in the first case I guess Tesla could hold the module supplier accountable.

A lot of the fires were around the Amphenol connectors. Walmart seems to think it was faulty installations.

In either case: Walmart's patience started to run thin after the 3rd fire. Then fire #4, #5, #6, and #7 happened, and then Walmart sued Tesla.

What I'm saying is: a faulty module could be the blame for fires#1 through Fire#3. But by the time Fire#7 breaks out and Tesla still hasn't done anything to help Walmart out... well... that's really not looking good for Tesla the company.

Seven fires and a law suite before Tesla started to consider to fix things? Ok, that's bad. I wouldn't be amused neither.

Hmmm, it looks like I was imprecise with my words.

Its not that "Tesla didn't consider to fix things", its that "Tesla didn't fix things".

Walmart is suing for gross incompetence. Tesla reps were there investigating the fires. What Walmart is alleging in the filing is that Tesla's representatives were incompetent at fixing the problem (and negligent in their installation practices). So Tesla certainly was roped into the fire-investigations. But after 7 fires and a year of working with SolarCity / Tesla, Walmart grew impatient and started to sue Tesla.

IIRC from the last time this came up on HN Walmart claimed that they had installations at other stores inspected independently of Tesla and they found a bunch of sloppy work that could have contributed to the risk of a fire. It's not just a matter of a recalled part to deal with, it would seem that corners were cut installing those panels.

Interesting. Wasn't one big issue the Amphenol connectors catching fire?

Or were there multiple issues contributing to the fires?

Yes, SolarCity, the company which was run by Elon Musk and his cousins and whose obligations were assumed by Tesla when it was acquired. The problem is not so much that the installations have problems as that Tesla is completely unwilling and unable to diagnose and fix the problems.

At this point with everything that is known about how Tesla's existing solar customers have been treated, you'd have to be crazy to sign a solar lease agreement with Tesla and become dependent on their service for your electricity supply.

Where did it state that Tesla was completely unwilling and unable to diagnose and fix the problems?

>“Tesla worked collaboratively with Amazon to root cause the event and remediate,” it said. “We also performed inspections at the other sites, which confirmed the integrity of the systems,” adding that all 11 Amazon sites are generating energy and are monitored and maintained.

>Walmart and Tesla issued a joint statement late Thursday, saying they were in talks to resolve their issues. “Both companies want each and every system to operate reliably, efficiently, and safely,” they said.

The gory details are all in the legal filings. I'm really not interested in whatever meaningless press statements Tesla is putting out to cover their ass after they were depantsed by the lawsuit. "They agreed to fix everything after we sent a team of high priced lawyers after them" doesn't instill confidence.

Here is Walmart's legal filing:


There are quite a few major quotes here that suggests gross negligence on the behalf of SolarCity (and Tesla) on this very issue.

The court case isn't resolved yet, but the allegations are quite damning. It doesn't seem like Tesla is the best company to partner with, especially if an issue (ex: fire) breaks out.

Again: fires and accidents happen. Especially when you deploy 200+ large scale installations like Walmart did. The problem is how poorly Walmart was treated by Tesla.

After three fires, Walmart demanded all of the solar panels to be disconnected. And yet, other fires broke out. Walmart has tons of money and hired investigators to look into root causes, a typical business won't have that kind of money or time to "debug" someone else's work.

True but small installations should be different?

Just have a gander at #TeslaSolarIssues on Twitter, many smaller residential customers have also reported huge problems and terrible service with their solar installations.

Note that this only works if you set region to US ("Available only in California"). If you select another region, you get a completely different page.

By default I'm getting a buy or subscribe to solar, with Tesla commercial solar branding and a note saying its only available in California.

I am not US based.

I assume that's what I'm supposed to be seeing?

I was able to switch to Residential, and that showed an option for my home state.

This is contentless. What is it--an ad for Tesla?

Agreed, this is literally just a checkout page, it doesn’t describe what this is or why I’d buy it even. Why is this upvoted?

Somebody above said:

> Note that this only works if you set region to US ("Available only in California"). If you select another region, you get a completely different page.

I am in the US and it’s an entirely devoid of content page. It just tells me how much an installation would cost. What is it? Why would I use it? Is this a new Tesla offering?

It’s not even a product page.

User AtlasLion provided a link to an article describing the product launch here: https://www.greencarreports.com/news/1124625_tesla-offers-ne...

This would be a much better OP link than the one that was submitted. Thanks!

It says "Pay for what you generate" Do they mean "Get paid for what you generate"? Or am I missing something really fundamental here?

It's confusing on this sparse page, but no, you do pay for what you generate. It's a version of a rent-your-roof system.

If you choose to "subscribe," you are committing to paying Tesla 10-13¢ for every kWh you generate. You are then (if you're in a state with net metering) selling it to the state for a profit.

In CA, the average cost of electricity is apparently about 16¢/kWh. So you're making a profit of 3-6¢/kWh.

The incentive to you is that it's free to install, and has no commitment apart from a fee of $1500 if you want to remove the system. The incentive to Tesla is that they are selling electricity to the state for full price, minus 3-6¢/kWh to you for renting your roof.

I was trying to run a similar arbitrage operation when the Tesla powerwall was first released but the breakeven was ridiculously long. Mine was to charge the powerwall when electricity was cheap on the grid and sell during peak. I found that a lot of the grids don't really support this kind of arbitrage at all and with the ones that do, the profit margin is so thin that it's basically not worth it.

As you say, Tesla is reframing the argument from renting your roof --> you selling clean electricity to the grid to make it more palatable but I don't see a problem with that.

Are you buying into a network to buy power all the time at that rate? Or is it still when your specific solar installation is making power that you may buy it at that rate?

You're buying power from the utility company, at whatever rate they set, and at the same time you are selling your power to them, at whatever rate they set. They can be thought of as two separate transactions.

(You buying power can be thought of as a sunk cost, as this isn't changing it at all (unless you are also storing power), so it can be removed from the question.)

At the same time that you are selling power to the utility company, you are also paying Tesla 10-13¢ for every kWh you generate.

If you are able to sell at a higher rate than that, you keep the extra.

I was confused by that at first.

If you "subscribe", you "rent" solar panels which Tesla will install, and you will use them to generate electricity which you use. You pay for the electricity that is generated, in place of paying a rental fee for the hardware.

It seems unusual, but it's a bit like renting a truck for a very low price (i.e. $20) but then you pay $1.50 for every mile you drive. It's still a little hard for me to wrap my head around, though!

It's weird way to phrase it. It just means you pay Tesla for what their system generates on your property.

I guess the idea is that since it's your property you're the one generating energy, albeit with their equipment.

I think that means while they are installing it on your property, you’re not paying for the assets, and will pay for the electricity you use but at a rate discounted compared to the regular utility? So it still makes economic sense.

They could word that better.

“We sell you the electricity generated that you use at a discounted rate compared to utilities”

No, that's not it. You're still buying and selling electricity to and from your utility company. The 12¢/kWh that you're paying to Tesla is the rental on the solar panels.

Why it seems confusing is that you're paying based on how much electricity is produced, but it's still simply a rental.

If you sell your electricity to the utility for 16¢/kWh, and are paying Tesla 12¢/kWh, you will make 4¢/kWh. Which is not a lot, but it's with no upfront costs.

Didn't read the article, but it could be that they give you a free solar installation, hence becoming your energy provider.

> Estimated return of 8% to 12% per year. Higher if utility prices increase

The PPA kWh price is quite attractive, especially if you figure in year-over-year constant increase in places like CA (who do you think is actually paying those PG&E settlements?). What they don’t take into account is your ~$10 a month charge to be hooked into the grid.

I think that $10/month charge is pretty small for these commercial installations (although the grid charge may be higher).

Is a dollar a watt cheap for commercial sized solar? Five years ago 50kw in a field was about 75,000 dollars in the UK. I assumed prices had come down since then for commercial quantities. Isn't first solar down to 30c a watt or something for the panels?

Commercial solar is more expensive than solar in a field or utility scale solar. The lowest costs for solar you see quoted in the press will always be for large-scale utility solar installations that are ground mounted.

Anytime you put the solar panels on a rooftop, the price goes up. That said, putting an installation on a commercial property with a large, flat roof allows for lower prices when compared to residential rooftop solar.

Dollar a watt is expensive for even residential solar.

When I worked a design/assembly gig in solar manufacturing (just last year) we were cranking out 60-cell 300+w panels for $85 each. You could buy directly from the company, no middlemen necessary. That's just over a quarter per watt.

Here in canada it just redirects me to a pre-order for residential solar. Does somebody want to archive.is this for people outside of the US?

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