While most of us were sleeping Sunday morning, Elon Musk was tweeting. In a series of threads around 5:30 a.m. (EST), the entrepreneur announced his company, Tesla, had re-launched Tesla Solar with a new panel rental service in addition to the option to purchase panels. “LMK what you think…” read Musk’s tweet.
According to Musk, homeowners could save $500 per year in utility bills, meaning it’s “like having a money printer on your roof if you live [in] a state with high electricity costs.”
Tesla Solar just relaunched. Lmk what you think … https://t.co/mDoPO17YB9
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 18, 2019
It’s no secret the future is in services, so it makes sense Tesla would relaunch its struggling renewable energy business with a subscription model. Like most subscription sign-ups, the process is designed to be as simple as possible – “one click to order,” Musk said.
From the design dashboard, would-be solar farmers can select the size they want (there is a size guide to help), enter their information (including address and credit card) and they’re on their way to harnessing the energy of the sun. Depending on location, rates start at $50 per month and include installation, support, and maintenance.
Renters won’t be locked in to a contract, but canceling will incur a $1,500 fee for removing the system from your house. According to the company’s website, “Tesla does not make a profit on this.” However, if you’re running on the smallest package, that cancellation fee is the equivalent to 30 months of rent – a hefty sum that challenges the supposed ease of cancellation.
Tesla claims that whether you choose to rent or buy solar panels, “both options keep extra cash in your pocket right away.” When we did the math to see if solar panels were worth it, we found those who install them typically need to stick with them for at least 13 years before seeing the benefits. However, renting can certainly help cut down on some of the upfront costs of traditional solar panel installations. Whether renting or buying, it’s important for people to consider if their state will make them worthwhile (either through favorable weather or tax incentives).
We also found out that only 22 to 27% of residential rooftops are fit for solar panels, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy. This is likely why Tesla’s $100 down payment is fully refundable in case your home isn’t solar-ready. The website also vaguely addresses this concern and warns “there may be additional upgrades required, e.g., electric main panel, hidden conduit, or re-roofs.”
The program seems to be in its early stages. Tesla says it’s available in “most utilities,” but only six states are included on the list: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Mexico. For states that didn’t make the cut, Tesla offers the option to purchase panels.