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Leon Kaye headshot

Tesla and Panasonic Introduce Sleeker Solar Panels

By Leon Kaye

Solar power continues to fall in price and has become far more efficient in the last few years. Competition is fierce, as many of us can judge by the solar installation telemarketers who keep our phones ringing. Nevertheless, plenty of homeowners object to solar panels’ aesthetics. The typical boxy set-ups do not resonate with everyone, especially if an owner purchased their home because of its architectural or historic significance.

But over the weekend, Tesla and Panasonic introduced a new product line of solar panels that practically blend in with the typical roof.

Gone are the rigid aluminum mounting hardware and the glaring grid design. As debuted in photos on Tesla’s website, the new panels manufactured by Panasonic have a more seamless appearance, and could work well on roofs atop contemporary homes or those designed and built decades ago.

And in keeping with Tesla’s promise to become the 21st-century's clean energy company, these panels will also integrate with its Powerwall batteries so homes can stay electrified both day and night.

The panels will be manufactured by Panasonic at Tesla’s second gigafactory in Buffalo, New York, the cleantech blog Electrek reported on Sunday.

Tesla has been pushing its next-generation solar roof tiles for several months, which show some promise to revolutionize rooftop solar and, finally, will reportedly be available for order this month.

Other companies that launched similar products in the past, such as Dow Chemical, have discontinued them due to lack of interest from consumers. But Tesla’s brand reputation could help give this technology a lift.

Telsa says the tempered glass tiles -- which are designed to replace standard roofing materials and resemble several textures, including slate and Spanish tiles -- are both affordable and viable for consumers.

Nevertheless, the reality for many homeowners is that a new roof is an investment that is only required every 20 years or so. And Tesla has been cagey about the price, as the company discloses little information about the systems publicly while asking consumers to contact the company directly for a quote.

But buyers could warm up to an alternative that balances the performance of a conventional rooftop solar installation with a design that is less glaring to the naked eye -- such as the single Panasonic solar panels.

Tesla has not made it clear when the Panasonic panels will be available, though the consensus is that they will launch at some point this summer.

It behooves Tesla to follow through on these new solar products if it hopes to keep investors confident about its long-term prospects. Despite the company’s history of falling short on expectations, this technology “unicorn” continues to defy stock market physics.

Earlier this week, shares of Tesla increased in value to the point that it surpassed General Motors as the most valuable car company in the United States: $51.5 billion compared to $50.2 billion for GM. That milestone came one week after its valuation blitzed past Ford Motors, the current value of which hovers around $44.5 billion.

Tesla's roller coaster of a ride, which exasperates many on Wall Street, is soaring high for now, but it could come crashing down fast if it fails to meet these latest lofty expectations.

Image credit: Tesla

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye