Tesla has worked to bring down the price of its electric vehicles, but there’s only so much you can do to make large solar panels affordable. The company’s solar installation business has lagged in recent quarters, but a new rental program might pique consumer interest. Consumers in several states can rent Tesla solar panel setups for their homes for as little as $50 per month.
Tesla purchased solar panel installer SolarCity about three years ago when it was vying for the top spot in residential solar power. Tesla sold the systems, which can cost upwards of $30,000, in Home Depot stores for several years, but now it relies entirely on direct sales similar to its electric vehicles. Unfortunately, installations have been dropping. Tesla is now a distant third in US solar power behind SunRun and Vivint Solar which deployed 103 and 56 megawatts of solar power last quarter, respectively. Tesla only installed 29 megawatts.
Under Tesla’s new rental system, consumers can pay as little as $50 per month for the solar panels. That’s for a “small” 3.8kWh installation on the roof that could generate almost 20 kWh per day in some of the sunnier states. You can only get the rental option in California (minimum $65), Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Mexico. The largest installations cost as much as $195 per month (California pricing).
Tesla estimates consumers will save money even with the smallest installations, but not much. For example, in Arizona with its ample sunshine, consumers can expect to net between $110 and $280 per year after rental fees. The cost of electricity also matters, though. In shadier California where power prices are higher, you could cut your bills by $250-650 annually.
According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the lower out-of-pocket pricing makes it easy for anyone in supported states to get solar panels with just a few clicks. It’s like having a “money printer on your roof,” says Musk. Although, he admits it’s better over the long haul to buy the solar panels. You can’t rent a Powerwall battery system with the panels, but you can buy one and have it installed the same day.
While Tesla doesn’t guarantee you’ll save money with the rented solar panels, that seems like a safe assumption. The one catch is what happens when you decide to stop renting the panels. Tesla will charge $1,500 to remove the panels and repair the roof. The company claims it makes no profit on this process, but that could still erase most of the savings you’ve enjoyed from having the panels.