Tesla’s solar installations have declined by 26% in the first quarter of 2020 when compared to the same time period last year, having installed 35 megawatts of solar in 2020 compared to 47 megawatts in the first quarter of 2019. When compared to the last quarter of 2019 when Tesla installed 54 megawatts, solar is down by 35%.
During a first quarter earnings call held April 29, Musk noted that, much like the rest of the roofing and solar industry, the coronavirus pandemic has prevented normal operations from proceeding.
“COVID essentially shut us down both from the ability to install and the ability to get permits,” Musk said.
Solar sales are typically down in the beginning of the year, but it’s unclear as to whether Tesla’s sales approach is having an effect as well. Tesla shifted to online-only sales for its solar products, having dropped its in-store sales in February 2019. It has also eliminated door-to-door sales and an in-store partnership with Home Depot.
Despite this, Musk said he is confident that by the end of 2020, Tesla should be installing 1,000 roofs a week. He backed this by saying Tesla has hit the milestone of creating enough solar tiles at its Buffalo, N.Y. facility in a week for 1,000 homes, so it’s more a matter of growing its installation capacities.
In previous announcements about Version 3 of its Solarglass Roof product, Musk said Tesla is building up its own installation teams, but is also looking to use third-party roofing contractors to bolster its operations.
“It’s also building up and training the very diverse group of companies in the roofing industry to also install Solar Roof that I think will allow us to scale far beyond 1,000 a week,” Musk said during the April 29 earnings call.
The Solarglass Roof aims to be more aesthetically pleasing than traditional solar panels by using durable tiles with solar cells built into them. The tiles replace the typical roofing system to provide protection from the elements as well as the ability to convert solar energy into electricity.
Musk Calls Stay-at-Home Orders ‘Fascist’
The roofing industry as a whole has suffered due to stay-at-home orders that only allow for essential businesses to operate. The intent of the orders is to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the strain on the healthcare system.
Tesla suspended production at its facility in Buffalo, N.Y., where it makes its solar products. During the earnings call, Musk criticized stay-at-home orders, saying that companies like Tesla can weather the damage caused by these orders, but many small companies will not.
“Everything people have worked for their whole life is going to get, is being destroyed in real time. And we're going to have many suppliers — or have many suppliers — that are having super hard times, especially the small ones, and it's causing a lot of strife to a lot of people,” he said.
When asked what he would tell U.S. lawmakers as plans for reopening the economy begin to take shape, Musk blasted the stay-at-home orders for “forcibly imprisoning people in their homes.”
“If somebody wants to stay in the house that’s great. They should be allowed to stay in the house and they should not be compelled to leave,” Musk said. “But to say that they cannot leave their house and they will be arrested if they do … this is fascist. This is not democratic. This is not freedom. Give people back their goddamn freedom.”