No one could have predicted what 2020 would be like, but for Tesla, it emerged from the unprecedented year with record-setting quarters and high volumes of solar deployment.
In its fourth quarter earnings report, Tesla states it deployed 84 megawatts of solar, the most it deployed than any other quarter in 2020. This is a 59% increase compared to the same time period last year, and is 29 megawatts more than it deployed in the third quarter.
According to the earnings report, Tesla’s growth in the solar sector is due to improving its solar retrofit strategy and product simplification. For its Solar Roof, Tesla credits expanding its team while improving the efficiency of the product’s installation. Weddle & Sons Roofing recently put this improved process to the test when it installed a Tesla Solar Roof in one day on a home in Colorado.
When asked whether Tesla could become the market share leader in solar, CEO Elon Musk said during the company's earnings call that Tesla had some setbacks when it devoted the entire company, including those who worked on solar, to develop its Model 3 car. He said the company now has the bandwidth to concentrate on solar products.
“We’re putting a lot of attention on solar and it is growing rapidly, so I think it won’t be long before Tesla is by far the market leader in solar,” Musk said.
Musk added that there also needs to be better integration between Tesla’s Powerwall battery energy storage product and the Tesla Solar Roof and retro-fit solar products. He projected that this improved integration will happen before the end of 2021.
“You need batteries, because most renewable energy is intermittent — the wind doesn’t blow all the time and the sun doesn’t shine all the time, so you need a lot of batteries,” he said.
Zach Kirkhorn, chief financial officer of Tesla, explained that the company is also working on creating an industry-leading cost structure that it hopes will place it at the forefront of the solar market.
In the past year, Tesla has ramped up its recruitment efforts to bring on more Solar Roof team members, including holding virtual info sessions this week. Musk said he believes the company’s growth rate will remain around 50%, but admits taking the time to hire the right people could hinder that rate.
“If you’ve got a factory that has 20,000 employees you can’t just hire 20,000 people instantly,” Musk said.
Like many other companies, Tesla faced its fair share of issues in the challenging year that was 2020. Even so, Tesla experienced its best-ever quarter in the company’s history, and stated in its Q2 report that it tripled its Solar Roof installations.
“While 2020 was a turning point for Tesla in terms of profitability, we believe this is just the beginning,” Musk said.
This is a far cry from where Tesla was at the beginning of 2020, where it saw a 35% decrease in solar deployment compared to Q4 2019. At the time, an irate Musk blamed stay-at-home orders put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, saying they essentially halted Tesla's solar operations.
“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.”