DENVER - Tesla’s roof top solar tiles will provide a broad new pathway for growth, said Lyndon Rive, the scrappy, soft-spoken co-founder and CEO of SolarCity.
The tiles go on sale this month. Five million roofs in the United States that get reroofed each year are fair game, Rive told the Energy Times this week.
The new effort comes as the company pivots to accommodate growing interest in solar roof ownership, and waning support for leasing photovoltaics as the prices of the renewable energy resource continue to decline, Rive said.
Elon Musk, the head of Tesla, which acquired SolarCity last year, has said that four styles of roof tile will go on sale this month. The company said production will start mid-year in partnership with Panasonic. Tesla, the automaker, has made an art of ramping up demand and sales of its high tech cars well in advance of production.
Rive, in an interview at the Energy Storage Association annual conference here, was upbeat about being in a position to sell new roofs in addition to its more traditional line of rooftop products for existing roofs, as well as energy storage units.
Speaking at the conference, Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado said that renewable deployments will continue to experience explosive growth in the next five years. Xcel, the investor-owned utility in the state, aims to serve 40 percent of its load with renewables, the governor said.
The renewables surge will be global, said Ivor Catto, executive officer of RES, the largest developer of renewable projects in the world, active in 11 countries.
Catto pointed to a “convergence in industry innovation” as auto manufacturers and electric utilities innovate in overlapping ways. As a result, look for battery innovations to accelerate, he said.
“Storage can create that shock absorption that we need,” he said. “The future of energy storage is integral to the development of the U.S. energy sector.”
Storage is growing, said Michael O’Sullivan, NextEra Energy Resources senior vice president of development.
“That sandbox is very large and getting larger every day,” O’Sullivan said.
Rive said, “our focus is to create the best storage product out there.”
That is appreciated by utility leaders such as David Eves, president of Xcel Energy – Colorado.
David Eves, left, and Lyndon Rive
“The more the costs come down, the more this is going to make more sense for more and more customers,” Eves said. “This is all going to happen a lot faster than you think.”
Amidst the ferment, innovators who have a track record of delivering breakthroughs much collaborate, said Adam Knudsen, president of Dynapower. It is time, he said, for “collaborative partnerships of proven players.”
The field is wide open for innovation, said Bill Ritter, founder and director of the Center for the New Energy Economy and former governor of Colorado.
“We can be the architects of our future energy systems in America,” Ritter said.
Looking out at the hundreds of attendees at the storage conference, vastly larger than the small group of chemists and techies who first convened nearly three decades ago, O’Sullivan said that for all the buzz today, steep growth is around the corner.
“This industry is still in the first and second inning,” he said