State utility regulators haven’t helped the rooftop solar industry either. Dozens of state utility commissions have reduced the economic incentives homeowners obtain from rooftop solar systems, which has forced solar installers to change their sales pitches. They used to be able to sell new solar systems to homeowners with no money down and immediately lower the homeowner’s monthly electric bill (even after financing and capital costs). Now, many of these nifty deals aren’t available because state utility regulators have pared back the rates homeowners get paid when they sell power from their rooftop solar systems back to the grid.
Other greener and less invasive solar options are also popping up. Community solar programs—where homeowners pool their resources to collectively build and share a larger community solar system—have become more widely available. As have green power programs, where customers can simply pay a little more every month to ensure that they obtain some form of “green” power. Turning the rooftop solar industry around will likely require new thinking, and potentially, new and better rooftop solar products.
Elon Musk’s highly publicized new solar roof tiles are exactly the type of innovate product that could revive consumer interest in the industry—especially given Mr. Musk’s track record of success. Instead of attaching large rooftop solar panels to an existing roof, solar roofing tiles effectively replace (or cover) the existing shingles. Of course, Mr. Musk isn’t the first to wade into the solar roofing tile space. A few other companies have been selling different solar roofing tile designs for the last few years. And one such company – SunTegra Solar – has had a lot of recent success.