Tesla's Vision for the Future After Acquisition of SolarCity

Justin Roberto
December 11, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2016


With his $2.6 billion bid to purchase rooftop solar installation giant SolarCity, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has taken a major step towards transforming his company in to the first vertically integrated solar energy company in the world. [1] After gaining approval from Tesla's board of directors in September 2016, the electric car juggernaut which has also ventured in to photovoltaic (PV) energy storage battery production, has added SolarCity's impressive rooftop solar panel output to its production line. [1] In addition to the potential for a massive increase in revenues and customers, the ability to manufacture rooftop solar panels, solar energy storage batteries, and electric cars under one umbrella allows Musk to begin rolling out his bold vision for the future of energy production and consumption.

Elon Musk's Vision

Musk envisions a future in which each individual household is an independent energy unit that operates solely on PV energy, or the energy produced via rooftop solar panels. [2] To accomplish this, Tesla is producing a package that integrates all three of their products: a PV storage battery, an electric car charger, and their newly acquired solar panels from SolarCity. The package would allow any building or home to produce its own energy using rooftop solar panels, store that energy in a PV battery, and use the stored energy to provide electricity to the building and to charge an electric vehicle. Musk has wasted no time in advancing his plan, as Tesla aims to unveil its new Tesla/SolarCity solar rooftop with Powerwall 2.0 battery and Tesla charger before the end of the year, merely six months after Tesla made its initial offer to acquire SolarCity. [1] Although it could take several years, or even decades, for Musk's progressive plan to gain widespread support and usage, complementing Tesla's battery and electric vehicle expertise with solar panel production capabilities unlocks unprecedented opportunities for Tesla that would not have been possible without acquiring Solar City.


A plan this large and impactful does not come without possible ramifications, and Musk's vision, if realized, could drastically change the landscape of energy industry. One potential consequence is that if, in theory, Tesla's integrated renewable energy package becomes widely popular, both public and investor-owned utilities would likely experience a sharp decrease in customers because households would operate exclusively on PV energy. Utilities design and maintain electrical grids, which is how a majority of households receive energy today. If more houses start using solar panels in combination with storage batteries, those houses would not need to use the grid, and utilities may have to raise the rates they charge customers because fewer people would be paying for grid maintenance. [2] If enough houses begin using solar panels to capture PV energy and batteries to store said energy, utility grid operations may become obsolete.


While Musk's vision is quite ambitious and may never be adopted universally, acquiring SolarCity has given Tesla the ability to outfit homes with the tools necessary to become independent, 100% renewable energy units. Although this might not bode well for the future of utilities and traditional energy resource entities like coal mines and nuclear energy plants, the environmental and financial benefits of using Tesla's integrated renewable energy package are certainly very enticing.

© Justin Roberto. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] M. Ramsey and C. Sweet, "Tesla and SolarCity Agree to $2.6 Billion Deal," Wall Street Journal, 1 Aug 16.

[2] N. DiOrio, A. Dobos, and S. Janzou, "Economic Analysis Case Studies of Battery Energy Storage with SAM," U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-6A20-64987, November 2015.