Tesla claims that the new solar inverter is much cheaper than the competition
Tesla released a white paper on its new string solar inverter and claims that it is much cheaper than competing inverter solutions from Enphase and SolarEdge.
In 2021, Tesla launched its own solar inverter for the first time.
In recent years, the company has begun to increasingly integrate it into its own solar installations, and it also supplies it to other solar installers through its certified installer program.
Electrek has now obtained a white paper about its solar cell inverter that Tesla has shared around.
Tesla explained in the white paper summary:
Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. To accelerate the adoption of solar energy and storage in the residential energy sector, we have focused on offering products specifically designed for both the system owner and the installer. To develop the Tesla Solar Inverter, we leveraged our deep industry experience to design an inverter that provided the best value for system owners while being easy to install, service and maintain.
Tesla’s main claim in the paper is that the string inverter solution is cheaper when purchased and through the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE).
In the paper, Tesla admits that the solution results in lower production by about 1 or 2%:
We then assessed the real-world performance data of these sites to characterize the effect of inverter type on system output. We compared actual system performance data for sites with different inverter types but similar SES, ensuring that only similar ceilings were compared. For solar-friendly homes (SES 6-10), sites that used the optimizer saw an energy production gain of 1-2% compared to homes that used Tesla Solar Inverters. When comparing the cost of the Tesla Solar Inverter to MLPEs, it begged the question of whether the production gain was worth the increased cost of the MLPEs.
The leading solar inverter company using optimizers is SolarEdge, which Tesla mentions in the white paper and appears to compare the solution to in this case.
Electrek contacted SolarEdge for a comment on the comparison, we will update if we receive a response.
In the paper, Tesla claims that the trade-off for the lower output was worth it since the analysis resulted in a 6% lower levelized cost of energy (LCOE):
To answer this question, an LCOE analysis was performed to compare two 8 kW solar systems4. In the baseline scenario, our analysis found that the Tesla system had a 6% lower LCOE for the most common SES5. We also found that Tesla had a lower LCOE for 93% of the sites in the sample. The difference in LCOE is solely driven by higher costs for inverter equipment. Furthermore, the gap between LCOEs for SES 8 roofs widens to approximately 15% after accounting for potential failures of optimizers during their lifetime6. These findings prove that over the lifetime of the system, the Tesla Solar Inverter will provide energy at a better value for most customers.
Tesla also claims that its strict solar inverter results in advantages for installers in terms of ease of installation and design process.
Here is the full white paper:
The white paper reads more like a sales brochure than a scientific paper, but that doesn’t mean the data is inaccurate.
I also found it interesting that the white paper also focused on the “Tesla ecosystem”:
For the customer, the Tesla Solar Inverter completes its Tesla ecosystem. System owners use a single app to monitor and manage their entire home’s energy system. Instead of sorting through multiple apps to make sure all devices are working properly, the Tesla app shows all Tesla products, including solar, Tesla cars, and charging. The intuitive app experience allows the customer to view and manage their home’s energy consumption across these devices, with the system optimizing for savings and efficiency. As new features are developed, they are automatically made available in the Tesla app, ensuring customers can unlock the full potential of their home energy system.
We’ve seen a shift in Tesla’s solar business lately, where the company seems to be focusing more on offering its ecosystem, mainly supported by the Powerwall, and now the solar inverter.
Ultimately, I think that may be Tesla’s primary approach to achieving scale with its new Tesla Electric business.
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