We’d like Elon much more if he could break his addiction to crony capitalism. But it seems he can’t, so we can’t like him.
To be clear we like solar – a lot. But crony solar, and that is much of the solar industry, is not OK. It doesn’t matter how “clean” it is.
There are two things in which Elon Musk is an undisputed champion: creating hype and buzz for massively cash-flow burning products and companies, and abusing every possible loophole in the US tax code to get explicit and implicit subsidies from the government. He demonstrated the latter on Wednesday, when Tesla began taking orders for its solar roof tiles, a cornerstone strategy of Elon Musk’s strategy to sell a “green”, fossil-fuel-free lifestyle under the brand name of its luxury electric vehicles.
First the bad news: Tesla said the product, which generates solar energy without the need for traditional rooftop panels – assuming one lives in a traditionally sunny climate – will be substantially pricier than a conventional roof but don’t worry, it will “look better” and ultimately pay for itself through reduced electricity costs… it just may take 20 or more years for the payback period to occur (more on the math below)…
…The bottom line is a cost of $57,500 for a roof that is 50% covered in solar tiles, or roughly $33/square foot, double the cost of slate, oh and which would also require the purchase of a Tesla $7,000 Powerwall battery. The kicker, however, is that the entire purchase would be uneconomical over the entire life if its wasn’t for the $15,800 tax credit! Only with that “freebie” is the “net earned” over 30 years positive, and even so it comes to less than the actual tax credit received!