Tesla has installed very few solar roofs, despite Elon Musk's hype

In 2019, Tesla CEO Elon Musk boasted, “This is the year of the solar roof.” The next year, he said the pioneering EV company would soon be installing 1,000 integrated solar roofs tailored to the building per week.

It turns out that 2019 absolutely was not the year of the solar roof — not even close. And neither was 2020, nor any year since. This reporter estimated in 2021 that Tesla had installed fewer than 1,000 integrated solar roofs total — an assessment bolstered by new analysis.

A report released today by energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie estimates that Tesla has installed approximately 3,000 solar roofs in the U.S. since the launch of the product in 2016. That’s several hundred thousand roofs short of Musk’s hallucinatory forecasts.

WoodMac analysis finds that average installations per week were a scant 21 in 2022. The best quarter for Tesla solar roof installations was the first quarter of 2022, which saw an average of 32 systems deployed per week — still a far cry from 1,000.

Other companies have a lead in building-integrated solar

Tesla’s solar roof product is what’s referred to as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), which are solar-generation surfaces that are not mounted on a structure, but rather form the actual roof, windows or building envelope. There are a number of experienced building-integrated photovoltaic designers and installers operating today, such as GAF Energy, CertainTeed, ArteZanos and Forward, but so far, BIPV remains a niche market for custom roof designs on expensive buildings in regions with generous solar subsidies. There is a long list of failed BIPV efforts.


Reaching the end customer with an integrated solar roof is not a technical or financial problem — it’s a channel problem. You're looking to drive a completely new type of product through the very conservative roofing channel, and that's a daunting marketing challenge. Traditional solar modules on racks may be less than aesthetically perfect, but rooftop solar installers have a distribution channel along with technical expertise.

That’s why GAF Energy, which had already installed several thousand integrated solar roofs as of a year ago, might have an advantage over Tesla. GAF Energy is a Standard Industries company and sister company to GAF, one of the world’s largest roofing companies. GAF Energy President Martin DeBono told Canary last year that GAF developed the product by thinking like a roofing company, not a solar company. He said the roofing industry is 20 times larger than the rooftop solar industry and has a huge advantage in scale.

We would have reached out to Tesla’s public-relations team for comment on WoodMac’s report — but Tesla does not have a public-relations team.

UPDATE: Tesla disputed the WoodMac study's findings in a tweet, but offered no specifics.