Newsbytes: Elon Musk's SolarCity Crashes

As SolarCity Crashes, Is Elon Musk Overrated?

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SolarCity is struggling. Tesla is struggling. Elon Musk is not the King Midas of making companies perfect. Musk’s magic can’t do everything anymore. –Ryan McQueeney, Nasdaq, 10 May 2016

 

Shares of SolarCity nose-dived on Tuesday after disclosing earnings results that cast gloom over the provider of solar systems. The big problems for the solar company: The quarterly report disclosed a loss that was bigger than expected, and management followed that up with a dismal outlook for future results. So far in 2016, SolarCity shares have plummeted 65 percent. –George Avalon, Silicon Beat, 10 May 2016

The real problem with Tesla cars is that no one actually buys them. Well, not directly. Their manufacture is heavily subsidized — and their sale is heavily subsidized. Tesla does not make money by selling cars, either. It makes money by selling “carbon credits” to real car companies that make functionally and economically viable vehicles that can and do sell on the merits — but which are not “zero emissions” vehicles. It is estimated that Musk’s various ventures — including his new SolarCity solar panel operation and SpaceX — have cost taxpayers at least $4.9 billion, with Tesla accounting for about half of that dole. –Eric Peters, The Detroit News, 9 May 2016

After their hot rally at the end of last year, shares of solar energy firms have turned ice cold as concerns about slower growth and regulatory uncertainties plague the group. SolarCity led the sell-off on Tuesday after the company cut its 2016 forecast for solar panel installations late on Monday and posted a larger-than-expected quarterly loss. Investors have been worried about the outlook for growth for the solar sector, especially following a pullback in an important Nevada solar support policy and uncertainty about pending regulatory decisions in other states. Nevada regulators this year announced changes that mean new tariffs that will raise fees solar customers pay to use electric grids. Reimbursements to users are also being cut and investors fear such moves could be repeated in other states. –Caroline Valetkevitch, Reuters, 11 May 2016

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Worse, the company implicitly predicted more rough quarters ahead, dialing down its target for solar-power system installations this year. With fewer homeowners and businesses opting for a SolarCity solar-power array, the company will have trouble keeping its installation costs down. After three-quarters of foiled expectations, SolarCity’s “credibility is likely at an all-time low,” analysts at Roth Capital said in a note to clients Tuesday. The stock lost more than 25% on Tuesday, on track for its lowest close and its largest one-day decrease since February. Shares are down more than 44% so far this month, and more than 66% year-to-date. Shares traded as low as $16.50 earlier Tuesday, off more than 80% from an all-time high of $86.14 in February 2014. – MarketWatch, 10 May 2016

h/t to Dr. Benny Peiser, GWPF

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142 thoughts on “Newsbytes: Elon Musk's SolarCity Crashes

  1. Clearly people are becoming tired of the message. Musk and Co need to shout louder maybe, before the whole thing goes down the tubes -I hope!

  2. ..Just wait, Obama will sign an executive order demanding that every American must own at least one Tesla !!

    • Solar installations are mostly driven by state level net metering legislation. These force electric utilities to buy electricity at retail rates rather than wholesale – basically the same as forcing restaurants to take a customer’s raw meat in exchange for their steak dinner. It ignores the value added by the power company.
      It takes about 1 power company employee to provide electricity for every 1,000 customers, plus significant financial investment. Somebody has to pay for them. Solar companies think they shouldn’t have to.
      The change that killed solar in Nevada was that residential solar systems are going to be compensated at wholesale rates rather than retail. When compensated fairly, distributed solar cannot compete – not remotely.

      • This is quite true. Nearly every US state has net metering regs, usually specifying a percentage of energy that has to come from solar. However, given the bad results from solar, paying the penalties may become more cost efficient for power companies than continuing to “invest” in solar. Especially if the subsidies are reduced or eliminated.

  3. Well the Solar City business model has always been a scam in my personal view.
    You do not buy their solar panels to put on your roof. They own them, so they get the taxpayer funded subsidy.
    Solar City will not tell you the conversion efficiency of their systems. What you would like to know is what is the total efficiency from an input solar flux of say 1,000 W/m^2 NORMAL to the panel, with an air mass 1.5 solar spectrum. This corresponds to the direct sun being about 48 degrees from the zenith.
    For that condition, which is typical of terrestrial solar PV conditions the Sunpower Systems solar panels are somewhere in the 24-25% conversion efficiency.
    Solar City is way below that. Their solar panels are either poly silicon or some II-VI compound.
    There’s a whole lot of folks who think low efficiency but cheap is a viable option.
    It isn’t. No matter how cheap the solar cells are; even zero cost, the mounting and protection hardware, and installation cost to survive a 100 year storm, is not cheap, and land area is not getting lower cost.
    So Solar City puts their system on your roof, for free; meaning they don’t pay you a dime to rent your valuable real estate and get access to your valuable solar insolation.
    So they sell you your own energy at something below PG&E rates.
    The only thing that matters for PV solar is the sun to AC conversion efficiency.
    If somebody came up with a 5% efficiency PV solar collector that you could simply spray onto your roof out of a garden hose, there are plenty of groups of people working on figuring out how to do that, and expecting taxpayer funding for their foolishness.
    I’m all for using already committed roof space that exists in cities and suburbs, to put PV solar panels, but Not if the taxpayers have to foot the bill.
    Yes Musk is an expert at milking the taxpayer cow.
    G

    • I read a comment the other day which stated that Solar City also acquires rights to your roof as part of the process. You have to sign agreements giving them those rights to your roof. So if you want to sell your home in the future, your property will show this encumbrance on the deed. Then it was further stated that Solar City had the right to charge higher rates over time irrespective of any change to utility pricing. That leaves the user open to having to pay higher utility costs than normal in the future.

      • Solar City owns the rights to your roof?
        Makes me wonder how many people read the fine print?
        I’ll wager–very few. Who would sign such a document?

      • Does your home-owners insurance increase? Don’t know how it would not if you have “Replacement Value” insurance. Does the assessor increase the value of your home? Either one could be a big chunk of your so-called reduced cost of electricity.

      • I read a comment the other day which stated that Solar City also acquires rights to your roof as part of the process. You have to sign agreements giving them those rights to your roof. [etcetera]

        No, this is not accurate.
        The Net-Metering Agreement, which seems to be the same in every state, is a utility company agreement, according to what someone who sells installations for Solar City all across the US told me. The prospective solar panel customer must sign it before the solar company can get the permit to install the bi-directional meter. This agreement has a clause that says if certain things happen, the utility can trigger tariff fees and other costs in order to offset operational demand.
        However.
        Without explaining it fully (time-crunch right now), Solar City never told this to the customer, never explained that the Net-Metering Agreement (NMA) goes with the homeowner and the house. Even if you sell your house, the NMA goes with the previous owner. Cancellation agreements are non-existent, and Solar City hid this fact from its prospective customers.
        Instead, because operations and sales are separate at Solar City–in fact, housed at different locations, and my contact said: on purpose–never the twain shall meet. So the operational customer service girl would call the prospective customer and chirp, “Hey, can you go ahead and and sign those NMA documents so we can get your permit to install the bi-directional meter and install your new solar system. Just fax them over to us as soon as you can.” And the customer obeyed. Screwed, blued, and tattooed.
        This Solar City employee (manager) told me solar companies are bullying the utilities, and have been demanding that the utilities pay full retail for the excess capacity their customers would be generating. The utilities, which are regulated, are saying Why should we pay full retail for excess capacity and then have to sell it to others at no profit? It’s our grid. You’re welcome to disconnect off the grid, but if you can’t, then you’re using our lines.
        The Solar City guy pointed out that the utilities have wholesale costs on their back-end to other vendors that the average person doesn’t see. But more importantly, if the solar customer goes off the grid completely, then he must install 5-6 batteries to cover his energy needs when the sun isn’t shining. The solar panels alone cannot power A/C or the frig. Each battery costs $5,000. A/C can drain one battery in 1.5 hours.
        The Solar City guy claims Lyndon Rive, Solar City’s CEO, knew all this and never told his sales team–he was never told as a manager–and that Rive was counting on the “loud voice of the people” to change any public utility commission rulings that threatened the subsidy Solar City was peddling to their customers as their great future savings, counting on the Global Warming movement to rally to their cause.
        The Solar City manager said to me, “If people knew what they were signing when they signed the Net-Metering Agreement, they never would have signed it. Solar City is a scam.”

    • Laurier University in Waterloo has a physics department. They have been developing an organic PV cell that has about 8% efficiency. It is very cheap. I think there are options for such low cost technologies in certain markets. Canada is not yet running out of land.
      I do like the idea of spray-on PV but it is more likely to look like a sheet of plastic.

      • Not running out of land indeed… but… at norther latitudes and certain times of year ( WINTER ) Canada runs out of sunshine. Ya see.. Alaska isnt the only ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’.
        I have seen solar systems out in the bush subsidized of course, by the Canadian and Yukon governments. They were used, on the grant application, to power the universe. In practice, though, were used to supplement a gas generator in the summer ( run a fridge I think), and were putting out SFA in the winter. Of course, that’s the time of year your batteries freeze so… no big loss.

    • What you would like to know is what is the total efficiency from an input solar flux of say 1,000 W/m^2 NORMAL to the panel, with an air mass 1.5 solar spectrum. This corresponds to the direct sun being about 48 degrees from the zenith.
      For that condition, which is typical of terrestrial solar PV conditions the Sunpower Systems solar panels are somewhere in the 24-25% conversion efficiency.

      Actually their best panel is 21.5% with a power temperature coefficient of –0.30% / o C. The panels are specified at Standard Test Conditions (1000 W/m² irradiance at 25° C). The Standard Test Conditions by necessity dictates a short test as there is significant heating of the cells at 1000 W/m² irradiance. As such, the efficiency specification is not indicative of how they will perform in the real world.

    • Also, if/when Solar City collapses and if/when Tesla, etc., Elon Musk gets to keep all the personal riches he got from his tax-farming enterprises.

    • The money will be spent regardless. At least Musk is doing something mostly useful with it. It would be stupid for Musk to let a competitor get the tax $$. Even if Solar City is not doing well, Musk is investing in battery technology. I am very interested in Power Wall, because if we ever go to time-of-use metering, I’d rather pay cheap rates from 12 midinight to 6am and use the power from 6am to 8am, and 6pm to 11pm. And ideally, I will be cut off from smart meter autoresponse nonsense where the government uses the Home Area Network already set up in all of our houses to monitor what we are doing. Autoresponse is needed so our stuff can be turned off in a “power emergency”, which would only arise due to unreliable wind and solar power (due to slackened winds and clouds passing over solar arrays). However, the Energy Independence and Security Act (2007) allows unrestricted data mining from the Smart Grid, part of which is in our homes [https://www.ferc.gov/industries/electric/indus-act/smart-grid/eisa.pdf]. Elon Musk is not actually the real problem.

    • If you think Musk is an expert at milking the taxpayer cow now, just wait until his Hyperloop gets off the ground. The taxpayer cow will be totally drained…I mean the planet will be saved…that’s right..

  4. Tesla cars are fun to look at, but it is amazing how much hype they (and Elon Musk) are given in the press, considering that basically they are just heavily subsidized toys for the rich. Even with subsidies, the prices start at $71,000 – how many hourly wage earners can go out and buy a $71,000 car?

  5. I’ve often said that Elon Musk’s true business is extracting money from the government so he can play at being a mad genius.

      • Musk is a capable business man. Its just that the margins are in subsidies and he is simply the best in this space.

      • I do not use Pay Pal. If there is a problem, Pay Pal will not help you and neither will your credit card issuer.

      • [paypal will not help..-]. Actually, they have refunded me twice, when transactions went wrong, so that is not true. Try getting that service from your bank.
        I have no problem with Paypal. But I still have a problem with electric vehicles being called zero emissions, when they put out more emissions than my diesel.

      • Legitimate ??
        What is legitimate about a business that requires its customers to give it access to their bank account ??
        I don’t buy, sell, or pay any attention to e-Bay, because they eventually don’t allow you to pay for anything with a check, including a cashiers check. I don’t write personal checks any more. Anything I need to pay by check, I send them a cashiers check, which costs me nothing to do.
        Years ago, I bought some things on e-bay, but they eventually told me to go jump in the lake, unless I used pay pal.
        Sorry not great idea to give anybody everything they need to steal your identity, and everything else you have.
        G

      • The only time I use Paypal is to donate to my favorite blogs.
        I once tried to use it to fund my horse racing account, within about 5 minutes I got 2 emails and a phone call,
        they made me verify my identity and upgrade my password.
        They don’t play.

  6. Tesla is also a bit shaky, Musk has projected some pretty outrageous production and sales numbers for 2019 and 2020, based, pretty much, on vehicles that are still in development. On top of that there have been some pretty serious departures from Tesla over the last 3 months, these last two departures just last week ….
    “Greg Reichow, Tesla’s vice president of production and one of its highest-paid executives, and Josh Ensign, vice president of manufacturing”

    • There have been some negative opinions expressed in business news of late regarding Tesla’s ability to ramp their production up as claimed to fulfill the supposed 400K orders which have been received for their new lower priced model. The disbelief by many has pushed the stock price down almost 40 dollars in the last several weeks.

      • I would agree with that; Penguin.
        When you look at their naked chassis S-model in the show room you see what looks like two electric motors at the back, one for each wheel.
        Actually only once of those cyclinders is THE electric motor; three phase variable frequency AC.
        The other cylinder is just a package containing the solid state DC-AC three phase inverter electronics.
        So the big bulge in the middle is a pretty ordinary rear end differential, like you would see on any Detroitosaurus maximus. With a very large diameter spur gear reduction from the actual electric motor shaft speed to drive the differential cage.
        I would have put two identical smaller electric motors; one for each wheel, so there would be a narrower spur gear reduction from each motor to the one rear wheel.
        I could imagine those two large spur gears somehow coupled with a limited slip arrangement, but I’m not sure that is necessary.
        Then since I had the two half shaft drive shafts anyway, I would move the disk brakes inboard, and get them off the unsprung weight budget, and get all the movement off the brake hydraulic systems.
        Hey, if you are going to put the brakes and such inboard, I think it would be good to re-investigate the practicality and efficiency of pancake motors again. Why not make the electric drive a higher frequency multi-pole direct drive, and get rid of the spur gears altogether.
        A two foot diameter tire doing 60 MPH (88 FPS) is rotating around 900 RPM
        A two pole synchronous motor does 3600 rpm on 60 Hz AC, so an eight pole motor would do 900 rpm at 60 Hz AC. Well of course you would make it three phase or more.
        Well all of the numbers seem to come out in a practical range for using direct drive three phase AC pancake motors with integrated inboard disc brakes.
        And of course you would have individual drive for each motor, variable frequency, all computer controlled so you could make the drive train do anything you wanted, without mechanical contraptions at all, sve for the UJ half axle drive shafts.
        Regenerative braking, and with the disk brakes inboard, what little brake heat you do develop could when needed be captured as part of the winter heating of the vehicle, although you would use as much regeneration as you could. Brakes would be just for actual stoppage. These days with all wheel drive being reasonably practical from a wheel drive mechanics point of view (steering included), you could consider inboard front brakes as well. Even if you don’t double up and go four wheel inboard pancake motor drive, you could put the front brakes inboard, for better unsprung weight, and also heat capture, and regen.
        A full four motor all wheel drive system, could be nearly four identical systems (maybe), and it would eliminate the biggest thorn in the side of Subaru owners. With mechanical all wheel drive, you have this absurd requirement, to replace all four tires, when you get an un-repairable puncture. With four motor drive or even two that would be un-necessary.
        Well I should go into the electric car business. If there were good batteries I would do it. Well just to make one for me.
        G

    • Yup, it has been exciting viewing recently.
      Propelled by fossil fuels, of course. A technology that works when you need a working technology.

    • SpaceX is what this country needs with respect to launch vehicle technology. This company is way more innovative than Boeing or Lockheed Martin… and way cheaper too! Funny how the author of that article didn’t point out that little factoid…

  7. Because environmentalism is about taxing the middle class to pay for the toys of the rich.
    It’s obvious when you think about it.
    Most political systems are about the argument over who gets to be rich. For a while, there were exceptions, but it appears we’re reverting to the norm.

  8. Musk is the king of bling and government ideological DIM-OCRATIC Obama sanctioned subsidization to unload his products out the door. A first class high tech ponzi scam with the usual victmized taxpayers footing the bill!

    • Speaking of a ponzi scheme….I was reading an article the other day where it said that Tesla was using the deposit money (that people were putting down as reservations for the new “affordable” model) to pay vendors. Not one of those vehicles has been delivered yet. And what happens if they don’t…..

  9. Let me just dissent a bit here – there is nothing wrong with what Musk is doing. he correctly recognized the foolishness of the government on electric cars and solar panels and proceeded to take advantage of it.
    By all accounts the Tesla is a nifty bit of engineering. unfortunately is simply costs too much. If oil prices had continued to climb past $120.barrel it might have made a world of sense. But cheap oil makes hash out of the idea. Maybe his giga factory gets the battery costs low enough to cut costs into the realm of possible, maybe not. he is certainly risking a lot of his own cash on it.
    Solar City’s business model makes zero sense without huge subsidies. It was very clever when it first came out, and its profits were entirely dependent on subsidies. But as the subsides have declined, in particular, as utilities realized they were being ripped off by net metering, the entire business model started falling apart. Again his second gigfactory might turn things around there as well. or not.
    SpaceX – seems like an unmitigated success, along with Paypal, and Zip2. having just those three on his resume is pretty amazing.

    • The Tesla system concept is idiotic. It is, in effect, a coal-burner, and when the dim-but-rich crowd figure that out, the cachet will collapse. But, if he has a design for a hybrid power version, he can make a big killing: 20 gallons/tank x 40 mpg = 800 miles of cruising range.

      • Michael
        I can assure you that, just like you, the “dim but rich” crowd always knew the Tesla was a coal burner.
        However, if the “dim but not rich” crowd willingly subsidize your latest gee-wiz toy, why not go out and play?
        Why the voting public allows this (and building sport stadiums for billionaires) is a mystery.

    • He had no cash to start with , did he? He has been spending tax money from the start, surely?

      • Stephen,
        Geoman is right on the money about Musk. Zip2 was the first online “yellow pages” (what the heck are they?) company which he sold for a good profit and founded Pay Pal. Both were privately funded and worked out very well for him. Likewise the start of Tesla and SpaceX.
        If a company finds that the government is willing to hand them free money, is it a crime not to refuse it? When the transcontinental railroad was being built, the government induced Leland Stanford to participate on the Western section by offering his company ownership of ten miles on either side of the tracks.
        Howard Hughes had his Spruce Goose and don’t even get me started on the F-35. $140,000 helmets that have to be custom made for each pilot? Now, let’s talk about the health care/industrial complex.
        Ripping off the taxpayers is a rich, time honored tradition. Musk didn’t invent the subsidies promoted by the pinheads in congress and the executive. He is merely, like any smart businessman, taking advantage of what is offered. It isn’t his job to fix stupid.

    • Each of these giga factories requires the doubling of the current lithium carbonate/hydroxide supply. With the time required to permit and build new mines, this is not going to happen in the time frames proposed by Tesla.

      • To Markopanama above (for some reason there was no reply link directly below the comment): The helmet on the F-35 is well worth the cost for the dramatic advantages it confers in air to air combat. But, the most advanced flying computer in the world is a white elephant that doesn’t actually fly very well. Of course, it has been politically farmed out by the military industrial complex to resist it’s cancellation. Speaking of industrial govt. complexes: could someone calculate what level Lake Meade will drop from the Gigabit factory?

    • I totally disagree. The government backed electric cars. Private industry backed shale fracking. The low oil prices are the result of the latter. How much government funding did Paypal require?

      • Incorrect,in the early 1980s, when oil prices hit $10/bbl, all oil companies stopped their research. It was only the federal government that kept it going for a period of several years in which substantial progress was made.

      • Oil companies have been fracking since the 1930’s. They have also been doing directional drilling for decades.
        It was the combining of fracking with directional drilling that was the big breakthrough.
        Can you provide some evidence that govt research in any drilling technology?

    • Geoman I don’t see how the Tesla would have made sense if oil had continued to climb above $120 per barrel. In California they have tiered pricing on the electricity and charging your Tesla each night would put that additional electricity used above $0.30 kwh.
      The electricity used for charging is produced with hydrocarbons. The assembly process uses hydrocarbons. The manufacturing of the parts uses hydrocarbons. The electricity produced from Solar Thermal uses hydrocarbons. The manufacturing of the parts for Solar PV, Solar Thermal, Geothermal, Hydro and Wind uses hydrocarbons. The installation, maintenance and repair of same uses hydrocarbons.
      So had oil continued to climb, the cost to produce and power the Tesla would have climbed also. We should be glad that oil is selling for less than $50 per barrel as it has made things cheaper to produce and operate.

  10. Obviously this is just a problem of communication. If Elon would just communicate his plans better, everyone would buy it.

    • If he could get me a government grant, I’ll write him a paper saying how to communicate rent seeking as good for the little man.

  11. Musk’s magic, more like the whole business model is based on subsidies.
    Even with that, the cost of what Musk returned was a massive failure

  12. Better to invest in KOL, DLNG and URA.
    The “renewable”s need massive Federal and State kickbacks (subsidies) to the companies and bribes (cash contributions) to the people who might buy these things, which probably sums to several 10s of trillions of dollars per year, means that they are unsustainable. After-all, if the Fed and State were paying me $1 million dollars a day to buy SolarCity stuff and the Musk batteries and all the fixins, I would be inclined to invest the money into high dividend yielding stocks instead.
    Ha ha

  13. Well as I realized over 30 years ago, solar and windmills are interesting technology that are entirely appropriate for use in isolated areas as a supplement. When you try to put a meter on them and integrate them into the utility grids their utility falls apart at once.

  14. Present SolarCity panels are polysi. Easy to tell by the mottled light blue color. The polycrystalline mottling is also why the best panel efficiency is ~16.5% (using a lot of fairly expensive tricks like antireflective coatings and diffraction grates). SunPower monosi is currently 22.8% for their best panels. Monosi appears a uniform deep blue/black, again easy to spot. The SolarCity claim to produce 22% panels means a switch to monosi, which in turn means their cost target of $0.55/watt is a misrepresentation. That is about the present cost of First Solar CdTe (again easy to spot, jet black). Which, by the way, reached a new lab panel record of 21.8% in February. They claim they will have 16% in standard production by yearend at $0.53/w. Up from 14.3% for 2015.
    In addition to a failing subsidy based business model, SolarCity’s venture into panels is trapped between SunPower superior efficiency and First Solar superior cost. Claiming they have a breakthrough that will deliver both is probably simply false. That will eventually bite bite them quite hard at the SEC and with burned investors.

    • II-VI compounds all just love H2O, so they have always been plagued by hermeticity problems.
      And what a great pair of noxious chemicals Cadmium and Tellurium are.
      If you have never had a whiff of diethyl Telluride, you are someday in for a big surprise.
      Triple junction triple bandgap cells have achieved over 43% conversion efficiency for AM-1.5 solar input.
      But require non imaging concentrator optics.
      G

      • a whiff of diethyl Telluride” I’ve smelled organo-selenides. The worst rotten garlic, ever. I’m sure organo-tellurides are even more special. 🙂

  15. If shares have dropped 65%, why do you present a chart with a 30% drop and baselines that make it look worse?

    • I don’t follow the second part of your comment — the “look worse” part.
      The share price chart is for 5 days while the statement is ” So far in 2016, SolarCity shares have plummeted 65 percent. –George Avalon, Silicon Beat, 10 May 2016″
      That statement comes from an article with an EPS chart — the bar chart with 2 blue colors.
      Jan 1 the stock was $52.79. Latest number I find is $18.69. That is down 64.59%.

    • The chart was a 5-day chart, which shows the price fall on Tuesday. “Shares of SolarCity nose-dived on Tuesday“. The “65%” is in a later sentence “So far in 2016, SolarCity shares have plummeted 65 percent.“.

  16. There are certainly targeted applications for solar electricity, like powering a roadside sign. However, since it’s generation is a function of surface area it’s not scalable. And the surface area used by solar panels takes that sunlight away from potential photosynthesis.
    Now if we could embed photo-voltaic cells in pavement, we’d be putting the surface area already removed from photosynthesis to good use.

    • ” … embed photo-voltaic cells in pavement …”
      The PV cells would have to be protected by sapphire windows in order to prevent scratching by pedestrians etc.. Then there’s the problem of films of oil, dust, doggie-do, etc..

    • There is a way that solar cells may eventually become financial viable, but it involves massive bio-engineering.
      The truly amazing thing about plants is that they are not merely solar energy converters, they are also the factory that produces the solar energy converters. Additionally, the solar cells are capable of repairing injuries to themselves. Essentially, the only starting point is a set of blueprints or instructions: the DNA stored in a tiny seed.
      In principle, there is no fundamental barrier (other than stupidity) to humans exploiting this potent technology. We could bio-engineer a “seed” that for instance attaches to an intake tube for water,CO2, and minerals. The solar converter manufactures itself and is attached to an output tube that produces for instance, a pure bio-diesel fuel.
      In this scheme essentially all of the cost is in the research needed to produce the necessary DNA code, just like modern computers and pharmaceuticals. No manufacturing facility is needed, and the product is self-healing.

  17. Tax credit mining is a rich business while the vein lasts, so is free riding the electric grid. This is really the poster company of the 1 percenters.

  18. There is hope in the completion of the battery factory and its promise of limited capacity backup batteries for every home. So don’t read the performance stats.

    • Nope. A utility exec and I did the math for Palo Alto, including Federal, state, and city subsidies. Still makes no sense at the advertized battery pack pricing. Only works because of the net metering stupidity which simply burdens those who don’t play. Why Nevada removed the net metering nonsense.

      • Reference: a guest post by APlanningEngineer and myself at Climate Etc. titled Solar Grid Parity.
        Even footnotes and hyperlinks.

  19. Some idiot on my local Facebook page wants to put solar panels over all the bike lanes here in Toronto…he compounded his insanity by pointing out that solar is going to get much, much cheaper (soon…he didn’t elaborate) and there is just so MUCH silica on planet earth, and that’s what we can use, and rainbows and unicorns…sorry, I may have misread that last part.

    • Worse than that was the plan to pave parking lots with solar panels.Do these people realize that a parked car casts a giant shadow, which prevents a solar panel from generating power?

      • They also leave these big oil spots which gets in the way of the sun light even after the car has left.

    • CaligulaJones says: May 11, 2016 at 1:15 pm
      … and there is just so MUCH silica on planet earth, …

      ??? It’s one of the most common things. “In many parts of the world, silica is the major constituent of sand.” link

      • Oh, no doubt. The abundance hasn’t exactly crashed the cost of solar panels though, has it?
        And what will happen when (sorry, IF) we start “mining” sand?
        Here’s a hint: 90% of the same people who protest any other kind of mining will protest THAT.

  20. After Jimmy Carter, Solar was never heard of again for almost 30 years. Investors and Wall Street won’t soon forget the blood bath that is certain to happen. Trump will certainly pull the plug, and after 8 years of failure, I bet even Hillary will sour to the waste. Elon Musk risks being the Ivan Bosky, Michael Milcan of today. As oil goes lower, SUV sales have already surged, and car dealers can’t get rid of their small cars. No one will be buying electric cars next year.

  21. Ya ever notice how nobody ever comes to the defense of these solar companies ?
    A skeptic might begin to believe it is because they don’t want to draw attention…..lest someone starts looking thru their books.

  22. Trivia:
    Solar City is now occupying the buildings in Fremont/Milpitas that were owned by Solyndra !

  23. Well it seems that despite Elon Musk’s nose diving stock, there are still some brave, intrepid (scheming) souls willing to try and produce a functional electric vehicle.
    I confess the concept of this semi-tractor trailer is interesting. But the question is can they build them on their own or will they have to be subsidized.
    Of course I imagine it is possible by simply marketing it in a big fancy shiny box with the small print on the bottom “batteries not included”
    http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2016/05/11/nikola-motors-sleek-hybrid-semi-is-tesla-trucks/
    michael

    • This is more like a Volt so it actually has a chance of working.
      I wonder how the gas turbine is housed safely and spun up? I would have thought a gas reciprocating engine would be better suited.

      • I confess I am intrigued. Natural Gas for fuel. At 150 gal. what would the weight difference be with a standard diesel? What is the Battery weight? The difference in hp is enticing. Depending on how all the trade offs balance out this could be useful.
        michael

    • Every year, the MSM recycles the same “news” item of a highly motivated team of university students who set another “record” in a solar powered-car. The “improvement” to the functionality is usually negligible, but since its a good “news” story, it runs. And runs. And runs. Unlike the car.

      • Have a family member who was on solar car team and these won’t fly. Even dust and scratches affect the performance. I’ve been right next to a solar car.
        Nice to have university solar teams as they are teaching tools as well. And there is all the planning and coordination that goes into solar car races.

  24. I was told a couple of days ago that Dish Network was planning to enter the solar panel market soon.

  25. Oh please, all they need is a few billion in government support to become ‘profitable’. Solar is viable, just ask any environmentalist. It HAS to be.

  26. Hmmmm … Enron just kinda ‘peaked early’ it appears after reading the comments on Musk and company … plus Enron was in a different ‘market’.

  27. Clearly the problem for SolarCity is not enough tweeting by Elon Musk to make fantasy projections and claims. Then again, that model is running out of steam for Tesla.
    The Musk Doctrine: Never set a deadline you’re likely to keep.
    Elon Musk’s Tesla Strategy: Win Big by Falling Short – http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-09/elon-musk-s-tesla-strategy-win-big-by-falling-short
    And the interconnected finances between his companies is just a way to hide how leverage his position is. The failure of any one will almost certainly bankrupt the others.
    Elon Musk Supports His Business Empire With Unusual Financial Moves – http://www.wsj.com/articles/elon-musk-supports-his-business-empire-with-unusual-financial-moves-1461781962

  28. As much as I want Solar City to fail, I’d prefer Tesla to succeed. Because, car dealerships are even worse than global warming salesmen.

  29. The old saying applies here… a fool and their money are soon parted.. sadly the fools in this case are .. the taxpayers, shareholders and customers.

    • Musk’s “innovation” is his hyped up, leveraged, subsidized business model.
      He does not personally contribute in a technical sense to his businesses

  30. Musk is a modern day snake oil salesman. He uses slight of hand to make billions by scamming governments for clean energy subsidies. ENRON comes to mind!
    Bill

  31. I sure hope he has SpaceX walled off from Tesla and Solarcity. There at least he appears to be making real money and demonstrating real progress. No, providing contracted services to the government isn’t a subsidy. The US government is getting a good deal. They’d get an even better one if the NASA turkeys got out of the way.
    I cannot believe how a smart hard working bloke like Musk as fallen for the enviroscam. Possibly he is cynical enough to simply be working it for all it is worth. I hope so.
    Makes D.D. Harriman’s little scam in “The Man Who Sold The Moon” look like peanuts.

  32. I’ve always been so conflicted by Elon Musk. On the one hand, PayPal was a brilliant exploitation of capitalism. There was a need and PayPal fulfilled it. Exactly what free market capitalism is supposed to engender. SpaceX’s undeniable accomplishments are already legendary. As a demonstration of how the free market can out perform the established military industrial complex, it is even more legendary. But it’s all government money.
    Tesla is another great example. Actually building and deploying to meet a perceived need whilst everyone else just thinks about it. Brilliant. And retroactively enabling “Ludicrous Speed”, even more brilliant. But, again, that doesn’t work without government money.
    When I was confronted with my first SolarCity pitch, I recognized exactly what they were actually selling. Their upfront expenditure on the hardware and installation so that they could subsidy farm from these installations for decades. Brilliant. Again, all based on raking in government money.
    I was pleased, and proud, that the video of the first successful landing of the Falcon showed the SpaceX employees that had accomplished this great feat chanting “U! S! A!” at their headquarters. But I still can’t quite figure out if Elon Musk is the great innovator and creator that the world all too desperately needs, or if he’s the worst sort of Aynn Randian crony capitalist that spells our final doom.

    • SpaceX launches are not all government contacts.
      The last launch was for the Japanese, so Musk is now a major exporter, earning money for America Inc. And now his rockets have proven to be reliable, there are private many companies looking for launches, because Musk is much cheaper than NASA or Ariane. And cheaper than the Ruskies too. It is a matter of power and payload. When SpaeX designs a launcher capable of reasonable geostatioary payloads, he will attract a whole host of private/commercial launches.
      And this was really quite forward thinking. Branson and Bellos were thinking of sub-orbital lobs for tourists, while Musk went straight to orbit to capture work from NASA. Who would have thought, ten years ago, that NASA would allow a private company to dock with the ISS space station? Who would have thought that a private company could underbid and take NASA launch slots?
      That is quite a ballsy goal, for a new company that had never even launched a firework before.
      Ralph

  33. According to the Rennix Index (German index of world’s largest alt en companies stocks), Alt en stocks have crashed from a peak in 2007 of about 2,000 to just 150 in 2012 (a 93% collapse).
    http://www.renewable-energy-industry.com/stocks
    There has been a recent dead-cat bounce since hitting a temporary bottom in 2011/12, (150 to 400), but the market is clearly screaming that wind and solar are dead and unviable industries.
    Once the HUGE government wind and solar subsidies are forced to end, wind and solar companies will be forced into bankruptcy as a large number already have.
    The only people that will end up make money on wind and solar companies are those that short-sold these silly companies, or better yet, bought puts.

  34. I pay $6/month, every month here in Tucson AZ, as a non-solar TEP customer (Tucson Electric Power) so that Musk’s Solar City scheme can stay afloat. End the billionaire welfare.

  35. I still have a problem with electric vehicles being called ‘Zero Emissions’, when they put out more emissions than my diesel. Especially in coal-fired America.
    The Nissan Leaf advertised this in the UK, so I got the Advertising Standards Authority to rule that this claim was untrue and misleading. So did Nissan admit the truth? No, they changed the advertising tag-line to ‘ The Car With No Exhaust Pipe’.
    Grrrrrrrrrr.

  36. I have said this before, but Musk’s real name is Nibbor Dooh (the reverse of Robbin Hood). He takes money from poor tax payers, and gives it in subsidies to the rich who can afford his Teslas.
    Having said that, I like Musk’s new rocket technology. It is high technology, forward thinking, cutting edge, providing s useful service, and unashamedly NON-GREEN. How many carbon credits does he have to give back, with each launch?

    • NASA have been in the rocket business for 65 years, and never even thought of doing this. Then Musk perfects the art in less than five years. Suck on that, NASA.
      SpaceX lands the first stage launcher back on a barge….

      • NASA attempted reusability with the Space Shuttle which lasted seemingly forever and never developed far from its original concept. The cost was bizarre, increasing over time instead of decreasing if I recall correctly.

      • I suppose so. But as I understand it, they had to rebuild the engines after each launch, which was almost as expensive as building new ones. It never became a true reusable spaceplane. And now they are back to expendable Saturn 5 lookalikes.
        Musk is quoting multiple launches from each engine. We shall see.
        R

      • Very cool.
        I’d feel a lot better seeing a video of the navy (or anybody ) shooting it down.

    • Musk says that fuel far a Falcon 9 launch costs about $200k.
      I’d rather see private financing for adventures like space, Tesla, solar, but the government already takes 40 pct from profitable companies. If PayPal had been taxed less, the money would have been availible for investment or other, as Musk saw fit. EdwardConard.com makes a strong argument in editorials and videos explaining the benefits of letting the rich spend their money.
      Government money is clumsily trying to replace money that should have been spent or invested by the earner. In the past there have been successes like the interstate highway system, but that should have been sold off generations ago. There are also the advances like the transistor and other military financed inventions that also advanced civilian economy.
      Looks to me that many here are Luddites but masquerading as small government fans of which I am one. christopherchantrill.com is a good conservative site which presents US government spending and revenue in pre made or customizable graphs so you can see things like total government spending of 100 years ago at roughly ten percent of GDP, but amazingly distributed with localities having the largest share of tax and spend, federal second, and states third! Great amounts of detail can be broken out. Wonderful tools, but it takes some work to master everything. Chantrill answers emails.

  37. I just got back from Europe. I saw more Teslas in Amsterdam in two days than I have seen on the road in the US since the Tesla brand was established. A bunch of them were taxi cabs.
    How does the carbon subsidy work for cars sol overseas? Are we paying for those, too?

    • Don’t know about Holland but in Denmark cars are subject to 180% purchase tax. Electric cars like the Tesla are exempt making them only slightly more expensive than your average exec saloon. Copenhagen is stuffed with them.

  38. Musk is often compared to Tony Stark by greenies/leftists.
    I would love to see Josh do a cartoon of Musk as a superhero whose super power is subsidies.

  39. Elon Musk and SpaceX are overrated. His Dragon spacecraft does not carry any astronaut, cannot carry the Hubble Space Telescope (weigh 11 tons) and can only carry 3.3 tons of cargo. It is inferior to the Space Shuttle that can carry 7 astronauts and 27 tons of cargo. Dragon is also inferior to the European ATV and the Japanese HTV spacecrafts that can carry 7.6 tons and 6 tons respectively. Current SpaceX falcon rockets cannot carry 3 men to the moon like the 1960s Saturn V rocket. These are cheaper, smaller, less impressive rockets. Musk’s plan to colonize Mars is science fiction and will not happen in his lifetime. He’s a shrewd businessman and a lousy scientist.

    • I think you are competing with him, then, for you are a lousy scientist.
      1) Of course the cargo Dragon capsules do not carry passengers; that is what the crewed Dragon capsule (in development) will do. Name me any other US space transportation system that can get an astronaut to the International Space Station (answer: none). I guess you could criticize a Corvette for not being able to carry a piano.
      2) Nothing on earth, except possibly a Russian Proton, could carry the Hubble Space Telescope. What is the point in dwelling on the glory of an extinct technology? Space Shuttles are museum fossils.
      3) Not sure about the ATV and HTV, but do they bring-em-back-alive? The Dragon capsule allows a cargo return.
      4) Titan-Gemini rockets couldn’t carry 3 men to the moon, either. I guess you will have to wait for Musk to produce his moon-worthy vehicle family (not long to wait).
      5) Any plan to colonize Mars is science fiction, right up there with orbiting around the Earth and going to the Moon. I’m glad you are familiar with your science fiction. I guess none of this happened in your lifetime. How old are you? Maybe it happened before you were born!
      And me? I’ve only worked in aerospace for the past 40 years, keeping close tabs on SpaceX and how they are recapitulating the history of rocketry as their enterprise continues.

      • The Dragon capsule is small compared to the Space Shuttle whether it carries men or cargo. Dragon is not a sports car. It is designed to carry payloads to space like the Space Shuttle. They are comparable.
        The “museum fossil” is better than the SpaceX “state of the art”
        Musk is still dreaming of his moon rocket. Von Braun is long dead and his moon rockets had brought 36 men to the moon 42 years ago. 12 walked on it.
        We have not colonized the moon, not even Antarctica – which is much more hospitable to life than Mars. A space station on the moon is not a colony. Colonization means an established community of ordinary people living in a place for good. The Spaniards explored the United States in the 16th century but it was the Americans who colonized it in the 17th century. I know my history and science fiction. You seems confused about these two.

      • More of Musk’s “scientific innovations”
        The Tesla Roadster is a wonderful electric car but it is inferior to gasoline cars in performance. The 1965 Shelby Cobra is faster (165 mph vs. 125 mph) and quicker on the quarter mile (12.2 sec. vs. 12.6 sec) Another example of “museum fossil” beating Musk’s “state of the art”
        The advantage of electric cars is in energy efficiency but that is not unique to Tesla cars. It’s an old technology. Edison built an electric car in 1912.

      • We should count the crew of the aborted Apollo 13 mission as they reached within 254 km above the moon’s surface. 21 + 3 = 24 men went to the moon riding Von Braun’s “museum fossils” while Musk’s “state of the art” has not send a single man 250 km above earth

      • Dear Doctor,
        This is almost hilarious, except that you are so earnest in your failure to see the point.
        1) You are comparing a living commercial enterprise to a dead government pyramid. You don’t deny that it is a fossil.
        2) “Better” how? Certainly not by price per pound placed in orbit. (I had a mentor who observed that the Space Shuttle was “the world’s heaviest payload shroud.”)
        3) It took von Braun about 30 years to realize his dream, so be patient and see what Musk has accomplished in that time. So far, he has progressed more rapidly than von Braun. He is arguably the first to perfect a reusable first stage (full reuse still needs to be verified).
        4) Yes, we have not colonized anywhere. Did anyone say we had? (This is a variation of the “sky is blue” assertion. Who can argue with it?) Myself, I thought it was science fiction. Of course, it could come to pass. Stay tuned.
        5) Mentioning the Tesla line of coal-burning automobiles is impertinent.
        6) If we are counting crew, then the Apollo program deserves credit for putting 3 below ground, and the Space Shuttle program should be remembered for killing 14 crew in two separately hideous manners. At least Musk’s technology and methodology has not yet killed anyone, which puts him above the deathtrap you seem to idolize. These deaths were the result of deliberate design decisions which proved to be ill-considered. I really have no sympathy for those who rhapsodize over a hugely expensive technological project like the Shuttle, which was intrinsically compromised from its conception, never achieved its mission goals of economical space transportation, and destroyed 14 people through a technical obsession with the use of cryogenic propellants. Somehow, the preciousness of human life just doesn’t compare to the glamor of a fiery launch.
        I have concentrated on the design of launch vehicles for years of my career, so I rebuff any suggestion that I am antagonistic to space travel. But I have also recently married, and I now have a step-family that I thought I never would have…and I am reminded that all the dreams of glory are as nothing compared to the wonder of love.

  40. It [Tesla] makes money by selling “carbon credits” to real car companies that make functionally and economically viable vehicles that can and do sell on the merits — but which are not “zero emissions” vehicles.
    Only in some far away world inhabited by Unicorns could anyone claim that a Tesla vehicle is “zero emissions”. It simply leaves its emissions elsewhere. The idea that it gets “carbon credits” for doing so simply throws ‘limelight’ on yet another aspect of this corrupt game.

  41. JUST THANK ALL THE ELECTRIC CAR OWNERS …….. CARS POWERED BY ” COAL ” ….. WONDERFUL ( OH ….. DON’T LET THEM KNOW THIS , THEY MIGHT BE UPSET )
    “”””GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK””””

  42. You’re all jealous! I’ve never read so many stupid assertions. It’s time to enter the already started new millennium…

  43. As an aspiring young engineer I had dreams of working for a visionary like Musk. However after I probed a little deeper I was told that Musk’s companies chew up and spit out engineers faster than they can graduate from universities.
    So, yeah, but nah.

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