Driving your Tesla for FREE and I don't mean with Supercharging!

Driving your Tesla for FREE and I don't mean with Supercharging!

My electric bill was around $290 on average for the year. I'm averaging about 2K miles for the first month of driving the Tesla. That would add about another $120 to my average electric bill, bringing is up to $410 on average.

I just signed with Solar City and they cut my cost by 30%. So my new bill will be $287 on average! The system they put together for me is over 20kw and guaranteed output is over 26mw for the year!


xradr | August 29, 2013

Did you sign a zero down power purchase agreement? Conversely, did you do a pre-pay or pay or pay for your panels outright? If the latter two options, not quite "free". Do expand on the how you accomplished free charging!

eddiemoy | August 29, 2013

zero down. zero out of pocket and save 30% essentially means i get to charge my tesla for free. i don't know why more people don't do this!

Jesse K | August 29, 2013

I signed with Solar City as well. After checking it out myself, I thought "I must be missing something. Why is every house in the country not solarized?" So I asked my accountant to get more granular with the numbers and find something wrong. Long story short, my accountant, my business partner and my neighbor have all signed contracts. Full disclosure: I did the pre-pay option as that was the least per KW price. I do not own stock in Solar City or Tesla (regretfully).

eddiemoy | August 29, 2013

@Jesse, what did they find wrong with the numbers?

Jesse K | August 29, 2013

Nothing. That's the point. We all signed up.

ItsNotAboutTheMoney | August 29, 2013


Obviously they didn't.

Solar City takes advantage of their scale and Federal and State solar incentives. They really aren't a good deal, it's just that some people lack capital or are risk averse.

Jesse K | August 29, 2013

For me I would say I am paperwork averse. Have buckets of capital and love risk. Hate paperwork and forms. NYSERDA credits and other federal and states credits are time consuming and laborious, IMO. Hence the reason I went with Solar City.
That said, categorically speaking, you are correct as to Solar City and why they are popular.

Dwdnjck@ca | August 29, 2013

My electric bill has gone down $200/month simply by switching to San Diego Gas and Electric TOU2 rates. I had a large bill of around $700/month before I started charging my Tesla. It now averages about $200 less. Next year, I will add solar, but the system won't have to be so large, because I will only need to lower my "peak rate" usage.

dtesla | August 29, 2013

ItsNotAboutTheMoney +1.

I purchased my PV system. When I considered all incentives and savings, my payback period was 5.4 years. So in another 3 years (i.e. the system has payed me back), then I'll be driving (and powering my home) for less then free. NOTE: I sell my Solar Renewable Energy Credits, based on PV generation, and get a income from the sale.

But if you are risk averse then Solar City is a good deal. They are just selling a form of insurance. Solar City is assuming the risk and receive a fee for that. Each of us must make our own decisions.

eddiemoy | August 29, 2013

not saying solar city is the best deal, but for not having to lift a finger and saving 30%, why not? they are certainly better than the local electric's!

cloroxbb | August 29, 2013

A lower rate doesn't mean free. You are just paying a lower cost for ALL of your electricity and saving money. You are still paying for it :)

But yeah, technically can be called free, since you had to buy an electric car in order to get the pricing, right?

sia | August 29, 2013

Congratulations @eddiemoy for going solar! 20kW is a huge system.

I have also been wondering why everyone doesn’t go solar. There is an option that is right for everyone:

- Lease, from 0 down to pre-pay all
- Buy

For most people, no matter which option they take, they will be ahead.

We went with pre-paid lease (with Sungevity), on a 9 kW system that covers the household and Tesla.

Driving on Sunshine!

DTsea | August 29, 2013

I think Solar City would be happy to give you the same deal without your owning an electric car so it's not really free. But it does sound easy...

JPPTM | August 29, 2013

I did the SolarCity PPA. No $$ down, no lease, they manage the system, etc. Yes, I will be leaving $$ on the table in 10-20 years, but I am happy to give them some profit and buy my power from them at about half price. Note that their mantra is to install enough PV to generate about 70% of your power needs and cover about 90% of your PG&E bill. They do not suggest that you 'overinstall', which is a ploy that other solar installers do when selling you a system. If you over-generate, at least in PG&E territory, they buy the excess at the lowest tier/cheapest rate. So you are buying expensive equipment to give PG&E cheap power. And even if you are net negative, PG&E still imposes a monthly 'meter charge". I entrusted SC to do the math given my annual PG&E bills, my current Model S and the amount I drive, and the plan to acquire another S next year. The SC advisor I worked with had all of the Model S power/mileage info in his computer, so they can easily calculate your system size. FWIW, they also had their electricians install 2 NEMA 14-50 (1 in each garage) and I got a discount on the work (and they had done lots of them for Tesla owners that there was no head scratching or argument about wire size, etc).

jnb | August 29, 2013

Does anyone have solar and two meters (one for the house and one for the car) where discounts (like through socal edison) are available when you have an EV dedicated meter? How does that work with the solar? does the solar reduce just the house consumption? does it even make sense to do it this way? or are you just paying more overall by doing it this way? seems like it would still be cheaper to have the two meters, and i know it depends on the rates, the tiers, and your usage, but wondering if anyone has looked into this and has any insight.

simplesolarinc | August 29, 2013

People I know I get them whatever financing they need to purchase the system.
People I don't know I lease them systems because that's the money maker.

Even using credit card financing at 15% a year is cheaper than doing a lease over 20 years.

Lease is giving solar city your money instead of your utility company. Lesser of the two evils. Owning is truely saving money.

Just some thoughts..

AmpedRealtor | August 29, 2013

Does SolarCity use SunPower panels that are made in Silicon Valley or do they use the Chinese panels?

I signed a SunPower lease last year for a 14 kWh system. The lease payment is $168/mo. So far this year, after adding back the lease expense, I am on track to save $1,200 this year versus last year (no solar). And I'm adding the $168/mo lease price into these figures. Last month's AC bill was $43, the same month a year ago was $432. I live in the Phoenix area where it gets up to 120ºF and you must run the AC 24/7 during the hottest months. I am also accumulating credits during peak hours, so I will get a refund check from the utility for my peak credits at the end of the year, adding even more to my $1,200 savings. Arizona utilities no longer offer any solar rebates and are now proposing hiking rates on those with solar arrays in order to recoup "lost revenue". It's total BS.

I'd love to hook up a couple of Model S batteries to power my house at night, completely cutting my ties to the grid. Unfortunately, I cannot legally cut myself from the grid and therefore am a hostage to my utility company.

Dramsey | August 29, 2013

I had Solar City come in maybe 18 months ago. Their estimate for putting a 4KW system in was $37,000. They never mentioned this long term zero-down deal; but given that I have a relatively new house (built in 1995) that's partially underground, my monthly electric bills are pretty low, even in Reno. The calculated break-even point was 26 years, one year beyond the designed service life of the cells.

The salesman had some nice calculations that included things like "increased value of the home", "anticipated increase in electricity prices", etc. which he summarized on a little paper spreadsheet...which he refused to give me a copy of.

This was my second experience with Solar City. The first time was about four years ago, when they refused to send someone out to talk to me unless I could guarantee my wife would be there. At the time her mother was dying and she was flying back to Wisconsin on an erratic schedule; after Solar City cancelled the third appointment I told them not to bother rescheduling.

So, not impressed so far. Maybe things have gotten better.

eddiemoy | August 29, 2013

the first time i talk to them 3 months ago was for a 11kw system, the prepay amount was $17k, so it looks like the price has come down significantly. that only comes out to 7 cent a kwh!!

Dramsey | August 29, 2013

An 11kw system for $17K is $1,545 per kw, as compared to the $9,250 price I was quoted. That seems an unlikely price drop in less than two years...

create | August 29, 2013

Amped. SolarCity does not use SunPower. Also I believe SunPower's factories are in the Philippines. I got quotes from SolarCity and The Solar Co back in March the week after I put my order in (I'm in the Bay Area).

The solar co was less expensive for the same kW with SunPower panels and they could have me up and connected within 8weeks. Solar City was 4 months out and used Chinese panels. Even the PPA from SC was ridiculously high at 24.5cents/kWh.

Needless to say I went with the solar co. Signed 3/31 and pg&e gave me the go ahead to switch it on on 5/25. I paid for it up front and I did zero paperwork. They did all of it.

I have 18 of the 310 panels for 5.580kW DC. My best days during the summer they were producing 38kWh AC. Peak AC production has been just over 5kW which is pretty impressive although usually the peak of the day is around 4.8kW which is still over 85% efficiency.

With the E9 rate from PG&E that is no longer but I get to keep until end of next year my bill is still negative even though I am consuming over 50% more electricity than before. My net kWh 2 months ago was +427 but my bill was -$4! Unfortunately they will get me back in the winter when I spend more on heating the house.

TikiMan | August 29, 2013


Same here!

eddiemoy | August 30, 2013

@Dramsey, call them again, that is the quote i got, sorry you are in disbelief. you quote seems too high. how much per kwh was it? the prepay is 7cents for me and the pay as you go is 12 cents.

from what you quoted, it would be 42cents and 72cents. i don't know of anywhere where the electric is that expensive. in nyc it has been ~25 cents a kwh. you must have got it wrong.

dtaubert | August 30, 2013

@jnb, I can explain how PG&E handles the situation.

With two meters and a single solar system, the net metering applies only to the meter to which it is physically connected. They are, essentially, two completely different accounts and credits from one cannot be applied to the other.

To take advantage of solar for both meters, two independent solar systems would be required. The math generally works our in favor of a single net meter for owners with both EV and solar.

jnb | August 30, 2013

dtaubert: Thanks!

JPPTM | August 30, 2013

My SC install uses Canadian Solar panels and SolarEdge modules/inverters. Indeed, the big advantage of SunPower is that their panels are the most efficient, so if you have a roof area issue or odd installation issue (angles/orientations) then look into them.

erici | August 30, 2013

I was quoted about $5 per watt install price from Solar City. I got that quote earlier this week.

My roof area is a big rectangle that can handle up to 10,000 watt system.

$50,000 for a 10,000 watt system.

But I can buy panels with Enphase micro-inverters for $15,000 total (including freight charges and sales tax). The panels only cost 75 cents per watt from when you are ordering at least 40 at a time (enough for a 10,000 watt system).

I figure the racking equipment and the cost of an electrician to run a junction box up to the roof can be had for $5,000.

So that's total cost of $20,000 for the equipment and electrical work.

So my complaint about Solar City is they want $30,000 to install my panels.

I'm sorry, $30,000!!!! That's outrageous to install 40 panels. Think about that, we're talking $750 per panel just for the installation!

And there is no economy of scale here for the customer:

Solar City pricing:
3,000 watt system is $15,000
5,000 watt system is $25,000
10,000 watt system is $50,000

They're just keeping it all to themselves and not passing any of the scale efficiency to the consumer.

$750 per panel... come on! For each additional panel you ask for, it's another $750 just for the labor! That should be less than 1 hour of labor per panel for installation -- I'm sure of it. So they are probably charging at least $1,000 per hour effectively -- for labor!

The roof is just one flat rectangle. Yes it takes time to talk to the customer, to draw the plans, get the permit, etc... but those costs are fixed on a per-project basis. In other words, it would be the same cost for that work whether the project be for a 3,000 watt system or a 10,000 watt system.

eddiemoy | August 30, 2013

@erici, think the numbers you are talking about are the pay as you go numbers. that is a 20 year lease with zero down. if you can afford it, the prepay is just $17k for the 11kw system. that would be comparable with you buying your own system and installing. keep in mind if you go with solar city, they warranty and maintain everything. looks cheaper than if you do it yourself.

ask them for the prepay number if you don't mind footing the bill up front if you really want to compare.

Alex K | August 30, 2013

My Solar City system is currently being installed this week. It's a 32kW system and I'm pre-paying the lease ($29K). This should cover all my electricity and will pay for itself in about 5.5 years. I'm in Tucson, AZ and a friend of mine called Solar City to have a 8.3kW system installed, but they wanted over $14K for a pre-pay lease. I don't know how they determine their pricing.

eddiemoy | August 30, 2013

that is a really good price. i've seen 20kw wholesale internet prices go for $30k, so about $1.5 per watt... you are paying closer to $1.1 per watt which is amazing... who is it from?

eddiemoy | August 30, 2013

@alexk, sorry, oops, just re-read your post, i wonder why your install is so cheap! your friends price is closer to what i'm actually paying... my price was $38k for a 22.5kw system. i think your roof has more optimal placement for the panels. plus you are closer to the equator than me so you produce more electric year round. that is probably why it is so much cheaper for you.

erici | August 30, 2013


I can't do a lease. I have to pay cash for the system.

I have a 3 year purchase option on the house I am renting. It's sort of an unusual situation. So I either have to buy the system outright or I have to wait 3 years until I own the property. I can't do anything that puts a lien on the property.

Nevertheless, the price they are quoting is just insane. If the 3,000 watt system is profitable for them, then charging me an extra $750 per additional panel just for labor is outright price gouging -- deters me from installing solar, and they are meant to be driving solar adoption, right? Well, not really in my case.

info | August 31, 2013

Since I bought a Tesla, I thought I'd keep the business in house with SolarCity. RealGood Solar beat their price by 1/3. I need 900 k/w/month (or whatever the correct unit of measurement is, but I use 900 of them. Solar City wanted $15,700 and RGS wanted $10,700 for the same production. I called my Solar City Rep and told h,im to justify the price difference or meet it. He could do neither so reluctantly, I went with RGS. My electric bill is around $200/mo. I will break even on my prepaid lease in 4 years 2 months. The contract is for 20 years, so for 15 years, 8 months, I'll have no electric bill. At the end of 20 years there is a small buy-out but for the 20, RGS takes care of everything else.

Pungoteague_Dave | August 31, 2013

We installed a 27-kw PV system in May 2010, long before we got serious about the Model S. The entire system ,with three inverters, cost about $128k.

It was funded through:

1) A 30% tax credit on our personal returns ($38K)
2) A USDA farm grant for renewable energy (we have an oyster aquaculture farm and the installer, Gro-Solar, did the application on our behalf - $48K flat)
3) A local tax credit of about $7K
4) A business expense deduction for the balance of the $35K cost (the system is owned in our farm's LLC) for a further $14K tax savings.

This gave us a net after-tax cost of about $21K for our system. The payback is amazing. Our electric bill ranged from $350 to $800 per month previously - about $7,200 per year. We now generate more than double our current annual usage, including running upweller pumps, a barn. boathouse, walk-in freezer, etc. We also receive renewable energy credits totaling about $2,600 per quarter, through a REC brokerage system.

The bottom line is that we get to drive our Tesla for free, and get paid to sell back the excess solar energy, and receive REC payments quarterly. Thank you Uncle Sam! None of this would exist at our place except for three programs implemented at the beginning of the first Obama admin, which put in place the renewable energy grants for farms, eliminated the former $3K tax credit caps under the Bush rules, and provided accelerated depreciation (first-year bonus depreciation) on the first $800K of business equipment purchased per year. I personally think this is all immoral governing - borrowing from future generations to fund the lifestyles of well-off people (no poor or moderate income people buy solar panels), but if someone wants to pay us to do something and it is legal, we will do that thing...

erici | September 1, 2013

They have one listed in Woodburn, OR this morning. 255 N Arny Rd.

But they don't have a dot on the map for it yet.


Mel. | September 1, 2013

Ok, renewable energy credits were enacted in 1981. Yes they have been extended 14 times, but the silly idea that Obama was somehow at the forefront of this program is a bit out of wack.

PD, we know you love our President , but where was he in 1981?

Teslagator | September 1, 2013

Simplesolrinc is right on...Solar deals where you start out paying a fixed cost per kwh that then escalates may be cheaper than your current utility bill (but maybe not in the future) and allow the users home to be a source of continuing income for any solar supplier that gets the homeowner to sign into such a deal. The Levelized cost of Energy (LCOE) for simple residential solar should be in the $.13 to $.15 per kwh range at today's cost of panels, balance of system, and installation...under a reasonable ad competitive cost of money(3% to 6%) as opposed to 10% or more some banks want to underwrite solar deals. Lease deals or PPAs that start you at $.20/kwh and escalate at 1% or 2% per year are very favorable to the supplier and not only pay them a fair ROI on the initial installation plus continuing profit over the life. Do yourself a favor and hold out for companies that can offer a simple sale and install with a low fixed interest rate for 10 or 20 years and you will be far ahead in $$ and still be able to power your Tesla with solar power. I am having a 4.16 kwh system installed this month on my home in the Sacramento area under such an arrangement through Solar Universe, who is the first company to finally offer low fixed rate conventional financing. And yes it will produce more than enough kwh to power my new S85 and save me more $$ than the lease/PPA deals. My son in law is now finishing terms for an installation of a system on his house in Placer county (north sacramento foothills area) under a similar arrangement backed by the county via property tax guarantee.

Do yourself a favor and don't do lease and PPA deals especially ones that have escalation...if you don't know how to do a net present value analysis of options ask someone who does to help you before committing to any deals. Have your cake and eat it too!

Pungoteague_Dave | September 1, 2013

Mel, as you say, the renewable energy credit system is quite old. However, the credit was limited to $3,000 per year per system until Obama was elected. The first act that he signed after being sworn in was to eliminate the $3K cap. That's a fact that has put more than $100K in my personal pocket vs. what was available under Bush, and has given me free electricity for life.

If it were not for this change, none of the industrial-size pv systems would be economically feasible. That's also a fact. In am not putting personal views about Obama into this forum anywhere - just observations and facts - and my view on government's role in all of this. I am glad to be in the 1% and to have the federal government subsidize my lifestyle through EV and PV credits - just think its kind of nuts that only the well-off have solar panels and EV's, and get their subsidies on the backs of middle America and at the cost of increased deficits. I certainly have gotten my share (and paid my share).

GReese | September 2, 2013

RE: Why everyone doesn't go solar

In Minnesota, it just can't work unless you have a large, south-facing roof.

erici | September 2, 2013

"just think its kind of nuts that only the well-off have solar panels and EV's, and get their subsidies on the backs of middle America and at the cost of increased deficits."

The top earners pay the most taxes (absolute dollars). Who is subsidizing whom?

Dramsey | September 2, 2013

Mel, as you say, the renewable energy credit system is quite old. However, the credit was limited to $3,000 per year per system until Obama was elected. The first act that he signed after being sworn in was to eliminate the $3K cap. That's a fact that has put more than $100K in my personal pocket vs. what was available under Bush, and has given me free electricity for life.

Well, let's be fair and honest: it's not "free" (nothing, is really, as any student of economics will tell you). You personally may not be paying anything for it, but your fellow citizens are. The Federal government doesn't make any money; all it can do is take money from one part of the population and give it to another.

So your fellow citizens are paying for your "free" electricity that comes from uneconomical sources that have a decades-long demonstrated inability to make it on the market on their own merits and must be subsidized to be viable. We can certainly argue whether or not this is a Good Thing For The Country (and I am not expressing an opinion either way), but it's certainly not "free".

Ever see that YouTube video of the girl screaming that she's voting for Obama because "he give me a free phone!"? This is exactly what you're doing, except the cost to the taxpayers is quite a bit higher.

TAD_CA | September 2, 2013

I am i Nor Cal and have a large electric bill, so I had been paying about $.35/kwh in the top tier of PGEs tiered structure. This was an average of $800 per month for elelctric, before Tesla. I anticipated another $100 per month due to car charging.

Solar City quoted me based on a zero down PPA and one with $8000 down, and it would have saved me about $300 per month, which I thought was pretty good.

I decided to do a little due diligence and get other quotes and found that I could get a much better deal from a local installer that used Canadian Solar Panels and Fronius inverters. (Installer was Sky Power Solar if you are in the East Bay)

My details were much like others, but in summary, I offset an $800-$900 electric bill and replaced it with a $250 payment for the system that I financed.

This turned out to be about $250 more per month in savings than Solar City and they were able to install 3 weeks after I signed the contract.

So, the moral is shop around a little because the big guys don't necessarily have the best deal.

Mel. | September 2, 2013

PD, thanks for the clarification. I thought he signed the extension in 2010. Do you have something different? I really like the idea that he actually did something to encourage something besides Ethanol, or did this also benefit Ethanol?

Dramsey, I agree with you in principal. However, Big oil, Big tobacco, Big sugar, as well as Big banks all are on the dole. Why not a little tiny slice for renewables?

Dramsey | September 2, 2013

Dramsey, I agree with you in principal. However, Big oil, Big tobacco, Big sugar, as well as Big banks all are on the dole. Why not a little tiny slice for renewables?

You are correct in that there are many industries on the dole. As far as I'm aware, Big Oil gets no direct subsidies. They do get a lot of tax breaks-- as do many other businesses-- but that's hardly a subsidy since it's just the government not taking their money, as opposed to government actually giving them someone else's money, as is the case with renewables.

Personally, I think the gummint subsidizing Tesla purchases is silly (I've expounded on this before), and that the $7500 subsidy should be phased out gradually once a car's MSRP is, say, $50K or higher. That said, I of course will be taking advantage of it, and soothe my hypocrisy by thinking about all the money I've given the government over the years.

However, I will not be gloating about it...:-/