Tesla is building a Solar Roof testing structure in the Fremont factory

A building permit filed by Tesla for its electric vehicle factory in Fremont, CA has shown that the electric car maker is looking to build a structure to evaluate its long-awaited Solar Roof tiles and their installation process. The structure’s permit was issued to Tesla in July.

The description of the project is straightforward. “Construction of a test structure to evaluate Tesla Solar Roof product and installation process. Fire Sprinklers, Fire Alarm, Truss Design, and Solar Designs are deferred submittals,” Tesla wrote. 

The building permit, which was initially mentioned in a CNBC report, suggests that Tesla’s development of its Solar Roof tiles, which have seen notable delays since the product was initially unveiled in October 2016, is moving forward. It should be noted that Elon Musk has remained optimistic about the solar power-generating shingles despite these delays, noting during the Model Y unveiling that 2019 will be the “Year of the Solar Roof and Powerwall.”

A building permit for the Fremont factory’s Solar Roof testing structure.

The delays in the Solar Roof’s rollout have weighed down the company’s energy business. As noted by Tesla in its Q2 Update Letter, the under-utilization of the solar shingles have proven detrimental to the company’s margins for the quarter. “Higher costs from temporary manufacturing under-utilization of our Solar Roof ramp have further contributed to a decrease in margins,” Tesla wrote. 

For Tesla to properly ramp the Solar Roof, the company would have to increase the production of the shingles in Gigafactory 2, the company’s plant in Buffalo, NY. So far, Gigafactory 2’s operations have remained conservative, though the electric car maker’s first annual report to New York’s Empire State Development Corp. back in May has revealed that it had exceeded its 2019 jobs target for the state. 

Tesla’s filings stated that the company had 632 full-time workers through the end of April, comprised of 329 employees at Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo and around 300 more across New York. The number exceeded the state’s requirement of having at least 500 employees in the state by April 30, 2019, though it is still notably far from next year’s target, which requires Tesla to employ 1,460 workers in the state, including at least 500 at Gigafactory 2. If Tesla will indeed ramp the production of the Solar Roof this year, the company would likely start hiring more employees for the facility in the near future. 

Elon Musk, for his part, has remained hopeful for the Solar Roof tiles and their eventual release. In a recent update on Twitter, Musk noted that he hopes to ramp Solar Roof production to a rate of about ~1,000 per week by the end of 2019. The update promptly incited furor from the company’s skeptics, with some critics alleging that the tweet violated Musk’s updated settlement terms with the Securities and Exchange Commission that took effect last April. Despite these strong reactions, the SEC’s press office has so far declined to comment if Musk’s Twitter update violated the CEO’s settlement with the agency.

Tesla is building a Solar Roof testing structure in the Fremont factory


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