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Tesla for renting solar panels for homeowners



Tesla
Inc.,


TSLA 3.13%

better known for making electric cars, once again offers solar panel rental to homeowners.

Rentals are available in six states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New Mexico. They start at $ 50 a month in each of these states except California, where they start at $ 65 a month. Tesla said that customers can cancel the leases at any time.

The smallest system can generate 1

5 to 19 kilowatt hours on average daily in California and 10 to 14 kilowatt hours in New Jersey, Tesla said. Solar panels can still be purchased from Tesla in all 50 states.

"What they are aiming for is that electricity prices will continue to rise and that consumers will eventually not cancel," says Roth Capital Partners analyst

Philip Shen

so.

After purchasing SolarCity in 2016, Tesla began selling and leasing solar panels in Tesla showrooms, with leases ranging from 10 to 20 years. Later, Tesla began marketing sales as opposed to leases. But sales of housing and business, measured by megawatts deployed, fell by 38% in 2017 from the previous year, according to Tesla.

Once the top US residential solar installer, Tesla ranked No. 3 in the first quarter of this year with a 6.3% stake, according to Wood Mackenzie, a company that tracks renewable energy projects.

SunRun

Inc. ranked first with 11%, followed by

Vivint Solar
Inc.

by 7.6%, it is called.

In 2017, the number of US homeowners installing solar panels on the roof fell for the first time since at least 2000, following an average of 49% annual growth between 2010 and 2016, Wood Mackenzie said. But last year, sales began to rebound, increasing 7.5%, and this year they are expected to grow another 4.5%, Wood Mackenzie said.

Industry leaders and analysts blamed recent sales declines on a powerful retreat from national solar installers, including Tesla. They said companies heavily promoted deals to lease panels for little or no money, which hurt the bottom lines and prompted some to boost growth or exit the solar business altogether.

In its first-quarter shareholder letter, Tesla acknowledged problems with the solar business, saying that traditional sales techniques for the industry are too cumbersome and limit the potential for the housing market.

As with the vehicles, Tesla said: "The key to accelerating mass adoption is to standardize the product offering, simplify the customer's buying experience and focus on the markets with the strongest economy."

Last month, Tesla told analysts on a revenue call optimistic about its future in the sun, saying that "energy products will grow."

Roth analyst Craig Irwin said Tesla's solar industry is unlikely to contribute significantly to short-term earnings.

Tesla CEO

Elon Musk

asked Twitter followers to weigh in on the solo show. "Lmk what you think," he tweeted, using an abbreviation for "let me know."

Write to Sarah E. Needleman at sarah.needleman@wsj.com

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