Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and the Chairman of US solar installer SolarCity, is a huge believer in the future of solar energy. But for Musk, it's not speculative, and every new press conference reveals the enormity of his vision. After SolarCity announced that it would acquire high-efficiency cell manufacturer Silevo for $200 million, it became obvious that he and his cousins, Peter and Lyndon Rive, who both run SolarCity, are in the midst of turning their company into a vertically integrated heavy weight (see the press release). The reason for the deal: Musk explained that by producing and installing highly efficient solar at scale, it should drive costs down far enough to beat grid energy prices, disrupting the entire electric utility industry. Because SolarCity is already responsible for a quarter of America's residential solar panel installations each month, looking into the future, Musk worries that the company's growth will rapidly take off and cause solar panel shortages, despite a current glut. So to feed SolarCity's supply chain, Musk also announced plans to construct a Gigawatt solar cell manufacturing facility in Buffalo, New York. This comes shortly after his equally ambitious proposal for a Gigawatt battery factory, which will feed both SolarCity and Tesla. So ultimately, his vision for solar energy is made up of two interconnected parts: inexpensive solar panels backed up by cheap battery storage. Now, that's a big enough vision to disrupt several industries.
Image: Elon Musk, Heisenberg Media