Elon Musk has said that the first solar panels on the ground in China are already up and running and will be the first of several million panels to be installed on the planet.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday at the International CES in Las Vegas, the Tesla founder said the panels are expected to be “a little bit bigger” than what he said he could build.
However, Musk did not offer any details about the exact size of the panels, and he said the company would not be able to start selling them until they are ready to scale.
“I mean it’s definitely going to be a big difference.
So it’s not going to happen on day one,” he said.”
But it will happen.”
The company said it would begin building solar systems for sale in 2021 and have completed the first prototype.
SolarCity, which is owned by the billionaire investor Peter Thiel, plans to sell solar panels for between $1,000 and $5,000 per kilowatt hour (kWh), while Tesla will charge $1 per kilo of energy.
The US$100,000 price tag for a typical solar panel has been quoted by some as around $100,00.
“It’s definitely a big one, but it’s still a small price to pay,” Musk said.
Tesla said it had built a small prototype of the solar system in 2017, but was unable to scale it to its full capacity.
SolarCity said it is working on plans to scale the project to 10,000 panels, but that it is currently focused on a small number of customers, mainly in the US, China and Australia.
“It will take about 10 years, but we will definitely get there,” Musk told reporters.
The solar panel project has become a focal point in the debate about climate change in the wake of President Donald Trump’s executive order to slash subsidies for solar power.
“Solar panels are a very expensive technology to build,” Musk added.
Earlier this week, Tesla also announced it was considering building a factory in China that would produce its panels.
Musk said he had received a number of offers for the solar panels, including those from Chinese companies but said the first orders would be for solar panels produced in the UK and Europe.
He said it was a matter of waiting for the right partner to buy the equipment from Tesla, and for them to be willing to work on the solar technology.
“The whole idea of this is that we don’t have to wait for any other company to come along.
We need the right company to do this,” he told reporters at the press conference.
In a statement on Thursday, the UK-based SolarCity said Musk was “in fact, the perfect partner” for its business model.
“We believe that this project will not only bring significant economic benefits to the UK but will also benefit our global solar community,” the statement said.
The company is working with local partners to deliver the first modules in 2018.
The first solar power station in China, which has been installed in the capital city of Beijing, is estimated to cost around US$200 million.