The World According to Elon Musk

It's his clean-energy world. We just revolve around it.

Pretty soon, it'll be easier to count the utilities this guy doesn't provide than those he does. (Maurizio Pesce/Flickr)
Photo: Maurizio Pesce/Flickr Pretty soon, it'll be easier to count the utilities this guy <em>doesn't</em> provide than those he does. elon musk; outside online; outside magazine; solar panels; solar arrays; tesla; solarcity; paypal; spacex; industry standard; electric cars

A few days ago, serial entrepreneur Elon Musk (PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity, to name just a few) induced an ideological aneurism in Silicon Valley by unleashing his Tesla patents on rival car manufacturers free of charge. We can't remember the last time anyone as successful as Musk released engineering tips without strings, but for Musk, the move makes complete sense—for business (he's setting the industry standard while widening the relatively niche industry) and for the environment. 

"We felt compelled to create patents out of concern that the big car companies would copy our technology and then use their massive manufacturing, sales, and marketing power to overwhelm Tesla. We couldn't have been more wrong," Musk wrote on Tesla's blog. "The unfortunate reality is the opposite: Electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn't burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to nonexistent, constituting an average of far less than one percent of their total vehicle sales."

Not to be outdone by himself, a few days later Musk took another 500 steps toward a clean-energy revolution by moving to dominate the solar panel game and keep it in the United States.

Musk's SolarCity, the country's largest residential solar panel installation and facilitation company, is integrating vertically by absorbing panel maker Silevo, while also setting industry standards in solar. 

"Our intent is to combine what we believe is fundamentally the best photovoltaic technology with massive economies of scale to achieve a breakthrough in the cost of solar power," he wrote in a blog post for SolarCity. It helps if you're also in a position to control the cost of solar power. 

Creating economical, homegrown solar energy is of greater interest in the wake of reports of import duties on Chinese-made panels, as well as subsidies to renewable-energy companies ending in 2016. SolarCity's Silevo manufacturing plant would pop up in New York and provide an astounding 10 gigawatts of power. 

Of note: One intrepid TreeHugger reporter caught Musk's comment that he wants to make "cool-looking solar panels" so that more people will install them—hence, game changer. No word on what it would take to make them look cool or why they aren't cool already—or if he'll dabble in solar roads.

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