Tesla Faces a Challenger in the Home Solar Business

The approach of using Tesla stores replaced a long-established sales strategy that focused on a partnership with Home Depot in which Tesla representatives sold solar panels at the hardware giant’s retail outlets. Tesla says selling its products under one roof “will save money and enable our colleagues to work together more effectively and efficiently.”

But the partnership approach seems to suit Sunrun, which lacks its own showrooms and has struck a relationship with another giant retailer, Costco.

That’s where Ed Hanlon, of Carlsbad, Calif., recently encountered a Sunrun sales representative. After researching the company, Mr. Hanlon, 72, decided to buy a 7.5-kilowatt solar power system, including a battery, that workers began installing this month.

“We live in California, so sunshine is a given,” said Mr. Hanlon, a retired Marine. But what pushed him to go solar was frustration with the rate increases by his power company, San Diego Gas and Electric, over the last couple of years.

“I thought: ‘O.K., what can we do to kind of dampen that down?’” Mr. Hanlon said. “And there’s a feel-good part of it.”

Neither Sunrun nor Tesla makes its own solar panels. Tesla has a deal with Panasonic to make panels at Tesla’s Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo but uses other suppliers as well. Tesla manufactures all of its other products, including parts for installing the systems.

The foreign origin of many panels has been a handicap for the industry since President Trump imposed tariffs on their import this year. Sunrun says that the tariffs have not slowed its business, while Tesla declined to comment about the impact.