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Tesla's solar installations fall but more people opt to buy them

[NEW YORK] Tesla Inc is installing far less solar power than its SolarCity unit did as an independent company.

Tesla installed 109 megawatts of energy-generation systems in the third quarter, according to a statement on Wednesday from the Palo Alto, California-based company. That's down from the 187 megawatts of panels that SolarCity deployed in the same period last year, its final quarter before it was acquired.

"The lower deployments are in large part a result of deliberately de-emphasising commercial and industrial solar-energy projects with low profit and limited cash generation," Tesla said.

Year-over-year installation rates have been down since the US$2 billion deal closed in November 2016. Tesla added 150 megawatts in the first quarter, compared with the 214 megawatts SolarCity installed a year earlier. And the second-quarter total of 176 megawatts fell short of SolarCity's 201 megawatts in 2016.

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There was a positive in the solar figures: the company is selling more systems, meeting an oft-stated goal. About 46 per cent of the residential systems installed last quarter were sold, rather than leased. Tesla said that's up from 13 per cent a year earlier. It expects cash sales to surpass 50 per cent this quarter, and said installations of its textured-glass solar roofs will "ramp slowly" as production moves to its factory in Buffalo, New York.

Only a handful of solar roofs are known to be in operation, including two at the homes of founder Elon Musk and chief technology officer JB Straubel.