SolarCity's IPO: The Risks

As more solar manufacturers stumble into bankruptcy, solar installers have been booming thanks to plunging prices for photovoltaic panels and the availability of cash to finance leases that allow homeowners to go green with little or no money down. Yet as SolarCity’s $201 million initial public offering filing shows, installers like the Silicon Valley startup face some of the same risks roiling the solar industry.

SolarCity may be in the business of putting solar panels on rooftops but its success ­– revenues have more than doubled to $71 million since 2009 – relies on putting together investment funds that finance those installations for homeowners in return for monthly lease payments.

Over the past three years, SolarCity, founded by Elon Musk’s cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive in 2006, has persuaded companies like Credit Suisse, U.S. Bancorp, Google and utility PG&E to put $1.57 billion into 23 funds to finance leases. More than 90% of SolarCity’s customers now opt to lease rooftop panels rather than purchase them, according to the IPO filing made public Friday.

Investors have flocked to those funds to cash in on a 30% federal investment tax credit for solar systems. That incentive was particularly attractive between 2009 and 2012 when the government allowed investors to take the credit in the form of a cash payment. After 2016, the tax credit will fall to 10%.

Comments (0)

This post does not have any comments. Be the first to leave a comment below.


Post A Comment

You must be logged in before you can post a comment. Login now.

Featured Product

sonnenBatterie eco

sonnenBatterie eco

Sonnen's mission is to provide clean and affordable energy for all. As the first mainstream grid tied residential energy storage company in the world and with 24,000 sonnenBatterie systems installed worldwide, sonnen is a proven global leader in intelligent energy management solutions. The all-in-one sonnenBatterie smart energy storage solution easily integrates with new and existing solar installations to help homes manage their energy throughout the day-saving money, providing backup power, and maximizing the effective use of solar power day and night. Sonnen has won several awards for its energy innovations, including the 2017 Zayed Future Energy Prize, MIT's Technology Review's 50 Smartest Companies in 2016, Global Cleantech 100 for 2015-2017, Greentech Media's 2016 Grid Edge Award for Innovation, and Cleantech's 2015 Company of the Year Award in both Israel and Europe.