The concept behind SolarCity was of Tesla’s CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk. His cousins Peter and Lyndon Rive founded and established the company in July 2006, with Musk as chairman. Elon Musk invested his earnings from the sale of his previous company PayPal as a firm believer of the principles of SolarCity: cost-effectiveness and environment-friendliness. SolarCity aims to provide solar power systems for homes, commercial establishments and government organizations at affordable costs.
Musk and the founders of SolarCity decided to actively engage consumers by introducing a new solar lease option for homeowners. Solar power proved to be a more cost-effective alternative to electricity. The plan is to significantly reduce the upfront costs of installing solar panels for domestic users power in residences. Monthly lease options of SolarCity allow homeowners to pay less than what they previously paid for electricity from a utility company.
Following the success of solar leasing programs, SolarCity started to venture into commercial markets by providing services to businesses, government organizations and non-profit groups. The company developed innovative programs such as SolarLease, PurePower and Commercial Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) which enable homeowners and businesses alike to avail of renewable solar energy without incurring huge costs of involved in purchasing the entire systems.
In 2008, the company completed its solar installation project for eBay’s North Campus servers located in San Jose. A few months later, SolarCity completed yet again another solar installation, this time for British Motors in San Francisco.
Musk and Lyndon Rive realized the potential in SolarCity’s commercial venture. In 2009, the company became more active in providing services for businesses as it introduced new financing options to various companies. SolarCity led multiple solar installation projects for Wal-Mart’s 60 stores in California, Intel and the U.S. military.
Later that year, Musk decided to leverage SolarCity’s capabilities in developing charging stations for Tesla Motors’ electric cars. As part of the initiative, a partnership between SolarCity and Rabobank was formed to offer free electric-car charging services to owners of Tesla Motors vehicles traveling in California.
SolarCity and Bank of America Merrill Lynch agreed on an initial debt financing for SolarStrong, a five-year plan to build solar photovoltaic projects for privatized military housing communities across the country.
With the help of leading military housing developers, SolarCity plans to install solar technology on the rooftops and provide solar electricity at a lower cost. SolarStrong is expected to create up to 300 megawatts of solar generation capacity that couldan provide power to overmore than 120,000 military houses. If completed, SolarStrong will be the largest residential photovoltaic project in America, another one for the history books for Musk.
Early in 2014, Musk unveiled the company’s plans to build one of the world’s largest, high-efficiency solar plants using technology from Silevo, a company that makes solar modules. The one-gigawatt capacity plant will compete head-on with solar power manufacturers in China.
Early in 2015, Musk tied up with Credit Suisse Group AG to start another solar financing program worth $200 million. The program will allow customers to own their solar panels for a lower price than the current lease offerings.
The loan option, called MyPower, operates in the same manner as an energy payment. The customers pays off the loan by paying their energy bill. The payments can end up being cheaper than the traditional power bill, and after 30 years of payment, the solar power is free.
Today, SolarCity targets 2016 as the launch date of the one-gigawatt solar plant it plans to build in New York. Musk and SolarCity’s roadmap for solar manufacturing may seem too ambitious. But the results are clearer now than ever: we will soon be free from carbon pollution.