SolarCity, of which cleantech hero Elon Musk is Chairman and his cousin Lyndon Rive is CEO and co-founder, currently dominates residential solar power installations in the US. Honestly, SolarCity is offering the same thing as several other companies, but SolarCity seems to really nail the messaging.
In the Fox Business video below, the host tries to find out “the cost” of going solar. Lyndon Rive is excellent at pointing out repeatedly, that there’s no “cost” to doing that. SolarCity will put solar panels on your roof for $0, then it just sells you the energy produced by those solar panels. These are free solar panels, in other words, but not free energy. The good news is that these free solar panels will typically cost the homeowner or business about 10–15% less than what the homeowner or business would pay for electricity from the grid.
There’s nothing new here. This has been going on for years. But the host seems genuinely surprised. And the framing of this as free solar panels rather than solar leasing, which is what it is often called, is quite clever. I’m actually surprised now that we don’t see ads for “Free Solar Panels” all over the place. We do see “$0 down” a lot. But I don’t recall seeing “free solar panels” anywhere.
Anyhow, here’s the video, followed by some more bullet points on interesting statements from the video:
Here are some of the other interesting points from the video:
- 26% of residential solar panel installations in the US were done by SolarCity in 2013 (3 times more than by #2 Vivint Solar and 4.5 times more than #3 Verengo Solar) — well, the video just said that 1 out of every 4 residential solar panel installations are done by SolarCity, and it flashed a line on the screen that said it now accounts for 29% of residential installations, but I figured I’d add a little more context and detail.
- SolarCity’s decision to buy Silevo, a high-efficiency solar panel startup, didn’t have anything to do with the tariffs on Chinese solar panels, but it did speed up the acquisition a bit. The reason for the acquisition was that vertical integration will bring down solar power costs.
- SolarCity still intends to buy solar panels from Chinese solar panel companies like Yingli Solar and Trina Solar.
- Charlie Munger, a Republican who is Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, reportedly once said to Fox Business, “If we don’t harness the wind, the sun, and water, we’re just stupid.”
Good interview with SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive. Surprising that it was on Fox Business!