With the United States lacking a one-stop, nationwide solar-panel installer and service provider, SolarCity, a 1,000-employee firm specializing in sun power for home owners and businesses, is taking strides to fill that slot. The privately held company, based in San Mateo, Calif., said Thursday it’ll pay an undisclosed sum to buy the residential solar business of GroSolar to extend its footprint into Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The deal comes less than a month after SolarCity announced the acquisition of Clean Currents Solar, a unit of Clean Currents LLC, to offer its products and services in Maryland and the District of Columbia.
In an interview, SolarCity Chief Executive Lyndon Rive said the acquisitions give the company the largest footprint in the Northeast of any solar installer, after first growing its business in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Texas.
SolarCity specializes in offering solar panels with no up-front costs to customers. It makes money by charging for the electricity the solar panels produce under power-purchase agreements. Rive said it charges a lower kilowatt-per-hour rate than conventional electric companies.
SolarCity continues to position itself as one-stop specialist in solar by offering financing, design, installation, monitoring, repair and energy-efficiency services.
Rive pointed out that states, faced with tighter budgets, are scaling back subsidies for solar panels.
“As incentive are reduced, the industry has to get economies of scale and you have to build a trusted brand,” he said. “The only way you can do this is by saving people money. The economy is bad — it was worse in 2009 — and even then, solar adoption increased. Consumers are looking at saving money and being smart about how they spend money. If they have a choice to pay more for dirty power or less for clean power, most choose to pay less for clean power.”
A company spokesman said Thursday that SolarCity has no specific plans for an initial public offering, but said “it is something we’ll consider.”
Steve Gelsi is a reporter for MarketWatch in New York.