SolarCity to add 600 US workers

SolarCity plans to add more than 600 workers across 20 new operations centres – half of them in California – as the headlong race to grab future market share and drive down system cost continues to infuse the US residential solar space.

The new operations centres will be opened across seven states – Arizona, California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada and New York – all of them already home to at least one SolarCity office.

SolarCity says that having a larger network will cut its operations costs by shortening the time it takes technicians to drive to sites for system installation and maintenance.

Unlike many solar financiers in the US residential rooftop sector, SolarCity also directly sells and installs its own systems, making it one of the few vertically integrated players in the space.

The San Mateo-based company already has more than 7,000 full-time workers, making it the single largest employer in the US solar industry.

The US rooftop solar sector is presently a hotbed of deal making and expansion, despite the fact that many of the largest companies are unprofitable as they sow the seeds for the future.

SolarCity’s operating loss more than doubled in the second quarter, coming in at $74.3m – compared to a deficit of $35.5m during the same quarter last year.

But investors continue to be willing to give the company a pass on profitability, in the expectation that its rapid growth will pay off in the future.

SolarCity booked 218MW of new orders during the last quarter – up 216% year-on-year.

The company has deployed 756MW of total PV capacity, much of it through leases or power-purchase agreements, leaving SolarCity with $3.3bn of expected future payments from customers – more than half of which it considers “retained value”.

SolarCity expects to deploy as much as 550MW of PV capacity this year and as much as 1GW next year.

SolarCity shares fell more than 40% during a sluggish summer from their all-time high this February. But the shares have rallied since the company announced plans to build a module factory in the US.

Shares rose more than 4% in early trading on Thursday, leaving the company with a market capitalisation of $6.6bn, higher than SunPower and SunEdison, but short of US solar manufacturing and EPC giant First Solar’s $7.3bn valuation.