SolarCity looks to crowdfunding

SolarCity’s Lyndon Rive, left, with his PayPal cousin, Elon Musk

SolarCity’s Lyndon Rive, left, with his PayPal cousin, Elon Musk

SolarCity has not entirely ruled out the yieldco model, but for the foreseeable future will focus on funding its development through tax equity, securitization and – newly – crowdfunding, says chief executive Lyndon Rive.

The enormous flows of money pouring into yieldco stocks, like NRG Yield and Pattern Energy, is one of the dominant conversations within the US renewables sector at present. But Rive dismisses the idea that SolarCity is competing with yieldcos for capital, saying his company has a “different business model”.

“Would we ever become a yieldco? Never say never for anything,” he says. “But you only have a certain amount of resources for innovation.”

“Our focus – our primary innovation – should be getting these cash flow streams well understood, and focusing on securitisation.”

Speaking on Thursday at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum in New York, Rive also emphasised his belief that crowdfunding will play an important role in SolarCity’s future, saying that model “has a lot of potential”.

In January SolarCity acquired Common Assets LLC, the developer of an online investment platform SolarCIty intends to use to draw in project money from a broad range of investors, both big and small.

SolarCity “will be coming out with our first solar crowdfunding offering pretty soon”, Rive confirms.

Despite having pulled off two recent securitisations, seen as breakthroughs for the rooftop PV sector, SolarCity remains heavily dependent on tax-equity investors for its growth.

While SolarCity continues to do repeat funds with its existing tax-equity backers, the “majority of our time” is spent looking for new tax-equity investors.

Last month SolarCity nailed down a $100m investment from Capital One Bank – its first renewables investment. Rive claims his company also recently secured a commitment from a “new large corporate company”, but says he cannot divulge their identity.

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