Elon Musk’s Vision for a Clean Energy Future
Elon Musk’s future industries understand convergence as a first principle. Seven billion Earthlings simply can’t have Tesla’s electric cars and SpaceX’s reusable rockets without harnessing SolarCity’s sunshine. Especially if they’re trying to save themselves from global warming and Christopher Nolan blockbusters.
So futurists perk up when Tesla executives start showing up at energy conferences spreading news that SolarCity — the panel champ Musk co-founded with his cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive — is accelerating its plan with Tesla to build storage batteries for solar panels, EVs and even personal electronics. Years ahead of the hotly anticipated Gigafactory ‘s schedule, even.
These are further reminders that future industrialists like Musk are hopefully a step ahead of the apocalyptic present. Because they’ve also been reading news that, starting yesterday, humanity must quickly create new residential and transportation normals, cleanly powered by the sun while coughing up zero emissions.
SolarCity’s Manufacturing Shift Will Keep the Solar Boom Going
SolarCity may be America’s installation leader, but it still wasn’t a manufacturer like SunPower, whose Maxeon systems happen to be the PV industry’s efficiency leader.
But that all changed with Elon Musk and the Brothers Rive’s announcement that SolarCity is acquiring Silevo — which also happens to make panels with a quite competitive 22 percent efficiency. And did I mention that Silevo is locally sourced down the street from SunPower in Fremont, California? Oh, and that SolarCity is also planning to build, in New York, “one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world?”
Musk and the Rive brothers did, thanks much, and just in time. America’s solar tariff war with China was about to make SolarCity’s reliance upon foreign manufacturers like Trina Solar quite expensive. Indeed, the trade spat forged a hastily announced deal between SolarCity and “unsubsidized” European manufacturer REC. But of many great things about Musk is that he has a lot of money — and he knows how to use it. With one acquisition, SolarCity has made itself a triple threat — manufacturing, sales, installation — in a consolidating industry looking for visionaries.
It’s not clear to some that the U.S.-China showdown led to this momentous sector convergence, which could set the industry’s template for years to come. “Silevo already seems exempt from tariffs because it has PIN junction cell,” Greentech Media editor Stephen Lacey tweeted after I proposed the tariff dispute played a greater role than Musk and the Rives disclosed. But it doesn’t matter in the end.
SolarCity Takes Crowdfunding Path to Speed Solar Boom
In the last year, SolarCity’s common stock has gone supernova, from the $10s to the $70s at the speed of light. And I should know, because I’m a proud greenvestor dedicated to the fight against catastrophic climate change. If individuals, industries and nations unplugged our dirty fuel infrastructure and instead funded renewable power futurists like SolarCity, Solar Mosaic and many more, we might not be as far behind as we are.
But SolarCity’s debt securitization innovation — in which the public can directly securitize the company’s national solar infrastructure buildout through an online investment platform — promises to heat up ROI just as quickly as its share price.
It might sound like crowdfunding, the approach taken by Mosaic, GRID and other solar champions not backstopped by billionaire Elon Musk. But Solar City’s approach is business as usual for institutional investors, who capitalize at length on securitizations and then pass what’s left onto the hungrier public. By opening their economic advantage to everyone and anyone, Solar City has let the vastly larger public into executive backrooms to see if it can triumph where the suits have stalled.