A Phoenix home with SolarCity photovoltaic panels

Courtesy: SolarCity

A Phoenix home with SolarCity photovoltaic panels

Science


SolarCity is coming to a Best Buy near you — at least if you live in Arizona, California, Hawaii, New York or Oregon.

The San Mateo, Calif., clean tech company, where Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk serves as chairman, will soon occupy space in 60 stores across those states to make the solar panel pitch directly to consumers. SolarCity gets most of its business from referrals, but has had considerable success with a similar retail arrangement at Home Depot.

Communications Vice President Jonathan Bass said that, at least in part, it’s because the partnerships allow them to counter the increasingly outdated perception that installing solar panels is complex and expensive. In fact, placing the company’s solar panels on homes generally saves money from day one, he said.

SolarCity doesn’t charge for installation, only for the power generated each month. Since that’s generally less expensive than utility power, consumers typically see about a 10 percent to 15 percent drop in their total energy bill per month, Bass said.

“When you offer someone a chance to purchase clean energy and pay less for it than energy produced by fossil fuels … we get a lot of yeses,” he said.

An onsite representative will be able to evaluate the feasibility of installing solar panels on a person’s home, using satellite imagery to ascertain whether the roof faces in the right direction and stands clear from shadowy trees. They can also walk customers through pricing and sign them up in the store. (For the full list of stores, click here.)

A recent company survey found that 62 percent of U.S. homeowners are interested in solar, but fewer than 500,000 homes have photovoltaic panels installed to date — leaving a juicy gap of tens of millions of homes that SolarCity is eager to serve. (The company can’t really help out renters yet — sorry, 64 percent of San Franciscans!).

But wait, there’s more: SolarCity will give away a $100 Best Buy gift card to anyone who signs up for solar service through the stores before Earth Day, on April 22.

SolarCity is one of the biggest U.S. solar companies, has been on an acquisition tear and reported profits in the third quarter. But the company surprised the market in recent weeks by delaying fourth-quarter earnings and announcing plans to restate 2012 and 2013 financial results due to an accounting error. It plans to file updated reports later this month.

SolarCity closed at $73.35 on Tuesday, off its 52-week high reached near the end of last month, but up about 330 percent from a year ago.




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