SolarCity wants to raise billions from small investors to finance more solar systems
Invest in the futureSolarCity needs money upfront to keep installing solar arrays because it only gets paid back over time by its customers, that's the whole point of leasing a system -- no upfront costs. So far, the company has raised money from big banks and big companies like Google. But to keep the growth going at a feverish pace, they need more cash, and to get it they just announced that they will be adding a third leg to their financing stool: They intend to raise money from individual investors, in a kind of crowd-funding way, but this wouldn't be a donation to the cause, it would be an investment that pays you back. To be clear, this isn't an investment in the company stock - that's different - this would be an investment in a kind of bond that would be backed by SolarCity customers.
SolarCity today announced plans to launch a new, Web-based investment platform through which it intends to allow a broad range of investors, including both individuals and organizations of all sizes, to participate directly in solar investments that have previously only been available to large financial institutions. (source)
To do this, Solarcity has acquired a tech company that built the investment platform that will be used to distribute its investment products.
“SolarCity’s financial products will provide an exciting new opportunity for people to make an impact—both for their own financial future and our global future—by investing in the shift to solar energy,” said Newell. “Unlike crowdfunding and community solar approaches that typically aggregate investors to provide loans for individual projects, SolarCity plans to offer debt investments backed by diversified portfolios of solar assets.”
So basically, you can invest $1,000 in a debt intrument that is backed by many many solar systems across a state or the country. When people pay their SolarCity bill every month, some of that money will go to pay interests on that debt and go to those investors.
SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said that he expects "billions of dollars of investment through this platform", and all that money will of course help increase the rate of growth of the solar company, thus help clean up the power grid. It's always good to see when business and the environment have interests that are aligned.