Elon Musk is a talented entrepreneur and technologist. He’s known for wanting to have a positive impact on three areas that he believes will determine the future course of humanity: the internet, renewable energy, and space. He is sort of like a modern version of Howard Hughes in his obsession with innovative transportation solutions. Musk was in the news when he railed against the New York Times for what he claimed was stilted coverage of his Tesla flagship electric car, the Model S.
Musk fought back against the Grey Lady, but it was not a battle that truly benefitted either party. In a recent interview, Musk claimed that the publicity storm cost the company more than $100 million in lost market value.
So it’s nice to see one of our favorite futurists encountering sunny weather as he moves forward with SolarCity, his rooftop PV (i.e. photovoltaic) company. The good news came in the form of Goldman Sachs announcing it would finance $500 million worth of leases to SolarCity customers.
SolarCity has a clever pitch that is poised to make it more viable in the cutthroat solar economy. The key is, interestingly enough, as much in the financial structuring as it is in the product. Basically, one option says that the future of solar is in large solar farms spread out in the desert. This was the going model during the 2007 boom in solar panels that scorched the US southwest.
Now with SolarCity, the money seems to be on distributed PVs. But an overwhelming number of SolarCity customers don’t want to pay for the installation up front. The big financial institutions not only see opportunity, they see it through green tinted glasses. They will get as much as 30% in federal tax credits on green-energy incentive leasing packages. As long as leasing solar doesn’t resemble meltdown mortgages leasing tactics, it’s not only Musk who wins.