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SpaceX Founder Elon Musk's Rooftop Solar Company Files for IPO

A SolarCity rooftop installation | Photo: SolarCity

San Mateo-based solar power developer SolarCity has filed a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission proposing an initial public offering of stock in the company. SolarCity, which installs photovoltaic arrays for residences, businesses, and government buildings, hopes to raise more than $200 million through the IPO.

SolarCity, which has installed solar on more than 33,000 buildings across the country, has already raised more than $1.5 billion in investments from firms such as Google, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Credit Suisse Group.

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The company has 31 operations centers in 14 states. Its board Chairman Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, is best known for his heading up of the electric car firm Tesla motors.

These are difficult financial times for many solar firms, as indicated by the cancellation of BrightSource Energy's planned IPO earlier this year. A glut of PV modules has depressed prices, and caused investment analysts to regard photovoltaic manufacturers with some caution.

As a full-service contractor for rooftop installations, SolarCity is in the only part of the sector that can be said to be doing well. even so, the firm posted losses of $23 million in the first half of 2012, despite net revenue of $71.4 million -- up more than $50 million over the same period last year.

SolarCity's future may well depend on the success of incentive programs such as net metering and expanded feed-in tariffs; if those incentives are cut, so are SolarCity's prospects of success. In Its filing, the company revealed it had been subpoenaed by the treasury Department's Inspector General in an investigation of one such incentive, the so-called 1603 grants, which give cash grants to reimburse certain costs of renewable energy installations. Several other renewable energy companies were apparently subpoenaed as well, though the Treasury Department isn't saying who they were or what they're investigating.

The number of shares and price range fare still up in the air. SolarCity will apply to list its as NASDAQ: SCTY.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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