Solar company ramps up to bring sun power to Las Vegas


(From Left to Right) State Senator Joyce Woodhouse, State Senator Mark Hutchison, State Senator Aaron Ford, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive, Assemblyman David Bobzien, Chair, Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee, Steve Sisolak during SolarCity’s Nevada expansion celebration press conference at Town Square Thursday, May 1, 2014.

Almost a year after moving to town, a fast-growing but money-losing Silicon Valley solar-panel installer is ready to bring sun power to Las Vegas.

SolarCity Corp., with local headquarters at Town Square and a growing workforce of 400, says it’s taking its first orders for residential service in Nevada today and expects to begin installations by October.

The company will initially serve the Las Vegas Valley and Boulder City.

Spokesman Jonathan Bass said the firm will have a better sense in the next few weeks of how many customers it expects to sign up. Executives plan to hire another 400 people locally in the next year, take more office space at Town Square and open two operations centers in the northern and southern parts of the valley.

Customers can essentially rent solar panels for as little as $30 a month with no installation costs, under contracts that typically last 20 years. According to Bass, customers’ power bills usually are 10 to 15 percent lower than traditional utility rates.

The company also sells panels, but most customers sign up as renters, letting them dodge hefty upfront costs for equipment.

SolarCity, based in San Mateo, Calif., signed a lease for 28,000 square feet of furnished offices at Town Square last spring, replacing the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, which subleased the space and moved to the southwest valley.

SolarCity inked the deal after getting approval last March for a $1.2 million grant from Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Office of Economic Development. The money was earmarked to help fund employee relocations and is payable over three years, if officials can verify the jobs SolarCity promised to create in Nevada.

Its plan called for at least 900 new jobs. Of the first 400 or so that have been created, the “vast majority” were local hires, Bass said. The company also has brought in workers from California.

Since coming to Las Vegas, SolarCity has been working with homebuilders to put solar panels on new homes. Its main business, however, is selling directly to homeowners.

Bass said the company is starting that work now, almost a year after its move, because it had to set up operations and because it plans to take part in NV Energy’s SolarGenerations program.

The incentive program, funded by NV Energy ratepayers, is closed to new entries. But according to SolarCity, it is expected to reopen in August.

Founded in 2006, SolarCity serves customers in more than a dozen states and, as of Dec. 31, had 4,300 employees. Its annual revenue has been soaring, but so have its operating costs, leaving the company deeper and deeper in the red, a securities filing shows.

It booked roughly $164 million in revenue last year, up from $33 million in 2009. But it posted a $152 million net loss in 2013, compared to a $23 million net loss in 2009.

SolarCity’s chairman and biggest shareholder is Elon Musk, the CEO of electric-car maker Tesla Motors. His cousins, brothers Lyndon Rive and Peter Rive, founded SolarCity.