2009: The Sun Sets on an Eventful Year
Although 2009 was a challenging year in some respects, there were some very encouraging developments for solar. The industry's signature industry event, Solar Power International, drew 24,000 attendees, a 35 percent increase from 2008. Worldwide cumulative solar sales passed 20 gigawatts according to Navigant Consulting. That's roughly the equivalent of 40 coal, nuclear or gas power plants.
2009 was also an exciting year for SolarCity's customers. There are more than 6,000 of you now, and we added more than 150 new employees in to keep pace with all of your installations.
Together, we were featured on nationally televised programs on CNN, CBS, and FOX.
USA Today, Forbes, BusinessWeek, the New York Times, Newsweek, and Scientific American wrote about us.
We scored what the Wall Street Journal called “the rarest of catches” in the middle of the recession, allowing us to spread the nation's most affordable solar option to more homeowners.
We launched a solar-powered, electric vehicle charging corridor to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles.
We broke ground on the largest solar-powered community in the U.S. (more on that below).
We launched—along with National Bank of Arizona, APS and Mayor Phil Gordon of Phoenix—what we expect to become the nation's largest new city-sponsored solar program.
2010 has started off well. We've created two new funds to finance a total of $160 million in new solar projects. And we'll need every penny, because we also expanded to Colorado and Texas.
All of this is possible because of your belief in clean power, and we sincerely thank you for your support.
Tell us your solar story!
SolarCity's customers include a retired economist that ran the numbers on a solar investment, a teacher that wanted to drive his electric car on sunlight, and a single mom that simply wanted to reduce her monthly expenses.
People decide to go solar for all sorts of reasons, and we want to hear them. Tell us your solar story. Become one of our Solar Citizens. We can't guarantee you'll end up on CBS Evening News, or be quoted in USA Today, but we will do our best. What we can guarantee you is a Starbucks gift card in return for your time. Send submissions, including photos, to email@example.com and the coffee is on us.
(Solar) Party in Box
We're happy when you're happy – nearly half of SolarCity's residential customers came from referrals from other satisfied customers. Solar parties remain as popular as ever as a fun and easy way to tell friends and family about your decision to go solar. Visit the Referral Center on our website to learn more or organize your solar party.
New for 2010, we've created a solar party kit—a party in a box if you will—with all the essential ingredients for a good solar party. (Pictured at right.)
Don't forget that SolarCity will send you $400 as a thank you referral payment for each friend you refer who installs a new residential solar system. That's $2,000 for every five customers you refer! 1-2 years of free solar for most lease customers! When was the last time you got paid to party?
A Solar City Rises in Tucson
SolarCity took on its most ambitious project yet in the second half of 2009; a 6-megawatt, solar-powered community at Soaring Heights Communities at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. Upon completion, the joint effort among SolarCity, Actus Lend Lease, Tucson Electric Power (TEP), National Bank of Arizona and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC) is expected to be the largest installation of its kind in the continental U.S. The project consists of a 3.4 megawatt ground-mounted solar power system and hundreds of rooftop arrays on the Soaring Heights residences for military families.
Collectively, the solar systems are expected to produce more than 10 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually—sufficient to provide an estimated 75 percent of the residents' energy use next year—and could eventually offset 100 percent of Soaring Heights Communities' electricity use.
The entire project will require more than 80,000 solar panels, and is estimated to represent an increase of more than 15 percent over Arizona's current grid-tied solar capacity. SolarCity began installing nearly 1,000 panels per day in October, and completed the ground-mounted arrays in December. The rooftop arrays will be gradually installed over the course of 2010. Collectively, the entire project is expected to offset more than 570 million pounds of carbon dioxide over its lifetime, the equivalent of taking approximately 50,000 cars off the road for a year, or planting more than 300,000 trees.
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords joined military leaders to celebrate the announcement of the project in November, calling it “a model for our region, showing communities that large scale solar power can become a reality."
The Gutmans, Phoenix, AZ
Len, Leslie and Connor Gutman are green. They recycle, use compact fluorescent lighting and conserve water. But when the Gutman's looked into solar, it never seemed like the right fit.
Len's thoughts on solar are a common refrain we hear from customers who have discovered solar leasing for the first time. He wrote on his blog, that "for the longest time we've wondered about what it would take to install solar panels on our roof to take advantage of the green energy produced by the sun. Every time we looked into it, however, we ran into the same problems. The cost to buy and install solar panels is too rich for our blood. We already took out a second mortgage to build a pool, so solar panels seemed like a pipe dream…."
Len decided to give solar another look after reading about SolarLease in the Arizona Republic. He did a Google search and came up with SolarCity's Web site and, read about our zero-down payment option.
Shortly thereafter, Len called us up and soon became the first homeowner in the Ahwatukee area of Phoenix to sign a solar lease! Len decided to blog about his experience, including pictures of his installation, and encouraged people with questions to contact him. Now a lot of our customers do this, but Len was one of the first.
He also threw a solar party for 50 friends and neighbors, and invited us out to give a presentation 50 neighbors show up to learn about solar. Len's efforts to evangelize solar have paid dividends, as he has referred 9 friends to SolarCity and collected $3,600 in referral bonuses!
The Gutmans' solar system has produced more than 22,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity since it was installed in November, 2008. That's been sufficient to more than offset his air-conditioning, which is nearly always on in Arizona, and supply nearly 75 percent of his electricity needs over that period.