SolarCity turns to small investors for cash infusion

California solar panel installer SolarCity is turning to small investors to raise cash to expand its network of rooftop solar systems.

The company, which installs solar panels on homes and businesses and government buildings, will allow individual investors and institutions to invest in solar panels that can generate income for years to come.

Solar City Chief Executive Lyndon Rive told the Associated Press that the company would sell securities directly to individuals. These securities could be held for varying lengths of time, or even traded. He said he expected to raise billions of dollars this way, some of it from supporters of green energy alternatives.

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"We are constantly asked, 'When are you coming to my state?' or 'When are you coming to our country?' People everywhere want to participate in this transformation," Rive said. "With our investment platform, even if we can't put panels on everyone's roof today, we can still give many of them an opportunity to participate in solar's growth."

The San Mateo, Calif., company said in a news release that it had purchased financial company Financial Assets to handle the sale of the new investment instruments.

“Previously, only institutional investors could participate in the financing of most solar assets," Rive said in the news release. "With our investment platform, we’re hoping to allow far more individuals and smaller organizations to participate in the transformation to a cleaner, more distributed infrastructure.”

SolarCity pays to install rooftop solar systems for homes or businesses in exchange for monthly payments for the power that the panels produce. The company has typically turned to large investors to raise money to pay for these systems.

“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 Tim Newell, SolarCity's vice president of financial products. “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.”


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