In fact, the brothers’ athletic careers are a pretty good analogy for their business strategy. Peter
plays ultimate Frisbee at the World Championship level. Both chose niche sports where a good
athlete could achieve world-class status quickly.
That’s how they chose businesses to enter, too:
They looked for upcoming opportunities where
no leader had yet emerged.
person crews, doing roughly one installation
each week. That implies the capability to install
roughly 15,000 systems a year at today’s staff-
ing level. Modules have come from Evergreen,
First Solar, Kyocera, MiaSolé, Sanyo, Sharp and
Yingli, and inverters from Fronius, SMA and, for
larger commercial applications, Satcon. Lyndon
estimates that current business is divided about
equally between residential and commercial
installations, and as the Northeastern business
grows the balance should shift gradually toward
the commercial side. He’d like the Northeast-
ern business to triple or quadruple over the next
couple of years.
during a five-hour drive to
Burning man, they discussed
how to make a positive impact
and settled on solar power.
Copyright © 2011 by the American Solar Energy Society Inc. All rights reserved.
By 2004, the worst was behind them and
Everdream was sustainable. Peter and Lyndon
began thinking about what might come next. In
August of that year, during a five-hour drive with
Elon to the Burning Man festival in Black Rock
Desert, Nevada, they discussed how to make a
positive impact in the world, and settled on solar
power. Then, for a couple years, Peter and Lyn-
don researched the solar “value chain.” Visiting
Solar Power International in 2005, they noticed
that of about a thousand attendees, everyone
they met was working on technology and manu-
facturing. “No one was talking about barriers to
purchasing and delivery problems,” Lyndon says.
“If no one was focused on the end market, this
business would make no progress.”
They’d found their niche: They would knock
down the initial cost of residential rooftop solar.
That meant they would need to develop leas-
ing programs, and huge economies of scale.
On July 4, 2006, Peter, Lyndon and Elon
launched SolarCity. Since then, the company
has raised $134 million in investment capital,
and an additional $700 million in project financ-
ing. They also established an exit strategy for
EverDream and in late 2007 sold it to Dell Inc.,
the computer company.
SolarCity has grown steadily with its SolarLease program, opening branches to offer service in 10 states (Arizona, California, Colorado,
Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York,
Oregon, Pennsylvania and Texas), plus Washington, D.C. At press time, the company employed
about 1,100 people nationwide. Residential
installations are typically handled by three-