Employee Spotlight: Professional Athletes at SolarCity

By Liz Mead

February 27, 2015

2014 was a great year for green job growth at SolarCity: we added 4,000 new hires to our team, and have hit over 9,500 employees to date.  Those are 9,500 bright, determined individuals, from a diverse array of backgrounds. In celebrating our team and all their various talents, in the coming weeks we’ll be highlighting some of the SolarCity employees who have also held careers as professional athletes. Meet our first all-star:

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Melissa McMorrow is the reigning World Boxing Organization and Women's International Boxing Federation world flyweight champion. She currently defends her titles by competing all over the world.

Role at SolarCity: Architect for our new manufacturing facilities- the solar panel gigafactory in Buffalo and the Silevo R&D facility in Fremont.

Hometown: San Jose, CA

Office: Fremont, CA

Started working with us: 6 years ago 

 

Why did you join SolarCity?

I received my education in architecture and had been working in firms prior to joining SolarCity. I found the firms to be inflexible, which wasn’t good for my boxing career. This was around the time SolarCity had just come out with its first lease. It was the first green company I had seen that was successfully solving the problem of affordability- at that time in architecture, clients had to have a lot of money to go green. SolarCity was starting a drafting department, and I joined the team because I believed they’d be able to offer the structure to pursue my career goals, and the flexibility to pursue my goals as a boxer.

 

How have you grown at SolarCity?

SolarCity has been great about giving me the opportunity to try a lot of things. I started out managing the drafting department, and later moved into program management for our commercial solar account with WalMart, to gain the experience I needed to obtain my architectural license. After getting my license I became the architect of record on all of our school carport installations. When we acquired Silevo I switched over to help with that project.

 

What’s your favorite aspect of your job?

I’d have to say the scale of everything. That’s the interesting thing about moving from PV installation to manufacturing: manufacturing is massive, so the undertaking is 500,000 times more complex. The jobs I’m working on now are very involved in terms of the mechanical and electrical systems each will house, so there are a lot of technically specific areas to focus on. My team instructs contractors working on detailed parts of the design: architects, chemical engineers, chemists, etc. I’ve enjoyed that.

 

Office culture in a few words:

Surrounded by geniuses.

 

You’re actively competing in women’s pro boxing. How do you balance work, life and the sport?

I’m actually fighting in Rosarito, Mexico this Saturday. I train twice a day, six days a week. It’s difficult to balance but I carve out the time. I’ll do things at weird times – if I have to train in the morning and have a SolarCity project due at 10am, I’ll be up late doing the work the night before.

 

How did you get involved in the boxing?

I’ve been boxing for 10 years. I got involved when a friend invited me to a fight party in Berkeley (laughs). I was afraid it would be hardcore but when I got there, saw that it was more of a party than anything else. There was a boxing ring set up in the middle of the room. I’ve played sports my whole life, and I thought to myself, “I would win if I got in there”.

 

What’s been the most triumphant moment of your athletic career?

When I won my titles. The championship match was held in Germany and the girl I competed against was the local favorite who was undefeated, 29 – 0. It was a huge upset.

 

Any advice for those looking to succeed in their career, be it professional boxing or otherwise?

Don’t give up on the things you want. I think that happens a lot to women in particular…they want children and careers and it can seem like a lot. It might take talking to your boss, protecting your time, bearing down on key responsibilities of your job… but there are ways you can have it all.

 

We’re looking for trailblazers from every walk of life to join our fast-growing team. Check out the current opportunities on our career page. 

Google and SolarCity 2.0

By SolarCity

February 26, 2015

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Today we announced the creation of a new fund that will finance $750 million in solar projects—including a $300 million investment from Google—and make it possible for homeowners across the U.S. to install solar panels with no upfront cost and pay less for the solar than they pay for electricity from the utility company.

How does it work? Simple. The fund covers the cost of the installation, solar panels and other equipment. The homeowner pays SolarCity for the electricity the solar panels produce, or monthly rent for the panels in the case of a lease. In most cases it’s very similar to the arrangement you have with your local utility, which finances the construction of a centralized power plant and delivery grid and then sells the power to you. Only the power that SolarCity provides is cleaner, and usually cheaper, too.

This is not the first time we’ve collaborated with Google in this way. Back in 2011, a similar investment allowed SolarCity to help more homeowners start using solar power at home; homeowners like Nicole and Adam Brown. The Browns live in California’s San Fernando Valley, and they signed up for SolarCity’s service after Adam’s father told them about it. They wanted to reduce their electricity bill, secure predictable solar energy rates and reduce carbon emissions, and SolarCity’s first fund with Google made that possible. 

“We paid nothing for the panels and equipment until everything was turned on and ready to go, and after that we paid a low monthly rate for solar,” says Nicole. “It’s kind of a no brainer, but many people are still surprised at how easy and accessible and affordable it is.”

When Adam brought home a plug-in hybrid electric car, the Browns could power it with renewable energy and save on gasoline as well. And, even if using more electricity, “we’re still paying less for electricity than we would without solar, even with the EV,” Nicole says.

With two small children, Nicole and Adam have chosen to use their savings for fun and recreation. There’s been an additional family benefit: even if their 3-year-old son, Justin, is a bit too young to understand photovoltaic power, Taylor, 6, their daughter, gets first-hand experience with solutions to the sustainability issues she’s beginning to learn about in school.

“She likes that we have solar panels and daddy drives an electric car,” Nicole says.

So do we. 

 

Want to learn more about going solar with SolarCity?  Click here

Stay Current: Our Top Solar Links

By SolarCity

February 20, 2015

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We’re all about saving you energy, so we’ve rounded up the latest in solar so you don’t have to.

Solar energy is playing surprisingly well in conservative parts of the United States, says The Washington Post.

The BBC reports on the effort to bring solar power to Africa and adds that solar could be the world’s largest source of power by 2050.

Meanwhile, Greentech Media checks in on Off-Grid Electric’s goal to bring solar to a million homes in Tanzania by 2017.

At NPR, they decided to find out what it's like to live without electricity by traveling to an Indian village, and witnessed how solar is addressing poverty and darkness.

And keeping with our global theme of the week, Reuters reports that Pakistan plans to bring solar power to thousands of off-the-grid homes.

Impact Investing 101: Where Value Meets Values

By SolarCity

February 18, 2015

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Editor’s Note: Nancy E. Pfund is the founder and managing partner of DBL Investors, a venture capital firm that combines top-tier financial returns with meaningful social, economic and environmental returns in the regions and sectors in which it invests. Nancy is also a member of SolarCity’s board of directors.

 

Nancy E. Pfund is a leading investor, and an expert on the power of venture capital to promote social change and environmental improvement. We talked with her about her views on impact investing.

How do you define impact investing?

Impact investing drives both financial returns and social returns, with “social” defined broadly to include environmental, social, economic and diversity-related progress. 

 

What kind of misconceptions do people have about impact investing?

Historically, many people have felt that to invest with impact meant sacrificing financial return, and that belief continues to exist. In reality, you’ll find a range of return options, from below market (also known as concessionary) returns to market rate and above. 

People also sometimes assume that impact investing is always done in the same way, when actually the field has many practitioners and approaches.

 

How and why did you come to make it such a big part of your career?

I have always been interested in social change. I worked for the Sierra Club right out of college, for example, and have also had a passion for innovation and working with entrepreneurs. Impact investing combines both!

After a long career in traditional venture capital, I wanted to try to make the field more proactively relevant to some of the social and environmental challenges we face, so impact investing became not just a career for me, but a calling.

 

Impact investing is on the rise. How have investors changed?

In the past 10 years, there has been enormous change. When I started in 2003, banks and foundations were the bulk of our investor base. In the late 2000s, we began to get more pension funds interested, and now, in 2015, family offices and family foundations have entered in strong numbers.

This diverse set of supporters is terrific for the field, as it brings myriad perspectives on achieving impact and strong returns.

 

How has the impact investing marketplace changed?

There are many more options today. In the early days, socially responsible investors mostly based their choices on negative screens (which cut out certain companies, practices or products, such as tobacco) aimed at investments in public equities, community banks, low-income housing and the occasional venture capital fund.

Today, impact investors have a wider range of choices, including green bonds, crowdfunding, project finance, social impact bonds and sector-based ETFs (exchange-traded funds) for clean technology.

The number of firms offering these products has increased accordingly, and banks have stepped in to try to aggregate products and match them with private bank clients. Small firms that act as intermediaries between fund managers and investors have also begun to proliferate. It’s now easier than ever for an investor to find information on or put money behind impact investments.

 

How can social or environmental responsibility help companies make money?

Companies that incorporate a high level of environmental and/or social responsibility are a) more aware of factors and dynamics outside their narrow business landscape and b) more inclined to build a business strategy that seeks to address these factors. The result: these companies have the potential to manage external risks better.

In this age when employees really want to work for companies that do the right thing, it means these companies also have a better shot at attracting and retaining top-quality employees. For example, Elon Musk mentioned the recruiting draw of working for a company with a social impact during a fireside chat at the May 2014 World Energy Innovation Forum.

Socially responsible business practices can also have direct financial implications. One example is Revolution Foods, which has two employee training programs—financial literacy and vocational English as a second language—that are socially responsible ways to support the development of its workforce and manage the needs of a growing business.

 

How does venture capital fit into the impact investing landscape?

Venture capital plays a critical role because it works with companies that are just getting started and that are usually pursuing innovative, disruptive products and services. Infusing impact at this stage, when the corporate culture is just beginning to gel, is tremendously important, because early culture often stays with a company as it grows. 

Venture capital also plays a key role because it allows investors to participate in game-changing new products and services, like electric vehicles and solar or wind power projects, that aim to solve climate problems.

Finally, venture capital starts with small companies and, if successful, helps them get big. This means venture capital helps create jobs, a key positive social impact. For instance, when DBL first invested in SolarCity, there were about 60 employees. Today there are more than 9,500.

 

How does something like Solar Bonds fit into that landscape?

Solar Bonds are a key tool in democratizing access to solar and solar financing, allowing the average investor to help grow the solar market in a lower-risk way without having to make huge investments. 

While venture capital occupies the high risk/high return part of the spectrum and hence is not at all for everyone, solar bonds are accessible to a wide variety of people across many income levels. Solar Bonds create a double impact: they help build more solar and they offer attractive financial returns while supporting a cause that matters. 

 

What are the most interesting or exciting things you’ve seen during your work in this field? 

That entrepreneurs and their employees get just as passionate about making a difference in the world as they do about making a super successful company that transforms its industry.

It's exciting because when people are motivated by money, in the sense of achieving a breakout new company, and by making a difference, that special combination makes just about anything possible.

Learn more at Solar Bonds.

 

SolarCity has filed a registration statement (including a prospectus) with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) for offerings to which information on this web site relates. Before you invest, you should read the prospectus in that registration statement and other documents SolarCity has filed with the SEC for more complete information about SolarCity and the offerings. You may obtain these documents for free by visiting EDGAR on the SEC web site at www.sec.gov. Alternatively, you may obtain the prospectus relating to the Solar Bonds, and the pricing supplement relating to a particular series of Solar Bonds, on the website.

Stay Current: Our Top Solar Links

By SolarCity

February 13, 2015

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We’re all about saving you energy, so we’ve rounded up the latest in solar so you don’t have to.

How big was 2014 for solar? Here’s a hint: Solar and wind made up 53% of new US electricity capacity last year. Get more details from CleanTechnica.

More great news for clean energy: Wind and solar energy have tripled since 2008. Get the report details from the Washington Post.

NPR weighs in on what it calls the great solar panel debate – to lease or to buy?

Scientists have figured out a way to convert solar energy into liquid fuel, TIME reports.

In our home state of California, the number of solar jobs is soaring, The San Francisco Chronicle says. The number is up 15.8 % from 2013 and represents nearly 1/3 of the U.S. solar workforce.

The solar jobs boom makes Keystone XL Pipeline look like a tinker toy, says Clean Technica. Looking at state-by-state info, solar created 1 in 78 new jobs last year.

Speaking of solar, this week SpaceX launched a NOAA satellite to protect us from solar storms. Vox has the details.

And here’s another one for all of us space geeks: This video shows five years of watching the sun from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, from The Daily Mail.

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