SolarCity to put panels on nearly 5,000 Fort Bliss homes

LOS ANGELES Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:00am EST

LOS ANGELES Nov 12 (Reuters) - SolarCity Corp said it will install solar panels on up to 4,700 U.S. military homes at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas, and the nearby White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The project is part of SolarCity's $1 billion SolarStrong initiative, which will put solar systems on up to 120,000 military homes over five years.

The announcement represents the largest phase yet of SolarStrong, the solar panel installer said. The company will start construction in January, and plans to create 100 new installation, electrical and maintenance jobs for the project.

SolarCity is the top U.S. installer of residential solar systems. It has grown rapidly, largely because it allows customers to lease its costly product by paying a monthly fee, avoiding hefty upfront costs of an outright purchase.

SolarCity, which is expected to go public before year end, is also benefiting from the sliding price of solar panels that has walloped their manufacturers.

The U.S. Department of Defense has designated Fort Bliss a "NetZero Installation," meaning it is expected to produce as much energy as it consumes.

SolarCity is collaborating on the project with Balfour Beatty Communities LLC, which manages the residential communities where the solar panels will be installed.

Under terms of the project, SolarCity will lease the panels to a special-purpose entity that is a partnership between Balfour Beatty and the Department of Defense, the company said. Bank of America Merrill Lynch is financing the project.

The project will lower power costs for the Fort Bliss residences and lock in rates for 20 years, SolarCity Chief Executive Lyndon Rive said in an interview.

Asked how looming automatic military spending cuts and tax increases - the so-called fiscal cliff - could affect the SolarStrong initiative, Rive said he could not comment on the possible impact because of the company's impending initial public offering.

The San Mateo, California, company would not discuss its IPO.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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