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SolarCity’s rapid growth on track as number of orders increases

SolarCity, the California solar energy systems installer that is building the biggest solar panel factory in North America in Buffalo, said Wednesday that its rapid growth remains essentially on target.

The company said it booked more orders than ever before during the spring, while the generating capacity of the solar energy systems it installed during the spring topped its own forecast by 5 percent.

SolarCity also said it remains on target to meet its previous goal of installing solar energy systems with the capacity to generate between 920 to 1,000 megawatts of electricity this year. At 1,000 megawatts, SolarCity would be in a position to use every solar panel produced by the Buffalo factory, once it is operating at full capacity, scheduled for early 2017.

But because the company bears the upfront costs for the solar energy systems that it installs, while receiving payments from customers that can stretch for 20 to 30 years, SolarCity loses money by conventional accounting standards.

During the second quarter, the company cut its losses by more than half to $22.4 million, or 23 cents per share, compared with the loss of $47.7 million, or 52 cents per share, a year ago. Excluding non-recurring gains, the company lost $1.61 per share during the quarter, matching analyst forecasts.

SolarCity’s revenues jumped by 68 percent to $102.8 million from $61.3 million a year earlier, easily topping analyst forecasts of $90.8 million.

The company said it installed solar energy systems with the capacity to generate 189 megawatts of electricity during the quarter, up 77 percent from a year ago. SolarCity’s market in California – by far its largest – nearly doubled in size during the quarter, while its East Coast markets rebounded from the sluggish winter months to nearly triple in total installations.

SolarCity’s East Coast markets, which include downstate and eastern New York, along with Massachusetts and Connecticut, accounted for almost a third of SolarCity’s installations during the quarter.

SolarCity said its order bookings remained strong, signing orders to install another 395 megawatts of systems during the quarter, up 81 percent from a year ago. Residential bookings, which account for most of SolarCity’s business, rose by 86 percent.

The company added 44,900 customers during the quarter, putting SolarCity more than a quarter of the way toward its goal of having 1 million customers by mid-2018. The company’s customer base has grown by 86 percent over the past year.

SolarCity has been focusing on ways to reduce the cost of its solar energy systems in the face of a scheduled expiration of a 30 percent federal tax credit for residential solar systems at the end of 2016.

Company executives believe the Buffalo factory now under construction on South Park Avenue can help SolarCity significantly reduce its costs by producing solar panels that are more efficient than the ones it currently uses in such high volume that it also provides the company with substantial savings from greater efficiency and economies of scale.

During the second quarter, SolarCity’s costs were 3 percent lower than they were a year ago, at $2.91 per watt, and were 1 percent lower than they were during the first quarter, when they averaged $2.93 per watt.