SolarCity Corp Hires Former Obama Campaign Strategist

SolarCity Corp has hired President Barack Obama’s former campaign strategist Jon Carson. Mr. Carson will serve as the senior director for the company’s Ambassadors Program, leading its effort to put solar panels on every roof in the United States. SolarCity believes that tactics of a grassroots political campaign could influence consumers to shift to renewable energy.

SolarCity Corp Hires Former Obama Campaign Strategist

Can Carson replicate his political success in solar?

Carson said in an interview with The Washington Post that the solar energy is a tangible thing that you can be a part of in your community. Expanding SolarCity’s business will require building a network of people, neighborhood by neighborhood. The Ambassadors Program offers customers $250 credit if they refer a friend to sign up for SolarCity.

On Dec.4, the San Mateo-based company relaunched its MySolarCity app so that its customers can better connect with one another and promote solar energy to their friends. Carson didn’t reveal his precise strategy to get more customers, but he did cite a few interesting scenarios. How about a soccer team getting a dozen families to sign up for solar energy? The team will get referral money that they can spend on new uniforms. Or maybe, neighborhoods compete will each other to see who is adopting solar more quickly.

SolarCity chairman a major Obama donor

SolarCity believes people-to-people ties could influence the decision-making of small groups. So, it spends little on traditional advertising such as TV commercials. SolarCity’s customer base is increasing rapidly, as it recently crossed 168,00 customers. The company has captured 36% share of the U.S. residential solar market, even higher than the next 50 rivals combined.

Notably, SolarCity chairman Elon Musk has been a major Obama donor. He has donated to both political parties, but most of his $400,000 contribution since 2008 has gone to Democrats.  Carson had served as the executive director of Organizing for Action, a nonprofit activist group that pushes Barack Obama’s policy agenda. He left the group Organizing for Action in October.

SolarCity shares rallied 2.26% to $51.51 in early trading Thursday.

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  • seth

    Obviously you are a subcontractor struggling to survive competing against companies like solar city that can offer financing options. As an electrical contractor that has worked in the field I can say that your “facts” are biased and 90 percent of homeowners are unable to dish out 20 to 30k to own a system and also pay for maintenance out of their own pockets. Stop lying to consumers to try and benefit yourself

  • Tillo


  • Ron Winton

    Here’s a few things you might want to consider before locking yourself into a 20 year solar lease or a 30 year solar loan.

    1. Add up your lease payments and when compared to an outright solar system purchase you’ll typically find that you’ll easily be paying up to 3 times more on a $0 down solar lease versus a purchase. Today, pricing for an average sized 4.75 kW purchased system has dropped below $11,000 after applying the 30% federal tax credit. A 4.75 kW system will produce more than 600 kWh per month with 5 hours of peak sunshine per day.

    2. You’ll typically pay so much more for a lease than a purchase that’s it’s actually you who will be over-paying for your own maintenance, monitoring and insurance not the leasing company. Why do you think so many solar leasing companies are BUYING solar systems while leasing them to you?

    3. You may have trouble selling your home because what home buyer in his right mind will want to assume your lease payments on a used, outdated system when they can buy a brand new system with the latest technology and keep the 30% federal tax credit for thousands less.

    Don’t believe it ? Well then simply type the keywords “solar lease scaring buyers” into Google and you can read many accounts of homeowners and real estate professionals reporting difficulty when trying to sell a home with a 20 year solar lease or PPA attached to it.

    4. After making 20 years worth of leasing payments, you won’t even own the system. It will still belong to the leasing company. If you want to own their system after making all those payment, then you’ll have to buy it from the leasing company at the end of your lease at fair market value.

    5. Check that quote from the solar leasing company and you’ll find that most of the time they won’t even tell you what brand of equipment they’re installing on your home. I wonder why?

    6. Most if not all $0 down solar leases include an annual payment escalator that will increase your monthly payment by up to 2.9% per year for 20 years.

    Imagine what would happen if your utility company decides to, or is ever mandated to lower their rates or flatten out their rate tier structure, like is happening in California. You could end up being forced to pay more for your electricity than if you never had signed that air tight, escalating solar lease contract in the first place.

    7. Remember, the solar leasing/PPA companies are still using Gen 1, boxy looking aluminum framed solar panels that were originally designed back in the 1970s, instead of the latest, Gen 2, Hyper X 2, one quarter inch thick, Bifacial solar panels. So you’ll be stuck with the same aging solar system on your roof without the ability to upgrade for the full 20 year term of the contract.

    Your neighbors are just going to love you at year 12 of your 20 year lease with that boxy looking superstructure bolted to your roof. If you bought your system instead, you can sell it at any time you wish and take the proceeds from the sale and upgrade to the latest and greatest equipment that will produce even more power in the same amount of space and improve your home’s curb appeal. You can’t do that with a lease because it’s not your system to sell.

    8. You’ll have to forfeit the 30% federal tax credit and any applicable cash rebate to the leasing company and you won’t get tax deductible interest on your lease payments. Only a $0 down FHA solar loan or second mortgage can give you tax deductible interest and let you apply all of your incentives to a lower priced system for a much better return on your investment.

    9. With one of those $0 down solar loans that the leasing company is offering you’ll have to come up with a 30% balloon payment that is due on June 1st the year after installation, regardless of the amount claimed in the tax credit and you’ll have a 2.9% annual payment increase.