SolarCity guns for a $201M IPO

SolarCity panels on a Walmart, courtesy of SolarCity.

SolarCity announced it had filed an S-1 registration to do an IPO back in April, but that filing remained confidential until Friday, when it was finally made public.

The company is proposing to raise up to $201.25 million from the IPO but has yet to disclose the number of shares or their prices for the offering. Based in San Mateo, south of San Francisco, SolarCity wants to be listed on the NASDAQ under the symbol “SCTY.”

The pending IPO has been highly anticipated because so few cleantech companies have successfully pulled off a public debut, particularly in the solar business. The rise and fall of Solyndra included a drama of filing and then with drawing an IPO plan in June 2010. More recently, BrightSource Energy, which develops solar power plants that use mirrors and sun’s heat, shelved its IPO ambition in April this year. The company’s CEO, John Woolard, told us that BrightSource received “significant interest from potential investors,” but that the valuation on the money publicly raised was lower than what it could have raised privately.

SolarCity, founded in 2006, started as an installer of solar panels on the roofs of homes and businesses. It was one of the early crop of solar installers which used financing options, such as leases and power purchase agreements, to attract customers. With leases or power purchase agreements, home or business owners don’t pay the expensive upfront cost of buying and installing solar panels. Instead, an investor provides funds for Solar City to install the equipment and charge for electricity use, and part of the monthly payment from the home or business owners then goes back to the investor. SolarCity has raised hundreds of millions of funds from banks such as U.S. Bancorp and from corporate investors such as Google.

In recent years, SolarCity made a foray into providing home energy audits and retrofits, as well as installing lithium ion battery systems that go with solar panels.

The company recorded $59.55 million in revenue and $73.71 million in net losses in 2011, compared with $32.43 million in revenue and $47.07 million in net losses in 2010. For the first six months of this year, the company posted $71.42 million in revenue and $48.91 million in net losses.

The company raised an $81 million equity round earlier this year, and at the time company spokesman Jonathan Bass said SolarCity had gotten just over $200 million in venture capital overall. The company’s investors include Draper Fisher Jurvetson, DBL Investors, and Generation Investment Management. Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk also is an investor and is SolarCity’s board chairman. If SolarCity goes public, this will be the second large IPO for Musk’s investments, following Tesla.

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