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SolarCity Corp (SCTY) Starts Referral Program, May Build Solar Arrays in Erie County

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SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ:SCTY) announced a new referral program Wednesday that allows non-profit groups raise funds by urging members to adopt solar. It also received news that Erie County may hire the firm to build solar arrays in two towns.

SolarCity Brings in SunRaising

SunRaising is the latest project created by SolarCity. The company introduced the referral program to help non-profit groups produce funds by getting other members to adopt solar.

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Right now, non-profits can sign up for the program. Every time a supporter of a certain SunRaising partner organization enrolls, SolarCity will donate $200 to the non-profit. Homeowners will also see a benefit. If they go solar through a SunRaising partner then their first month of power will be free as a thank you gift.

In a news release, SolarCity noted that more than 100 non-profit entities, including hospitals and food banks, have already signed up. Riverkeeper, an environmental body working to protect the Hudson River and promote clean drinking water in New York City, was the first SunRaising partner

Paul Gallay, president of Riverkeeper, said in a statement that solar is a viable and economic choice for both New York home and business owners.

“One of the greatest threats to the Hudson is an aging nuclear power plant so, not only does SolarCity lower New Yorker’s energy bills, but when consumers opt for solar, it plays an integral part in replacing the power from this harmful plant and others like it,” said Gallay.

Jan Diaz, Board Member of Desert Sands Educational Foundation, said he’s proud to be part of this program. Diaz lauded SunRaising for helping promote clean energy and support students in the district. The foundation has generated 20 referrals.

The referrals that have been made thus far have already offset about 60,000 metric tons of carbon when compared to energy produced from fossil fuels. Also, 400 homes have gone solar while raising thousands of dollars.

This comes days after Sanford C. Bernstein stock analysts restated the stock’s “buy” rating in a research report.

Year-to-date, SolarCity shares have fallen 40 percent to about $31 a share. On Wednesday, shares were up nearly three percent.

The firm’s next quarterly earnings results is scheduled for Feb. 17.

It made headlines this month after the firm said it would cut 450 jobs in Nevada after rate changes. The jobs would be relocated to a more “business-friendly” state.

Erie County Hiring SolarCity?

Erie County may hire SolarCity to build two solar arrays in the Buffalo Niagara region in the towns of Alden and Angola.

In 2015, the county sought proposals from firms looking to build solar arrays on public land. It received eight proposals, including one from SolarCity, which was chosen.

The proposal would see two firms build two large solar arrays on county-owned land near the Alden Correctional Facility and the wastewater treatment plant in Angola. It’s estimated the solar arrays would create six megawatts of electricity and save the county roughly $9.5 million over 20 years.

It should be noted that Fluent Energy, the county’s consultant, said that figure could vary. It depends on final design and size of each array.

“We’re always looking to bolster our green portfolio,” said Joseph L. Fiegl, deputy commissioner of the county Department of Environment and Planning. “We’ll have both green energy that we’ll be utilizing and we’ll be saving money, too.”

What’s next? A couple of things. First, the County Legislature has already voted for the solar project. However, before any shovels are put into the ground, lawmakers must approve a local law permitting the county to lease property for a period of five-plus years. The vote is expected to take place before Feb. 4.

Second, contracts have to be worked out.

Third, the goal is to complete the arrays by the end of the year.

Data from the Solar Energy Industries Association show these projects would create enough energy to power more than 1,000 homes.

To date, 1,278 solar arrays have been installed in Erie Country or have been approved for installation. Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said these projects are part of efforts to produce more energy at a lower cost.

Counties across the state of New York are working hard to embrace solar to reduce energy costs. As their budgets tighten, they’re looking for any type of savings. The state put in place a goal last year of receiving half of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

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Andrew Moran

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