Year End #13: Small positions - SCTY

Since we mentioned SCTY in my write-up of PSIX, let’s discuss it next. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this company, not able to make up my mind. Not really love-hate, actually, more like love-puzzlement-and-hesitation.

I love the company because:

They are an Elon Musk company, and he is one smart and charismatic guy.

They are spreading solar power instead of polluting power.

They are growing like mad.

They benefit from falling solar panel prices, while other solar companies (who make panels) are killed.

They have a dominant position.

I am puzzled and hesitate about the company because:

It’s so hard to understand how their finances work and whether they are making money.

I wonder whether people will renew their contracts if the price of solar keeps falling, and whether SCTY will have to keep cutting their prices to keep up with the competition if this gets simpler and simpler and cheaper and cheaper. (i.e. becomes a commodity product).

I think maybe buying a company to make panels and building a factory for them was a big mistake as panels are outdated and near obsolete quickly, and the price is falling.

Utility companies are fighting back and starting to make it hard for solar owners to sell back electricity to the grid. They also convince state legislatures to essentially tax solar panel owners to help pay for the grid.

Thus I’ve been in and out of SCTY over the past couple of years, depending which of these sentiments has the upper hand. Most recently I got back in following a great series of three articles by Simon Erickson on MF RB explaining the business. I‘m keeping my position really small though at the present time, for the reasons above.




Thanks for your feedback on SCTY. I also recently started a small position. I’m excited about the opportunity of solar and share your concerns as well. Besides the buildout of residential, I think this deal with Wal-mart could be something big down the road……

converting stores in 36 states to solar with partnership with Solar City. In my mind, you’d think the other big box retailers (target, Costco, etc) would see the cost savings and look to also add solar. And maybe consumers start wanting to see these stores have solar as well.

In addition, more and more commercial properties, government and military installations are adding solar. So there is major growth on that side.

Also, one of the best local solar installations locally to me, is the solar-covered parking lot at Lincoln Financial Field (where Eagles play). Awesome way to produce solar on a piece of property that gets used only when there are games going on. Plus keeps your car nice and shady in the summer. How many of these stadium parking lots are out there… sitting empty unless on gameday!?


I too hold a small position in SCTY. I’m not too concerned about their investment in a panel factory because they are their own customer. Also, I’m not sure about this but I assume it is not too terribly difficult to re-tool as new technologies/materials become available.

My view is they needn’t worry about big inventory right-downs, they just consume whatever is on-hand and re-tool using the down-time while burning off inventory.

As long as the solar industry is viable, they will need panels, they can afford (I surmise) to complete installations with previous generation technology while burning down inventory and tooling up for current technology.

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