Initially maligned, Elon Musk’s solar gambit is getting a second look


theglobeandmail.com |September 21, 2017,

BRIAN ECKHOUSE AND DANA HULL

Elon Musk took a lot of heat last year when his Tesla Inc. bought solar-panel installer SolarCity for $2-billion (U.S.). The synergies between his two companies didn’t seem immediately obvious, among other issues, critics said.

But now other solar installers are looking to partner with companies as they wrestle with a market that is shrinking after 16 years of rapid growth. Their longtime sales model — knocking on doors, cold calling at home, setting up mall kiosks — has proven to be costly. Far more effective to use the umbrella of bigger established companies to find customers, they’ve decided.

Sunrun Inc., for example, will try to sell panels through Comcast Corp., the biggest cable-TV company in the U.S. Last month, the two agreed to a deal in which Comcast will use its vast marketing arm to tap some of its 27 million customers for solar. Vivint Solar Inc. is now bundling its panels with an energy management system offered by Vivint Smart Home, a sister company.

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