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SolarCity Continues Incredible Growth Rate

Travis Hoium
October 12, 2013

SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY) has made a habit of exceeding its own expectations this year, and it has done so again in the third quarter.  

When SolarCity released its second-quarter numbers, it expected to install between 70 MW and 77 MW during the third quarter and about 270 MW for all of 2013. On Friday, the company said it actually installed 78 MW last quarter and will install 278 MW this year. To give the rally even more fuel, management predicted 475 MW to 525 MW of installations for 2014, up to 89% growth over this year.  

This is big news, folks
A couple of weeks ago, I tried to put a value on SolarCity based on past installations and future growth. I projected a 50% growth rate next year and got a value of $5.7 billion for the company, but today's release blows that out of the water.

If I just change this year and next year's numbers and keep growth rates beyond that constant, I now get an $8.0 billion valuation, more than double today's market cap. That's how big a deal Friday's release was and why the stock was up 23% on the day.

The reason growth changes SolarCity's valuation so much is that growth and retained value per watt are really the two levers the company can pull to boost their value. Each installation is a small cash generator, and the faster you can build those generators, the more SolarCity is worth. By the same token, the more value you can generate from each cash generator, the better.

We didn't learn anything new about retained value per watt on Friday (that will come from the earnings report), but growth is going gangbusters, and that's half of the puzzle for SolarCity.

What does this mean for solar?
We now know about where SolarCity sits for the third quarter, but what does