SolarCity expanding in Sunshine State

SolarCity is expanding in Florida, weeks after voters rejected a referendum to restrict rooftop solar in the Sunshine State.

The San Mateo-based solar system provider, a new subsidiary of Tesla, is setting up an operations center outside Orlando. The center is expected to employ about 100 people, according to the AP.

SolarCity co-founder Lyndon Rive told the Orlando Business Journal the center will eventually lead to 200 to 300 jobs. “We’ll need electricians, people in construction, roofers, sales people and administrators,” Rive said. More expansion is possible, he added.

Florida voters defeated a utilities-backed ballot amendment in November that could have driven up the cost of rooftop solar. The measure failed 51 percent to 49 percent. In Florida, a referendum needs 60 percent approval to pass.

The bitter ballot fight pitted large utilities and energy companies against the solar industry. The measure would have added language to the state constitution concerning the rights of solar customers. Critics said the language would lead to higher fees for installing renewable systems. Even a backer of the amendment admitted it was misleading.

Editorial boards at Florida’s major newspapers came out against the proposal. Jimmy Buffett campaigned against it — and also came out in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.

SolarCity has also expanded operations in Texas and Pennsylvania in recent months. Company shareholders finalized the $2 billion merger with Tesla last month.

Photo: SolarCity workers install rooftop solar panels. (Business Wire)

 

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