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Rive Out at SolarCity

SolarCity founder is out as company launches major solar tile push, says he wants new challenges.

EDITOR'S NOTE: SolarCity founder Lyndon Rive, speaking at an industry event last month, gave no signs of his planned departure. The company had relied on leasing its product while the market has recently shifted, with customers increasingly interested in owning their own rooftop assets. Founders of many meteoric growth tech companies depart when a more seasoned business veteran is needed to take startups to their next level of success.

Bloomberg -- Lyndon Rive, the former chief executive officer of SolarCity and first cousin of Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk, will leave the electric automaker next month, saying he plans to start another venture.

Tesla acquired SolarCity in November for $2 billion, creating a company with more than 30,000 employees that focuses on sustainable energy and transportation. Rive’s departure comes as Tesla prepares to launch the Model 3, its more affordable electric sedan, in July. Palo Alto, California-based Tesla has several products in the pipeline, including a solar roof that Musk first unveiled last fall.

Rooftop solar installers are grappling with a slowdown in deployments across major markets in the U.S. The industry has faced pushback from utilities in states including Arizona and California that have sought to cut payments solar customers receive for the power they generate.

Martin Rosenberg

Lyndon Rive at a recent energy storage conference in Denver.    

Annual residential rooftop installations are forecast to increase by about 3 percent this year, down from about 64 percent just two years ago, according to a December report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. For the first quarter, Tesla reported that it deployed 150 megawatts of solar energy, down from the 214 megawatts SolarCity installed a year earlier.

“Lyndon Rive co-founded SolarCity 11 years ago, and built it into the No. 1 solar provider in the nation,” said Tesla in a statement. “Thanks in large part to the foundation Lyndon helped create, Tesla has now built the world’s first integrated sustainable energy company, from generation to storage to transportation.”

Lyndon Rive, his brother Peter Rive, and Musk hatched the idea for SolarCity during a trip to the Burning Man arts festival in the Nevada desert more than a decade ago. It wasn’t immediately clear if Peter Rive, SolarCity’s chief technology officer, would remain at Tesla. At the time the acquisition was announced, Musk was SolarCity’s largest shareholder with a 22 percent stake.

“My skill set and what I love doing is starting and running companies,” Rive, 40, said in an interview with Reuters Monday disclosing his planned departure. “I can hand off the baton to somebody else and give myself the opportunity to do something else that could also have another impact.”

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