Google has invested $280 million to set up a residential solar fund with installer SolarCity, which leases systems to households that want to avoid the upfront costs of buying and installing their own solar panels.
This comes as the president of Suntech’s America business announced that the Chinese solar panel manufacturer is working on “four or five” financing initiatives, including a residential solar financing programme to be launched in the next quarter.
At a conference in San Francisco, Steven Chan said that Suntech will also offer financing for commercial businesses and utilities, after already launching solar loans for the construction sector. However, few details are available so far.
This model of financing is well established in the US and was pioneered by SunEdison as early as 2003, although largely for corporations rather than homeowners.
SolarCity said its fund with Google will be the largest residential solar fund in the US. It is also the firm’s 15th project fund – so far the firm has used this model with seven partners to finance $1.28 billion of solar projects. Previous partners include Citi, which set up a $40 million fund with the developer in February.
“This collaboration with Google will enable us to provide solar power to thousands of homeowners at or below the cost they currently pay for electricity,” said Benjamin Cook, vice-president of project finance at California-based SolarCity.
The firm argues that US company balance sheets are an untapped resource for financing small-scale, distributed renewables.
“Google is setting an example that other leading American companies can follow,” said SolarCity’s CEO Lyndon Rive. “The largest 200 corporations in the US have more than $1 trillion in cash on their balance sheets. Investments in solar energy generate returns for corporate investors, offer cost savings for homeowners, create new, local jobs for jobseekers and protect the environment from polluting power sources. If more companies follow Google’s lead, we can dramatically reduce our nation’s dependence on polluting power.”
It is also Google’s largest clean energy project investment to date, said Rick Needham, director of green business operations at Google, writing on the search engine’s green blog. Google has now invested more than $680 million in the sector, he added.
“We’ve already invested in several large-scale renewable energy projects, so we’re excited that this new partnership with SolarCity helps people power their homes directly with solar energy, too,” Needham said.
By. Jess McCabe