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SunRun Does Government-financed Solar Panels

Post Time:Aug 04,2009Classify:Company NewsView:889

In a move to avert regional government solar incentives like Berkeley, California-based Berkeley FIRST from capturing the solar panel financing market, San Francisco-based SunRun is using a new round of financing to capture a greater share of that market.

SunRun, which serves customers in California (and, more recently, Massachusetts and Arizona), is raising $18 million with the help of Accel Partners, a venture capital firm highly vested in social networking venue Facebook. Since SunRun advertises its services on Facebook, it is anticipated that the relationship will help SunRun not only financially but in terms of generating more sales. Also participating in this second round of VC financing is Foundation Capital, which invested in SunRun’s $12-million round of financing last year.

SunRun currently offers two types of plans. In California, though not in Los Angeles, customers can opt to purchase solar panels on a sort of power purchase agreement, or PPA; that is, $1,000 down buys the panels, installation, long-term service contract and power from the solar panels on an 18-year contract at a specified rate per kilowatt hour.

BerkeleyFIRST, a solar financing program which ties payback for solar installations to a homeowner’s property tax statements, is still in its infancy, with about 40 participants and plans for a second round of stimulus this year. But Berkeley, a trend-setter in solar financing, is no longer the only city or municipality offering solar via property taxes, as witness similar programs (many based on the Berkeley model) in Palm Desert, San Francisco and San Diego.

Berkeley is, however, the first to provide residents with a solar irradiance map to help them decide how much their homes would benefit from solar panels. The map, prepared by CH2MHILL, a global environmental and engineering consulting services firm, calculates the solar potential on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis and also allows solar panel fence-sitters to see where other rooftop solar installations are located.

The Berkeley initiative is the result of a 2008 California bill, AB811, which allowed cities to develop their own financing mechanisms to support renewable projects through property taxes. It has since caught on in a big way, not just in California but across the nation, as cities and municipalities as far-flung as Boulder County, Colorado, and Oregon consider similar measures.

From a purely revenue-based model, SunRun is wise to take an offensive stance. As more and more solar companies (not to mention cities and municipalities) get into the act of making solar panels affordable, solar investment will rise, driving down costs and spurring even more investment.

Jason Coughlin, a project manager with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (who recently published a fact sheet on “Solar Leasing for Residential Photovoltaic Systems,"), says that – while it will take some time for the solar industry to gain traction from such incremental incentives – they will eventually deliver significant advances for cities and states trying to meet emission reduction targets and renewable portfolio standards.

Source: SunRun / Cooler PlanetAuthor: shangyi

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