Google & SolarCity

Google invests $280 million in the California company SolarCity, which offers leasing options to homeowners, businesses and schools who want to install solar panels but can’t afford the upfront costs.
Internet search giant Google’s new $280 million investment with SolarCity to finance solar rooftop installations is the largest fund ever created for residential solar in the U.S. The fund brings Google’s green investments in large-scale wind, solar, geothermal, and other renewable energy projects to almost $700 million in total.

Google’s partner, San Mateo, California-based SolarCity, is located less than 20 miles north of Google’s Mountain View headquarters. It’s one of a number of solar companies offering leasing options to homeowners, businesses and schools that can’t afford the tens of thousands of dollars of upfront expenses needed for solar photovoltaic installations. More than 80% of SolarCity’s 15,000 projects completed or underway nationwide involve some kind of financing instead of a full upfront payment. Using funds like Google’s, they are able to finance their projects as well as design, install and maintain the systems. Recently, they’ve also begun to offer energy audits and small home improvements (like installing programmable thermostats) that can make a big difference in energy use and savings.

“This is an investment that makes it easier for consumers and our own employees to lower their energy bills while shifting to clean, renewable energy for their own homes,” says Rick Needham, Google’s director of green business operations.

Google engineer Michael Flaster spoke of his own residential solar panels that were installed by SolarCity. “When SolarCity told me about the prepaid lease that was only half as much up front and everything was guaranteed—it became a no-brainer.”

SolarCity is focused on expansion in the U.S. market for now, but CEO Lyndon Rive believes their model can be replicated in many other countries around the world—”anywhere the cost of power is high.”

“Google’s leading the way and other companies could follow suit,” he said. “It’s not just about a dramatic environmental impact, it’s also a good return.”