SolarCity Launches Major Program For Small and Mid-sized Businesses

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Hillary Clinton has just rolled out her climate change plan, which would rapidly expand our use of renewables, tripling the number of installed solar panels to half a billion by the end of her first term. That’s certain an ambitious goal. In her statement she indicated her intention to rely heavily on tax credits to accomplish this. Whether or not that will be sufficient remains to be seen, but another announcement made yesterday by SolarCity, should certainly help.

The California-based company announced a new plan that would target small and medium sized businesses (SMB) as a huge untapped for solar energy systems. Focusing initially on owner-occupied businesses in California, the rollout contains a new pricing model that will allow these businesses to pay anywhere from 5-25% less for electricity than they currently pay, depending on usage and current cost, with no upfront charges. Twenty-year fixed rate financing will lock in savings, even if utility prices go up.

There are currently 28 million small and medium businesses in the US, which account for 99% of all businesses. It’s difficult to get a breakdown on what portion of energy use that amounts to, though this report from EERE suggests that this segment accounts for roughly 40% of all commercial building square footage (including government offices, but not malls). The report also highlights the substantial opportunities in energy efficiency while noting that California has been far more successful in reducing energy use than the rest of the country. This falls in line with the conventional wisdom that suggests that improving efficiency first, before installing renewables, is the more efficient path.

Solar City credits three specific innovations to enable this new low-cost offering.

  1. The first is the fact that SolarCity will utilize its own network of installers, thereby controlling those costs, as compared to relying on sub-contractors.

  2. SolarCity uses its own proprietary lightweight solar mounting system which allows for 20 to 50% more panels on a given roof surface. The system is also configured for quick connections, further reducing installation costs.

  3. SolarCity has teamed up with Renew Financial to create a unique financing option for SMBs that combines low cost SolarCity structured financing with Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE). The program will initially roll out under the CaliforniaFIRST program, where businesses will sign commercial solar leases with SolarCity, but gets to pay it back as part of its property tax bill. SolarCity will coordinate all of this, as well as the installation, monitoring and maintenance.

The market for this program is initially targeted at installations ranging from 30 – 500 kilowatts of generation capacity for businesses with somewhere between 5,000-50,000 square feet of available flat roof space.

The company has created a new business unit dedicated to the SMB market, and is currently hiring. Interested candidates should visit www.solarcity.com/jobs to learn more.