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Google Joins With SolarCity To Help Homeowners Get Solar Panels

“Whenever you have a company of Google’s stature get involved, it’s significant,” Bass said.
Google Joins With SolarCity To Help Homeowners Get Solar Panels
Image from: Arlington County

It may already be too late, and the effort too small, to make a significant difference to climate change, but it's still worth doing. If only we had legislators who tackled issues like this:

If you to want to install solar panels on your roof but haven’t yet because it’s too expensive, Google really wants to help.The search giant, valued at $370 billion, is once again boosting its investment in SolarCity’s residential solar power model by $300 million, both companies announcedThursday. Combined with a new financing structure from SolarCity, the companies say this will result in a new fund worth $750 million to help install distributed rooftop solar on homes across the country.

That’s the largest investment in such a fund ever, according to SolarCity. It means “roughly 25,000″ new solar households and about 500 megawatts of new capacity, SolarCity spokesperson Jonathan Bass said in an interview.

“Whenever you have a company of Google’s stature get involved it’s significant,” Bass said.

At the end of 2014, SolarCity had 190,000 customers and one gigawatt of deployed production, according to its letter to shareholders, so this fund means a significant bump.

Here’s how it will work for the average person. The first step is you need to own a home. Then you work with SolarCity to design a customized system for your particular roof. They look at past electric bills and the rate charged by the utility, and guarantee a lower rate that locks in a lower monthly payment. For instance, if your normal monthly bill is $200, it could drop to $60 after the installation, plus $100 in the monthly solar rental, yielding a new average monthly bill of $160. Google’s initial investment pays for the system outright through a lease or power purchase agreement (or through MyPower, a sort of hybrid between the two). You do not have to pay for the design or placement of the panels SolarCity installs and then maintains throughout the life of the lease.

Once installed, the panels generate renewable, clean electricity, feeding the grid mostly during times of the day where demand is high. The homeowner pays the lower monthly electricity rate, not worrying about rising utility bills or extra carbon pollution. Google and SolarCity pay to maintain the panels because they own them. Both companies pocket the income brought by sale of the power to the utility through net metering, as well as federal and state renewable energy tax benefits. At the end of the lease or rental term (usually 20 years), much like an automobile, you have the option to buy the system back, set it up as a loan, or let SolarCity take it back, no charge.

So while it is likely a better deal to pay for your own solar installation, earn the tax credits yourself, and begin saving money on electricity and try to make some selling extra back to the utility, not everyone can afford the initial price tag, which typically runs north of of $10,000.

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