Leading residential solar installer looks east

More signs that residential solar is becoming more mainstream or that mixing commercial and solar businesses might be harder than anticipated. National solar financing and installation company, SolarCity, San Mateo, Calif.

More signs that residential solar is becoming more mainstream or that mixing commercial and solar businesses might be harder than anticipated. National solar financing and installation company, SolarCity, San Mateo, Calif., has acquired what it describes as the east coast's largest residential solar installation business from groSolar, which is based in White River Junction, Vt.

The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, will extend SolarCity's footprint in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The company now operates 21 local operations across 10 states; about 80 percent of its customers have adopted for the SolarLease, which lets homeowners invest in the solar panel installation with a smaller upfront investment. Says SolarCity's CEO Lyndon Rive: "SolarCity will be able to offer solar to many homeowners and businesses in the Northeast at or below the cost they currently pay for electricity. We expect thousands of additional homeowners in the Northeastern states to go solar this year, while local incentives are strong."

After the integration is complete, groSolar will stick to commercial-scale solar projects. The company is positioning the deal as its opportunity to develop its distribution and commercial-scale business. For example, in the coming weeks groSolar says it plans to commission a 1.5-megawatt solar installation at the Clean Harbors landfill here in my home state of New Jersey. The technology will be used to power the systems that decontaminate the landfill, offsetting about 90 percent of the facility's annual electricity bill.

Notes groSolar CEO Jeff Wolfe: "This transaction allows us to concentrate fully on our distribution and commercial businesses, which are the fastest growing solar markets. It allows us to target, expand and move our distribution and commercial solar businesses to the next level."

I think you'll see more and more solar companies make that distinction, especially with the heightened focus by the White House to encourage building energy efficiency projects across the public and private sector. Renewable energy installations won't necessarily always be part of those projects, but the climate is definitely more receptive.

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