Google's cash boasts credibility for residential solar

Worried about the state of residential solar? Google's $280 million infusion makes prospects brighter for smart installers like SolarCity.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

If you had any doubt that residential solar is hot and that it will continue to be hot when the government decides it can't or won't fund its adoption with market incentives, assuage those fears. As you have doubtless read, Google has just invested big-time in this sector to the tune of $280 million that it is paying into a financing fund co-supported by one of the biggest players in that business, SolarCity.

The idea is that if a homeowner can't put up the money upfront, they might be able to work a lease through the new fund. The fund is billed as the largest fund of its kind in the United States. It is Google's largest single investment in clean energy technology so far. I wonder how long it will take to burn through this money.

Google is just the latest partner for SolarCity, which has managed to build up an installed base of roughly 15,000 solar projects. The company helps finance something like 80 percent of its projects. It has announced multiple rounds of funding -- more than $1 billion cumulatively -- to help it achieve this end. One of its most frequent partners is U.S. Bancorp.

SolarCity is now operating in 10 U.S. states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Texas, as well as in Washington D.C.

The deal with Google underscores the fact that SolarCity's philosophy is the right one in the current economic climate -- if it makes it easy to invest in residential, more people will do it. Personally, I think the fact that the government is NOT involved is especially attractive. Far less bureaucracy, methinks, plus a business model that will stay around in the likely event that the government incentives for clean energy technology are limited or emasculated in the future.

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