Solar startup Sungevity bring solar leasing to Australia

It wasn't too long ago that Sungevity only offered its residential solar services homeowners in northern California. Now its in the Northeast, Europe and will soon expand to Australia.

Sungevity, the Oakland, Calif.,-based residential solar startup has expanded to Australia, a move that will allow homeowners for the first time to lease panels, instead paying for them outright. The company announced early Thursday morning it formed a joint venture with Australian solar company Nickel Energy as part of its expansion into Australia.

The jump to the land down under makes sense. The pay-as-you-go-service called RoofJuice will open the market up to folks who otherwise couldn't afford to pay the hefty upfront costs. And considering founder Danny Kennedy is from Australia, you had to figure the country would eventually have a Sungevity presence.

The average residential system in Australia is 5 kilowatts and costs about $12,000, according to Sungevity. Under terms of the joint venture, homeowners will be able to buy solar-generated electricity at no upfront cost. The RoofJuice option will be available starting in late May.

Just five years ago, Sungevity was a fledgling residential solar services startup aiming to sell rooftop solar panels to the average northern California homeowner. The company has grown thanks, in part, to its marketing prowess and its innovation. Sungevity created the iQuote, a Web-based system that uses satellite imagery and proprietary software to calculate the cost of installing a solar system to interested homeowners within 24 hours. And while it wasn't the first residential solar firm, the company was an early adopter of leasing as a means to make solar panels more accessible.

The company has been on a bit of an expansion tear in the past two years. Last spring, Sungevity partnered with big box retailer Lowe's, which now owns a stake in the company. A few months later, Sungevity expanded into the Northeast market and opened up in five state simultaneously, a move that nearly tripled its geographic footprint. In November, Sungevity announced its first overseas expansion into the Netherlands.

At the time, founder Danny Kennedy told me the company had plans to keep growing, although he wouldn't reveal any details.

"Where it makes sense, domestic or otherwise, we'll go there," Kennedy told me at the time. "We've now got feet on the ground, we've done it in the Northeast and now in the Netherlands, so we can repeat it. Repeat and rinse."

There is, of course, an important caveat. Sungevity and other residential and commercial solar companies like rivals SolarCity and SunRun won't set up shop just anywhere. It only makes financial sense to expand in regions where electricity rates are high and incentives exist.

Photo: Sungevity

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com