SolarCity inks deal to sell solar panels at Best Buy

Now consumers looking for a big screen TV or refrigerator can shop for solar panels too.

Consumers who pop into big box retailer Best Buy to browse for a new laptop, big screen TV or refrigerator can now shop for solar panels too. 

Best Buy and SolarCity announced a partnership Wednesday that will allow the San Mateo, Calif. solar company to set up shop in 60 Best Buy stores in Arizona, California, Hawaii, New York and Oregon. The agreement follows a pilot the two companies carried out last year at Best Buy stores in California and New York. To kick off the new offering, SolarCity will give every customer a $100 Best Buy gift card if they sign up for solar service through the store before Earth Day, which is April 22.

Generally, SolarCity, whose chairman is Tesla CEO Elon Musk, attracts potential customers through referrals. But the company has partnered with Home Depot and Honda in an effort to reach consumers who might be wary or intimidated by installing solar panels on their home. 

And wary, they are. A survey of U.S. homeowners released earlier this week by SolarCity found that perceptions about price is one of the biggest obstacles to solar energy adoption. According to the survey, only 45 percent of homeowners think solar power is more affordable today than it was three years ago, even though in the past several years prices for panels have dropped by more than half. 

SolarCity has experimented with sales strategies to reach more consumers. SolarCity has helped popularize solar leasing, a program in which the company provides the system for free in exchange for a long-term contract, or power purchase agreement. Under the contract, the customer pays a fixed fee for electricity generated that is less than electricity from the traditional power grid. 

The company revolutionized the financing of solar projects when it started to sell millions of dollars worth of bonds backed by leases for solar arrays installed on residential rooftops to institutional investors like pension and hedge funds. And earlier this year, SolarCity opened up solar securitization to the general public. 

SolarCity's partnership with Home Depot, and now, Best Buy, is another way to increase its visibility. It's a strategy that other solar companies have also tried. Three years ago, Sungevity partnered with big box retailer Lowe's in a bid to bring solar panels to the masses. 


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