Google recently announced its biggest renewable energy purchase to date (and that’s saying something: the company has already invested $5 million in a German solar power plant and bought enough wind energy in Texas to power 170,000 US homes.) Just after Earth Day, Google announced a partnership with solar cell manufacturer SunPower Corporation that will establish a $250 million dollar fund to buy–and then lease–thousands of solar panels to American homeowners. Google and SunPower claim the initiative will allow Americans to access solar energy at “a cost that’s typically lower than their normal electricity bill.”
To jump start this ambitious solar leasing initiative, Google has contributed $100 million in cash, while SunPower delivered the remaining $150 million. Google says it chose to partner with SunPower because “[t]hey’re known for having high-quality, high reliability panels which can generate up to 50 percent more power per unit area, with guaranteed performance and lower degradation over time.”
Solar leasing has become an increasingly popular option for those who want to take advantage of rooftop solar power but can’t (or don’t want to) make the necessary upfront investment. Leasing solar panels often means that all maintenance and repairs are left up to the company that owns the equipment. However, it’s important for customers to realize that they will most likely forfeit the federal tax credit and any cash rebate to the leasing company.
Unlike other solar leasing programs, which lock homeowners into 10 or 15 year agreements, the SunPower/Google initiative will give customers the option to buy their system after six years or at the end of the lease term. Both companies hope thousands of homeowners will be able to finance solar power systems through SunPower as a result of this program, joining the approximately 20,000 Americans already leasing from SunPower.
“We’re pleased to partner with Google to help make solar accessible to more families and allow those families to take control of their energy costs,” said SunPower CFO Chuck Boynton in a press release. “With the increased and growing interest in reliable, cost-effective solar from businesses and homeowners alike, Google’s leadership is helping take solar mainstream.”
This agreement represents Google’s 16th renewable energy investment and its third residential rooftop solar investment. Overall, the company has invested more than $1 billion in renewable energy projects on three continents and across a range of technologies. Together, these projects can generate more than two gigawatts, or enough electricity each year to power approximately 500,000 U.S. homes.