Well, well, well. It appears that super-obscure American search engine and renewable energy project backer extraordinaire Google is at it again …
As you might recall, back in June the Mountain View, Calif.-based Internet and software giant invested a whopping $280 million in SolarCity so the Bay Area solar provider could continue to offer attractive, innovative financing alternatives to homeowners who were interested in solar but put off by daunting up-front installation costs. And if SolarCity sounds familiar, that’s probably because it’s the same company behind SolarStrong, the Department of Defense’s audacious, billion-dollar mission to double the number of residential photovoltaic systems across the U.S. through military housing installations.
Now, Google has thrown more cash behind residential solar in partnership with Clean Power Finance, a residential solar financing/software startup founded by Gary Kremen, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur who founded Match.com (and the first to register the domain name, sex.com in 1994).
This time, the investment is to the tune of $75 million … not quite the record breaker like the SolarCity fund but impressive nevertheless. It's certainly a nice addition to the $680 million that Google has already invested in clean energy projects (this will be the company's second residential solar investment). Although different in nature than the SolarCity investment, the ultimate goal of the Clean Power Finance investment is pretty much the same: to make solar an affordable reality for homeowners — in this instance, 3,000 homeowners — across the U.S.
As we said when we made our first residential solar investment, we think it makes a lot of sense to use solar photovoltaic (PV) technology — rooftop solar panels — to generate electricity right where you need it at home. It greens our energy mix by using existing roof space while avoiding transmission constraints, and it can be cheaper than drawing electricity from the traditional grid. Purchasing a solar system is a major home improvement, but the upfront cost has historically been one of the biggest barriers for homeowners. Solar installers across the country don’t always have the resources to find financing for customers, or the capital to provide it themselves. And for investors like Google, banks and others, it can be difficult to enter a fragmented solar market with many companies, and get connected to individual homeowners.
That’s where Clean Power Finance comes in. They’ve developed an open platform that connects installers with investors like Google to provide financing to homeowners. Solar installers sign up with Clean Power Finance to get access to the company’s comprehensive sales solutions, including consumer financing from investors, like the Google fund. This enables installers to sell more systems and grow their business. The installer builds the system, the investor (in this case, Google) owns it, and homeowners pay a monthly payment for the system, at a price that’s often less than paying for energy from the grid. Maintenance and performance are taken care of by Clean Power Finance and its network of installers.
Fantastic. Read more about Google’s latest big green investment over at the official Google blog.