Today brought huge (and hugely encouraging) news to further boost what’s already been a banner year for residential solar:


Google has invested a whopping $280 million in San Mateo-based SolarCity, a company that may sound like a strip mall tanning salon but in reality is “the nation’s leading solar power and energy efficiency service provider." The investment, the largest residential solar fund created in the U.S., will enable SolarCity to continue to offer attractive, innovative financing alternatives to homeowners who are interested in solar but are put off by the daunting up-front installation costs.


The Google-backed fund will extend SolarCity’s solar lease (SolarLease) and power purchase agreement (SolarPPA) options to SolarCity customers (the company operates in Arizona, California, Colorado, Texas, Washington, D.C. and, most recently, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) “who desire to have solar panels installed on their homes, but do not wish to make the larger upfront investment to purchase the systems.”


Rick Needham, Google’s Director of Green Business Operations elaborates that with “SolarCity's innovative financing model, the company covers installation and maintenance of the system over the life of the lease. You can prepay, or pay nothing upfront after which you make monthly solar lease payments."


An elated Benjamin Cook, VP of project finance at SolarCity, proclaims in an official release:
As American consumers better understand the consequences of their energy choices, demand for affordable clean power is increasing. This collaboration with Google will enable us to provide solar power to thousands of homeowners at or below the cost they currently pay for electricity.
Lovely. Although this is Google’s first investment in residential solar, the $280 million backing of SolarCity brings the company’s clean energy investment grand total to a staggering $680 million. There are currently 15,000 SolarCity projects completed or underway and the young company — founded just five years ago by Lyndon Rive, a South Africa native, underwater hockey enthusiast, and cousin of Mr. Electric Car himself, Elon Musk of Telsa Motors (Musk is also chairman of SolarCity) — has already racked up numerous accolades and awards including being named 2010 Green Power Supplier of the Year by the Department of Energy.  
Get more on the nitty gritty of this historic partnership over at the official Google blog or at SolarCity. Or just check out the above announcement video —complete with creepy robo-narration — for the details of the Google/SolarCity investment in an easy-to-digest nutshell. 

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Google's bright $280M investment
Continuing its renewable energy project-backing streak, Google invests $280M in solar provider SolarCity so that the company can continue to offer innovative le