If you’ve been keeping tabs on residential solar over the past couple years, you’re probably aware that photovoltaic powerhouse SolarCity enjoyed banner years in both 2011 and 2012 thanks to a few big-deal partnerships and investments: A $280 million investment from Google; a $1 billion partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense; a home energy loan partnership with Boston-based Admirals Bank; a partnership with Shea Homes to help introduce the snowbird set to net-zero energy housing; and the list goes on and on. And after going public at the end of 2012, the San Mateo-based company, now the largest solar installer in the United States, has now decided to make their residential contracts publicly available.

Considering that South Africa-born serial entrepreneur Elon Musk of Tesla Motors is chair of SolarCity (SolarCity co-founder Lyndon Rive is his cousin) it’s not entirely surprising that the company has just announced a $65 million foray into the automotive world: A joint venture with the U.S. division of Honda to bring discounted solar leasing to the automaker’s customers in the 14-state territory in which SolarCity operates: Washington, California, Oregon, Arizona, Massachusetts, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Hawaii, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, and Pennsylvania (plus, Washington, D.C.).

The potentially game-changing program, which also extends to dealerships, will provide Honda and Acura costumers both new and existing (and even former) with a significant helping hand in the often steep initial costs associated with solar installation: little or no upfront costs with a $400 discount on top of SolarCity’s existing installation and montly lease contracts.

The nuts and bolts explained in a joint release issued by the two companies:

Honda, recognized for its leadership in producing fuel-efficient, low-emission vehicles, and SolarCity, America’s leading full-service solar power provider, have established the $65 million investment fund to remove a pervasive obstacle to the broader adoption of solar power: the high initial investment associated with installing solar power. Through the partnership, the first for any automaker, Honda and Acura customers and dealerships will be able to install solar power with little or no upfront cost, depending on the customer’s choice of plans. Customers will be given a choice to pre-pay for their solar electricity or pay a monthly payment that will be lower than the cost of their current utility bill, with insurance, repairs and monitoring service included.
Says Steven Center, VP of the Environmental Business Development Office of American Honda Motor Co., Inc:
At Honda, we are always looking at ways to improve the lives of our customers while reducing our environmental footprint. We believe Honda and Acura customers are going to be very interested in going solar once they find out that they can install solar at their home with little or no upfront cost, can lower their monthly utility bill, and can make a positive contribution to protecting the environment.
As reported by the New York Times, the folks at Honda believe that the investment fund can help to finance as many as 3,000 residential installations and installations at approximately 20 dealerships. And although the offer is limited, Honda will consider expanding the program if it proves to be successful. Additionally, the two companies are exploring the possibility for future projects that integrate solar power and EV recharging — “a future in which Fit EV and Accord Plug-In Hybrid owners will be able to charge their cars from the power of the sun, thereby reducing household CO2 emissions to nearly zero."

Dedicated Honda and Acura customers: think you’ll invest in discounted solar the next time that you’re on the market for a new ride? Or are you just going to opt for the pinstriping and leather seats?

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

No pressure at all: Buy a Honda, get discounted residential solar
Honda, in partnership with Solar City, has thrown the very tempting incentive of discounted home solar installations into the car buying process.