Home Solar, Minus the Cost, Effort, Worry

July 17, 2008 at 3:45 pm Leave a comment

Home Solar, Minus the Cost, Effort, Worry

It seems these days you can’t throw a rock without hitting a story relating to solar power. So why haven’t you got it for your home yet? I bet you’ve already come up with a list of three reasons, without even thinking. My guess is they fall into these areas: Cost, efficiency (or lack of it) and aesthetics. Oh and let’s throw this one in for good measure: Who lives in their home for 15-30 years these days? Not you, and what good will those panels do you on your next home?

I found a solution to all of these concerns, and more: Sun Run. What they do is unique, and does quite a thorough job in allaying people’s fears. Rather than have you buy, lease, or take out a loan for the solar system, Sun Run retains ownership of the equipment. and guarantees a certain amount of power generation. Come again?

Yes. In conversation with Nat Kreamer, COO of Sun Run, I learned about a unique “solar as a service” model that had even I, chest deep in the latest green energy innovations, am considering using their service when I buy a home. Why?

On a basic level, it costs less, up front and in the long term. You pay an agreed upon amount up front, typically less then you would on an equipment purchase. Then it gets better: All you’re paying from there is a monthly utility bill, at a rate that’s fixed for, for example, 18 years. A rate which is already lower than what the utilities in California, where SunRun is based, charge.

It gets better. Built in to your agreement is service and maintenance. No additional charge. As Kreamer said to me, your average solar consumer doesn’t know the signs of a faulty system the way that you might be with something more familiar, like your car. SunRun, being the owner of the system, has it in their interest to make sure the equipment runs at optimum. Especially with a power generation agreement, for which they will reimburse you, plus interest, if your system doesn’t meet the amount they promise.

I’m having a hard time seeing a down side to this.

Being able to choose which panels you get, (ie the green built Evergreen, or the aesthetically minimal Sharp SRS) how much you pay up front, and know how much you’ll be spending, you can then get exactly the system you want. As in enough for 100% of your energy needs. Or more. As Kreamer said, electric cars are increasingly materializing these days, and with some coming from major car makers like GM’sVolt car and Nissan planning to create a broad fleet, starting in 2010.

Imagine being able to meet all your energy needs – automotive and household, with zero nonrenewable resources used to generate it. You’d sidestep the common argument of shifting energy/pollution to power plants and, according to Kreamer, run your car for 10 cents a mile, plugging in to your system. Even at today’s gas costs, bound to keep increasing, this saves you money, today, as compared to most gas powered cars.

And for those of you wondering about what happens to excess electricity generated? It’s yours. If your utility does net metering, you can sell it back to the grid.

Squashing another big concern is the fact that Sun Run takes care of the insurance for the system, effectively eliminating risk/cost to you as a home owner. Speaking of, what about if you decide to move before your agreement is done? You can either pass on the agreement to the next owner, or buy the system outright, building in this home value increasing option into your sale.

Readers: What’s your take on this? Seen any better/different arrangements to getting renewable energy for your home? Have any suggestions other than/in addition to solar for economically meeting your energy needs, locally and sustainably?

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.

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