Google invests $280M in SolarCity fund

Faith Merino · June 14, 2011 · Short URL:

The fund will allow SolarCity to offer financing options for solar installations

Continuing in its recent string of clean energy investments, Google announced Tuesday that it’s investing a massive $280 million to create a fund that will allow solar energy company SolarCity to finance more solar installations. This is Google’s largest clean energy investment to date, bringing the total amount Google has invested to date to $680 million.

 In an interesting move, Google isn’t just investing in the company itself, but in a specific goal: financing solar installations. If you’ve ever considered getting solar panels installed on your roof, you’ll know that 1) it’s crazy expensive, and 2) there’s a chance that the amount you save won’t actually pay off the amount you spent on the installation.

Purchasing solar installations are less expensive today than they were a few years ago. I personally knew a couple who spent over $150,000 getting solar panels installed on their home five years ago, whereas today, the options are much more affordable. SolarCity charges $14,000 to purchase the installation up front, which, after the federal tax credit and a rebate, leaves users paying only $8,000 out of pocket. But how many middle-class families have $8,000 lying around to spend on solar panels? What about little Jimmy’s braces and little Mary’s college fund? (Those were my attempts at traditional middle-class white Anglo-Saxon names.)

So SolarCity offers a financing package that allows customers to make low monthly payments that, combined with their new electricity bill, still averages out to less than what they were paying before. For example, let’s say you live in a 2000-square foot home (because you’re middle-class, remember?) in Northern California, for which you pay a monthly electricity bill of $200. By putting $4000 down, your new monthly bill would work up to be $160 a month—and that’s the new bill plus your monthly lease payment, which calculates to a savings of $492 a year.  If you put $0 down, you would still save $12 a month, for a savings of $144 a year.

“We believe the world needs a wide range of clean energy options in the future, each serving different needs,” wrote Rick Needham, director of green business operations for Google, in a blog post. “We’ve already invested in several large-scale renewable energy projects, so we’re excited that this new partnership with SolarCity helps people power their homes directly with solar energy, too.”


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