Clean Power SolarCity Hickam Photo

Published on August 24th, 2012 | by Andrew


Clean Energy Stimulus? Third-Party-Owned Solar PV Has Added $1 Billion to California’s Economy

August 24th, 2012 by  

In addition to clean, renewable, domestically produced energy, third-party-owned solar PV system installations have added more than $1 billion to California’s economy since being introduced in 2007. The number, released Aug. 23 by solar power service provider Sunrun and solar energy industry market data provider PV Solar Report, provides clear evidence of the beneficial impacts government support and private sector investment and innovation for solar energy is having in terms of stimulating the economy, creating jobs, and improving the environment.

Image Source: SolarCity

Sunrun and PV Solar’s report also demonstrates just how fast the residential solar leasing concept has caught on. The number of Californians who’ve chosen to install a solar PV system from a third-party-owned solar power provider as opposed to a cash purchase so far in 2012 is thirty times the total for 2007, a 3,332% increase, according to the report producers.

The $1 billion addition to California’s economy also demonstrates the powerful, local economic and social ripple effect that locally produced and consumed clean, renewable power can have. “The $1 billion infusion from this increase went directly to California local businesses and communities while helping homeowners of all income levels switch to solar,” they state in a press release.


Making Solar Power More Affordable

The $1 billion total itself was determined by adding the contract value for each third-party-owned solar PV installation in the state, Sunrun and PV Solar Report explained.

Third-party-owned solar, also known as solar power service, involves a solar PV systems provider, such as Sunrun, which arranges for the installation and maintenance of a home solar PV system while retaining ownership and insuring it. The home or property owner benefits from significantly lower upfront costs, at times with an initial payment of $0. The homeowner and solar power service provider then share the savings resulting from lower electricity bills, as well as state and federal incentive programs.

In addition, the solar power service concept also greatly simplifies the process of having a residential solar PV system installed. The solar power service provider not only arranges for qualified local solar PV systems installers to site, design, equip, and install the system; it also typically handles all the bureaucratic paperwork, which includes obtaining permits and qualifying for available federal and state tax and solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) and other incentives.

Solar leases, or third-party solar power service contracts, are credited with making solar PV affordable for a much wider range of Americans. “About 75 percent of Californians switching to solar now choose solar power service,” stated Sunrun president and co-founder Lynn Jurich. “Most of these families wouldn’t go solar if they didn’t have this option as a smart financial choice. We’ve eliminated the upfront cost and hassle.”

Demographically, according to the California Solar Initiative (CSI), the fastest-growing segment of the California population installing residential solar PV systems has been the 50k-75k household income range, Sunrun points out. “The number of projects in middle-income markets (i.e. areas with median incomes between $50,000 and $100,000) has increased 445 percent since 2007.”

“Because third-party-owned solar companies like Sunrun lower the barrier to entry, more people can access solar,” commented PV Solar Report founder and managing director Stephen Torres. “That’s more Americans who save money on their electric bills while helping create local jobs, and more money flowing to state and local economies.”

An executive brief of Sunrun-PV Solar Report’s study is available for free via the PV Solarbuzz website. 
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About the Author

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

  • Pingback: Energy democracy: Three ways to bring solar to the masses | Grist()

  • solarious

    Kind of confusing that there’s a SolarCity picture for this article if you’re referencing SunRun. At least give credit for the photo! 🙂

    • Very unusual that we don’t give proper credit for a photo — just updated this one! Thanks for the note.

  • Wiserinvestor

    Third party owned solar systems or solar leases have also ripped off the American taxpayer by over-inflating the pricing on their systems way above fair market value so that the leasing company investors can claim a higher amount on the 30% federal tax credit. This places more of a burden on the average taxpayer because these wealthy investors wind up not paying their fair share. The treasury department should investigate this highly questionable practice.

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