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SunPower Now Offers Solar For Multi-Family Properties, & The Tenants Benefit

Many people who rent their homes cannot get solar energy because they don’t own the house. The person who owns the house needs to agree to have solar panels installed, and not all owners are willing to do that. Even when they do, who wants to take out a loan or spend tens of thousands of dollars on somebody else’s house? And that’s assuming lenders would even let you borrow for that.

From the property owner’s side, traditional solar leaves them in a bad spot, too. They don’t want to spend money on a solar system when the benefits would primarily go to whoever’s renting the home. Even worse, when there’s a vacancy, any payments on the system would still be due just like a mortgage.

It’s been like this for a long time, but SunPower wasn’t happy with this situation and decided to do something about it. In a recent press release, the company announced three new customers took advantage of the company’s multifamily solar business, which they say makes it easier for property owners to install while still passing savings to tenants.

The Program In General

“Families renting in apartments or other multiunit complexes can benefit tremendously from lower electricity bills, especially as utility rates continue to rise,” said Matt Brost, Vice President of New Homes Sales at SunPower. “By pioneering a business model that helps multifamily developers adopt solar, we are enabling builders and renters to save with stabilized, affordable energy while also making a positive impact on the environment.”

While the press release described this in vague terms, I was still curious how the actual nuts and bolts of the program work. The company says it is utilizing new financing tools and specialized billing software, enabling building owners to be able to sell electricity generated by the panels back to tenants for cheaper than local utility rates, plus receive payments directly. This additional income from the sale of power also somehow offsets the investment in a shorter period of time.

That all sounds fantastic, but the press release was light on details, so I looked into it a bit further…and couldn’t find much more. It appears that the details probably depend heavily on what the needs of the property owner and tenants are, and what the investors and developers are comfortable with. Either way, I reached out to SunPower and hope to hear more back either to add a note to this article or write a new one.

Properties SunPower Has Done This For

The press release did list a few properties SunPower has worked with to provide solar power for renters.

By spring 2023, The Grupe Company will be completing the installation of solar panels on Brix 325 Apartments in Santa Rosa, California. Thanks to SunPower’s specialized services and products for multifamily development projects, tenants can look forward to saving an estimated 10% or more than they would have paid by sourcing power directly from their local utility companies. Plus, solar credits and electricity costs are now included and can be paid along with rent.

“Solar provides a hedge against rising electricity costs. By incorporating solar into our homes since 2005, our residents can avoid rising utility rates while doing the right thing for the environment,” said Mark Fischer, The Grupe Company President. “We look forward to continuing our relationship with SunPower to help more homeowners and tenants take advantage of affordable, clean energy.”

SunPower is also in the process of designing two apartment buildings located in San Diego, built by HomeFed Corporation. Upon completion, Artisan at The Village of Escaya and Luminary at Cota Vera are anticipated to yield 1.5 million kilowatts (kWh) annually — enough renewable energy to equate nearly 1000 metric tons of carbon with over 2,300 solar panels. This impressive feat is predicted by SunPower to bring a total net operating income bump worth $16 million and add more than $9 million property value for the lifetime duration both systems are running.

After recently signing an agreement with Metonic, Millennium Apartments in Palm Desert, California has become a reality. This low-rise community includes nearly 2200 solar panels, 18 solar carports, and numerous EV charging stations — all of which could potentially provide an additional source of income for the developer. With 330 units, they’ll help satisfy the demand for housing in the Coachella Valley.

“Being able to bring solar sustainability and luxury design to a growing Palm Desert sub-market is very exciting for our company and stakeholders, allowing us to better support the mixed-income community in this area,” said Kassie Inness, President of Metonic Real Estate Solutions. “Working hand-in-hand with SunPower to create a flexible financing solution, we turned standard energy efficiency upgrades into attractive, revenue-generating assets that make economic sense for our residents and investors.”

Why This Matters

For the last year of reliable estimates, Pew Research estimates that about 36% of US families are headed by somebody who rents. While there are certainly plenty of roofs over families who own that don’t yet have solar, there’s a vast number of houses and multi-family dwellings that we’d miss out on if the solar industry didn’t try to go for that market. Plus, just from a financial and economic perspective, there’s a lot of money to be made doing those installs, selling energy, and providing renewable EV charging (for a fee, of course).

Beyond that, there are social justice issues at stake as well. Pew data (click the link above for the full details) shows that minorities and younger people tend to rent a lot more often. If people already in a better position are the only ones who get access to the benefits of solar, it’s just that much harder to climb the economic ladder. We have to remember that “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” originally referred to an impossible feat that a hero might perform, sometimes pulling themselves up and over a fence or other obstacle, so the phrase referred to things considered impossible. The idea that people should seriously do this (economically speaking) only emerged later. Whether a way of saying something’s impossible or referring to something someone could really do, it certainly doesn’t help if the fence is a little taller.

Featured image provided by SunPower.

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Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.


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