SolarCity and Honda, sitting in a tree...
...investing in solar powerSolarCity, the largest solar installer in the U.S., has a very interesting business model. Rather than try to sell expensive solar systems, they lease them out and get repaid via monthly payments that are designed to be lower than what people paid for electricity from their utility. This means that customers can get solar systems on their roofs without spending tens of thousands of dollars upfront, and SolarCity gets to install way more solar systems than if they had to try to sell them for their full price tags. Everybody wins, including the environment, as long as SolarCity can find relatively inexpensive financing (if the customer isn't paying upfront, the installer is).
To do that, the company has entered innovative partnerships, like with Google, and now Honda.
$65m for a different kind of partnershipWhat's interesting about the 65 million dollars that the American division of Honda is investing with SolarCity is that the car-maker isn't just creating a fund that will be used to finance whatever solar systems can be found. It's also trying to market solar power to its customers and dealers:
SolarCity and American Honda Motor Co., Inc., today announced a partnership to make solar power more affordable and available to Honda and Acura customers in the U.S., providing a cleaner source of electricity at a lower cost than utility-supplied power. The partnership, which is aimed at addressing global climate change by reducing CO2 emissions from home, business, and transportation energy use, establishes an investment fund to finance $65 million in solar projects to assist Honda and Acura customers with the initial cost of solar power installation. Millions of Honda and Acura customers and hundreds of dealerships in SolarCity’s 14-state service area may be eligible for the special offer, and SolarCity and Honda expect to be able to accommodate thousands of interested homeowners in the fund.
Honda and Acura dealerships in SolarCity’s service territory may also be able to take advantage of the offer to install affordable solar power through the partnership. Additionally, Honda and SolarCity will explore opportunities to integrate solar power and electric vehicle recharging, envisioning 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. (source)
That's certainly something new, and possibly the start of something big. Large companies that want to do something green could decide to invest some of their cash in these types of solar funds rather than in T-bills or in greenwashing PR campaigns. It would most likely give them a better return on their investment, but it would also help keep the wheels of the solar industry turning smoothly. And if on top of that they want to market solar power to their customers and offer incentives, a lot of good can come of it. It's a kind of social responsibility that makes business sense -- that's the best kind.