As solar prices get competitive with coal and gas, we can expect to see solar panels on an increasing number of rooftops. Upfront cost, however, remains a significant economic (an/or psychological) barrier for many of us who are used to paying for our energy by the month.
And this barrier is at least as significant for small businesses as it is for individual homeowners.
That's why financing and leasing options are such a huge piece of the puzzle. Sungevity, a company best known for its leasing options, announced recently it was expanding into North Carolina and offering innovative financing options that should allow many homeowners to get solar for zero money down and start saving money immediately, compared to their electricity bill.
Now the company has announced that it will also be offering solar services for the commercial market in all 12 US states (plus D.C.) that it serves, focusing on "the underserved small business sector" with systems ranging from 50 – 300KW in size.
Here's how Andrew Birch, CEO of Sungevity, described the move:
“When we launched Sungevity in 2008, we built our company on the mission of SFUN – or, ‘solar for universal need,’ and we’ve spent each year since then perfecting the way we serve our residential customers through outstanding service, innovative software technology and strategic partnerships with companies and organizations they know and trust. Now, through our partnership with Sol Systems, we can offer equally powerful solutions to small businesses that form the cornerstones of the communities in which we live and work. And, we believe our expansive network of happy residential customers will allow us to quickly establish ourselves in the small commercial space.”
What's particularly exciting about solar for small business, I think, is that renewables offer considerable additional advantages for commercial operations that should make them a no-brainer, when costs are comparable.
First, as I noted in my piece on renewables as a branding tool, putting solar panels on your business rooftop can be a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition. They are essentially a billboard that pays you money.
Secondly, they are a great hedge against future energy prices fluctuations, providing the kind of stability and predictability that can be invaluable for small business planning.
And finally, they are a great way to advance a social responsibility agenda. With more and more small businesses going through B Corp certification (which gives credits on its audit for running on renewables), there are very real business incentives for cutting the chord with fossil fuels.
Sungevity certainly seems confident that they can become a major player in providing solar for small businesses, and they are also pretty certain that there's money to be made in what they describe as a $2-4 billion addressable market. I look forward to seeing more and more solar on Main Street in the next few years.