Google’s move into residential solar gives access to US homeowners

SolarCity is Google’s partner in the domestic rooftop solar project and the large scale and residential solar fund will now extend solar lease and power purchase agreement options to customers using Google’s capital investment. Under the lease deals with homeowners, SolarCity will cover installation and maintenance over the duration of the lease, while electricity savings flow directly to the homeowner. The $280 million investment marks Google’s biggest single investment in clean energy and their first into residential solar.

SolarCity has previously created 15 projects with seven different partners to finance $1.28 billion in solar projects. SolarCity’s Lyndon Rive said, in a statement announcing the Google investment, "If more companies follow Google’s lead, we can dramatically reduce our nation’s dependence on polluting power."

Google’s director of green business operations Rick Needham described the deal, in his company’s environmental blog, as being a "quadruple-win for Google, SolarCity, its new customers and the environment." Google’s previous renewable energy investments have included a $55 million investment in a Mojave Desert wind farm worth 102 megawatts (MW), a $5 million investment in a photovoltaic plant in Germany and $38.8 million investment in two wind farms in North Dakota. With electricity saving initiatives they contribute to Google’s stated aim of becoming carbon neutral. The decision was made in 2007.

However, this most recent partnership with SolarCity, is their first move away from large scale renewable generation and to domestic installations. In the "Google green blog" Needham explained the move, "we think distributed renewable energy (generated and used right at home) is a smart way to use solar photovoltaic technology to improve our power system since it helps avoid or alleviate distribution constraints on the traditional electricity grid."