Google: Rent your solar panels from us

A $75 million investment via Clean Power Finance will help homeowners install solar panels owned by Google, getting solar-generated electricity for a monthly fee.

This home in Santa Clarita, Calif., sports a 4.14-kilowatt solar system owned by Google and put in place by American Vision Solar, an installer affiliated with Clean Power Finance.
This home in Santa Clarita, Calif., sports a 4.14-kilowatt solar system owned by Google and put in place by American Vision Solar, an installer affiliated with Clean Power Finance. American Vision Solar

Google has created a $75 million fund with Clean Power Finance, a company that offers financing for residential solar panel installations.

The investment will enable 10,000 homeowners to install solar panels on their homes.

The upfront cost is the largest obstacle to installing residential solar panels, and solar installation companies don't always have the means to offer financing. Clean Power Finance seeks to overcome that hurdle by offering installers a way to provide financing to potential customers, while also giving companies without ties to the solar community a way to invest in the industry.

Google, the investor in this case, will technically own the solar panels, while the maintenance and upkeep responsibility of the solar panels stays with the installer and Clean Power Finance. The homeowners, who are essentially giving roof space in exchange for a chance to buy solar-generated electricity, will pay a monthly fee. Google's return on investment comes via the electricity that is generated by the solar panels and sold to customers.

The big advantage of residential solar to the community at large is consumption at the source. Because much of solar electricity is consumed close to where it's generated, residential solar panels reduce the inevitable waste in electricity and money that happens when current must be transported via transmission lines from distant power plants.

"It greens our energy mix by using existing roof space while avoiding transmission constraints, and it can be cheaper than drawing electricity from the traditional grid," Rick Needham, Google's director of green business operations, pointed out in the company's green blog.

A solar proponent for quite some time, Google made headlines in 2007 when it installed 1.6 megawatts worth of solar panels at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters . Google proudly touted at the time that within four days its panels had generated enough electricity to power 251,073 hours of television viewing. Google has also been developing its own solar technology , and it's an investor in solar companies eSolar and BrightSource . Google has invested a total of $850 million in clean-energy related projects.

About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet,, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.


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