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SunRun bags money to finance residential solar

It's no longer just the greenies who invest in solar. People are attracted by stable electricity prices they get by financing solar panel installations, says SunRun.

Solar company SunRun said today it has secured enough money to finance 1,900 residential solar electric installations, helping fuel its growth.

The San Francisco-based company said that US Bancorp has made tens of millions of dollars available to SunRun, representing the fourth time it has closed a round with the bank.

A SunRun installation in Massachusetts.
A SunRun installation in Massachusetts. SunRun

SunRun is one of a few companies offering homeowners the option to get third-party financing for solar rooftop photovoltaic panels. In this model, people pay a small upfront fee and a monthly payment for the installation and ongoing service, rather than pay the anywhere between $25,000 and $40,000 to purchase panels.

In SunRun's case, its customers buy the electrical energy produced by the panels, typically for a fixed fee. SunRun owns and maintains the panels. In general, people can lower electricity bills by 10 percent or 15 percent through this power purchase agreement model, which is often used by corporations.

Solar, in general, is most cost-effective for people who pay high electricity rates and live in states with renewable energy incentives, said SunRun CEO Ed Fenster.

But the company, which has more than 6,000 customers, has found that it's no longer just hard-core environmentalists going solar, he said. Instead, people are often attracted to the idea of locking into electricity costs for the foreseeable future.

"Peace of mind is reasonably valuable to people. In addition, you save a little money each month and you can feel good because it helps the economy," he said.

SunRun, which tripled its revenue last year, offers its financing and solar monitoring service through solar installers. Consumers can check a Web site to track the production of panels and SunRun will contact them if there is a problem with the system, Fenster said.