Monday, October 3, 2011

Google making home solar panel installations less costly


Google, the giant Internet search firm, last week announced a second investment effort to help homeowners afford the cost of installing solar energy systems.

The California company says it is investing $75 million into Clean Power Finance, an online service that connects solar panel installers with investors.

GreenBeat reports :
Clean Power Finance connects solar panel providers and installers with investors looking to drop money into residential solar providers. Those investors provide financing to home owners, who are then able to purchase or lease out solar panels at a more reasonable cost. There are some major companies that provide financing options, but Clean Power Finance could be more attractive for smaller installers that don’t have a large market share and can’t price their systems as competitively as companies like SolarCity and SunRun.
It’s a web-based interface that streamlines the connection process between installers and investors. The installer builds the photovoltaic panel system, the investor owns that system, and homeowners make monthly payments to the investor until they completely own it.

Back in June, GreenBeat reported that Google had invested $280 million in SolarCity, a company that leases out solar panels to home owners. 
Google said the investment was a move to increase the amount of “distributed solar power.” That means the power from solar panels is generated on the roofs of homes and is used by those homes instead of having to travel through a power grid. That can help reduce some of the strain on power grids during peak usage hours when homes are drawing more electricity for air conditioning or, in the future, electric car charging.

SolarCity is currently the number two provider of residential solar panels behind SunRun. SolarCity has a market share of around 14 percent of the leasable solar panel market, while SunRun has a market share of around 28 percent. That means 28 out of every 100 people buying solar panels for their homes went with SunRun.
Google also is pumping millions into large-scale solar farms, offshore wind turbines and, geothermal technology. It's also setting the pace for other industries in reducing its carbon footprint.

On September 8, Renewable Energy World reported that Google has "added a site that tallies the company’s electricity use, including the amount of renewable electricity it’s using, along with its carbon footprint."
The data provide a good picture of the company’s energy consumption and reflect the company’s long-touted goal of minimizing its environmental impact. By revealing those numbers, Google also could put pressures on other large companies to embrace cleaner energy or do so more aggressively.
Through the new website, Google revealed that it used 2.26 million megawatt-hours of electricity and generated 1.46 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010.

But the company said it was able to offset the emissions completely by a combination of using renewable electricity and buying carbon credits. Google has signed power purchase agreements for wind energy to power its data centers; it also uses renewable energy provided by utilities. It generates its own solar power from an array at its Silicon Valley campus in Mountain View, for example. By creating Google Energy, it received federal approval to buy and sell wholesale power.

Collectively, 25 percent of the Google’s electricity came from renewable sources in 2010, the company said. The goal is to reach 30 percent by the end of this year and more than 35 percent in 2012.
Few companies are as large, profitable or altruistically inclined as Google. But that doesn't mean that we all can't do more to limit our carbon impact and make better use of alternative energy.  How is your company, large or small, doing its part? Let your fellow EP  readers know in the comment box below.  If one is not visible, activate it by clicking on the tiny 'comments' line.      

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