SunRun Offers a New Deal for Solar

By Marc Gunther on September 17, 2009

Until recently, you had to be deep green -- and have deep pockets -- to put solar photovoltaic panels on the roof of your home. The costs were high, $20,000 to $50,000 or more. The technology was baffling. The return on that big upfront investment was uncertain.

A California company called SunRun is changing that. A well-funded renewable energy startup – yes, even in these tough times, this small company has raised capital -- SunRun offers homeowners a simpler, cheaper and less risky way to go solar.

It's doing so by adopting a business model that has been proven in the corporate arena. When you see solar panels on the roof of a Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Safeway or Kohl's, chances are that they don't belong to the retailer. Instead, those companies have signed what's called a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with a solar provider. The provider (Sun Edison, near me in Maryland, is a big one) buys and installs the panels, owns and maintains them and sells the electricity at a fixed long-term rate to the customer. The retailers, in other works, benefit from solar power without paying a lot upfront or worrying about maintenance.

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