It’s no secret Jean Quan will have some competition for her job as mayor this year, but what she may not have expected was a different kind of 10K plan to crop up in Oakland.
In an effort to bring in 10,000 new residential solar customers by the end of 2016, Oakland-based solar company Sungevity and San Francisco’s Sunrun announced a new partnership today. Working together, the two former rivals could generate up to 70 megawatts of extra electricity.
Under the terms of the deal, both companies will play to their strengths in bringing homeowners solar panels for little to no upfront costs. Sungevity, a company known for its customer service, will take the lead in recruiting the new customers while Sunrun will provide for the financing and operation of the solar panels.
While the agreement is not exclusive and both companies are free to seek out other partnerships, Sungevity and Sunrun are facing stiff competition from Elon Musk’s SolarCity. Although Sunrun help pioneer the concept of no-money-down solar ownership, SolarCity now holds a third market share of all new residential solar arrays.
“We’re confident this is the winning model,” Sunrun’s CEO Lynn Jurich told the San Francisco Chronicle. “You can’t just be good at selling direct to the consumer. You have to meet them where they want to purchase.”
For Sungevity, partnerships like this one are key to growing and developing the company. Co-founder Danny Kennedy recently spoke about SfunCube, a Sungevity-supported incubator for new solar startups that boasts a utopian vision to transform Jack London Square into the center of the solar community, according to The New York Times.
“The whole point of the SfunCube is to bring in a whole bunch of solar companies, populate the whole square with a bunch of solar professionals and turn it into, like, a solar campus,” he said. “If we succeed in our task, we’ll have thousands of solar industry workers here—they’ll want to walk to work or cycle. They’ll become the population that helps make that happen. The whole thing will be this nice, synergistic sort of lift-all-boats kind of deal.”
If recent events are any indication, Kennedy clearly has his finger on the pulse of Oakland solar.
Earlier this month, Mosaic, an Jack London Square-based financing startup, announced its plan to expand its crowd funding projects for commercial solar arrays—like the ones it completed at People’s Grocery in West Oakland and Chinatown’s Asian Resource Center—to residential projects. Mosaic will start providing 20-year loans to homeowners in California through a partnership with Real Goods Solar Inc., but hopes to expand nationally by the end of the year. After a recent report from Clean Edge Inc., an Oakland and Portland based clean-tech research firm, expansion may be all but automatic.
According to the Clean Edge’s Clean Energy Trends 2014, global solar markets saw another double digit increase in growth in 2013—15 percent to be exact. Revenues from solar modules, system components and installation grew from $79.7 billion dollars in 2012 to $91.3 billion through 2013, generating 36.5 gigawatts of additional power globally and surpassing wind power installations for the first time. With solid growth numbers like that, the finance world is starting to take notice.
Last week, Goldman Sachs released its own report lauding solar as the future of energy. Citing marked decreases in the cost of solar panels, the continued rise in the cost of traditional electricity and the development of better, cheaper lithium ion batteries at Tesla’s Gigafactory, the investment firm said that by 2033 the cost of solar power could pull even with traditional grid systems across the nation. That year could come even sooner in states like California, New York and Hawaii where electricity is more expensive.
But Goldman didn’t stop there. The firm went on to indicate that the cheaper cost of solar and changing social mores has the potential to put traditional energy companies out of business.
“Ultimately the holy grail of solar is to move to a situation where the customer is no longer tied to the grid at all,” the report said. “This may be far off, aside from entailing a much more expensive solar/battery system, this is also potentially out of people’s comfort zone entailing a 100 percent reliance on a new system for their electricity needs. That said, decreased reliability from an aging distribution infrastructure, a broadening desire to reduce the carbon footprint, and perhaps most importantly, the reduction of solar panel and battery costs could also work together to make grid independence a reality for many customers one day.”
Photo credit: SfunCube