2011-06-24

Co.Exist

GE Invests In Rooftop Solar, Competing With Google's Recent Solar Play

One of the 10 commercial partnerships with home energy technology companies GE announced this week was SunRun, a home solar company. Now both companies are in the business of getting panels on people's roofs.

Earlier this month, Google announced that it is creating a $280 million fund to finance SolarCity's residential solar projects. And this week, GE announced a plan to invest in $63 million in developing commercial partnerships with 10 home energy technology companies as part of the $200 million Ecomagination Challenge. Among the companies is SolarCity competitor SunRun—the only home solar company on the list, which also includes building efficiency and design company Project Frog and wireless charging tech company WiTricity. GE is co-investing in SunRun with Foundation Capital.

Solar leasing is possibly the most effective business model for
homeowners interested in rooftop solar systems: They can eschew a hefty
upfront cost for a monthly fee that takes care of installation and
maintenance and quickly start saving money on monthly electricity costs,
too. So it's no surprise that clean energy-minded heavyweights like
Google and GE have taken interest.

GE's investment in SunRun is small compared to Google's SolarCity fund. And the circumstances are different: While Google is financing SolarCity's actual solar projects, GE is developing a commercial partnership. But now that SunRun has GE's attention, the company is primed for other, bigger investments (SunRun has already raised financing for over $600 million in solar systems and $85 million in venture capital).

"GE has a track record of working with strong and enduring companies, and we are honored to be among them," said SunRun CEO and Cofounder Edward Fenster in a statement. "We invented a way for homeowners to get clean power without having to pay big upfront costs, and this recognition acknowledges our leadership in solar finance, service, and customer care."

GE has now invested a total of $134 million in its ongoing Ecomagination Challenge, which gives winning companies and ideas the opportunity to get cash, product development help, and investments from GE and its partners.

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.

[Image: Flickr user Astig!!]

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