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Change Generation

If You Can't Install Solar Panels, This Startup Helps You Access Them Remotely

If you rent, move a lot, or live in a state where solar isn't easy, Arcadia Power can still get you the benefits.

If You Can't Install Solar Panels, This Startup Helps You Access Them Remotely

[Photo: Flickr user Mark Hillary]

If you live in Alaska, it's now possible to buy solar power from California or Washington D.C. In what it bills as a nationwide community solar program, a startup called Arcadia Power is selling remote "solar subscriptions" to anyone who can't easily install solar panels directly—and then giving customers a credit on their utility bill.

"We're connecting any customer that pays a power bill to a project that we build and manage," says Kiran Bhatraju, founder and CEO of Arcadia Power. "It's modular—it can be as little as one panel, or they can buy enough panels to offset their entire power bill."

Some customers might live in apartments, where installing solar panels isn't an option. Others might have shady roofs, or might live in a place where policies don't support solar, such as Florida (ironically, the Sunshine State doesn't currently allow third-party leasing of solar panels, and a proposed change in the law would charge solar consumers extra).

"The way we look at it, at max, only about 25% of Americans can ever do rooftop solar," says Bhatraju. "Right now you have around 1 million rooftop solar installations, but 150 million people pay a power bill."

Through the new program, anyone who can't have solar panels on their home can subscribe to Arcadia's panels somewhere else. Arcadia's software will calculate exactly how much power your remote panels are generating—something you can watch through a dashboard online—and give a corresponding credit through your utility.

"We wanted to package it in a way close to how people do rooftop solar," he says. "So imagine if you're doing a cash purchase of a rooftop solar project, you expect long-term savings. And we wanted to do the same thing with this."

The program also makes solar power portable, for those who may not live in a house long enough to commit to a long solar lease or buy panels directly. "You could live in Florida and purchase a panel, move to California, and those savings could move with you because you're still part of our network," he says.

The company's first solar projects, totaling around 250 kilowatts of energy, are in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., all places selected because they had the best combination of incentives and sun. They plan to quickly expand, with two megawatts of additional projects in development.

"We think this market is massive, and we've already got a large waiting list to get in," says Bhatraju. "So we're hoping to really to scale it up."

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