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Google Invests $280 Million in Partnership with SolarCity

When Google throws its considerable influence into a new arena, people tend to notice. When that influence comes with $280 million, well, people may start to act.

That’s what the iconic Internet giant hopes is the result of its new partnership with SolarCity. Google has now entered the residential solar industry with its largest investment into the renewable energy industry. And they did so by partnering with another Silicon Valley company that is changing the way we do business.

San Mateo-based SolarCity offers its customers the opportunity to purchase full residential solar rooftop installations. It’s the company’s other model, however, that led to the partnership with Google. SolarCity offers different leasing and power purchase options for customers who don’t want to take the financial plunge of buying the installation upfront. Instead, SolarCity owns the equipment, and the homeowner trades in a higher monthly energy bill for a lower bill and solar lease payments.

Benjamin Cook, vice president of project finance at SolarCity, said the deal will allow his company to “provide financing to thousands of homeowners at or below the cost they currently pay for electricity.”

The funding will open opportunities for homeowners in the 10 areas its serves -- Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

“Google is setting an example that other leading American companies can follow,” said Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity. “The largest 200 corporations in the U.S. have more than $1 trillion in cash on their balance sheets. Investments in solar energy generate returns for corporate investors, offer cost savings for homeowners, create new, local jobs for jobseekers, and protect the environment from polluting power sources. If more companies follow Google’s lead, we can dramatically reduce our nation’s dependence on polluting power.”

SolarCity has teamed with seven partners to finance $1.28 billion in solar projects. The Google deal represents the company’s largest partnership.

Google has now invested more than $680 million in a wide range of clean energy technologies. This marks Google’s first investment in residential solar.

“We believe the world needs a wide range of clean energy options in the future, each serving different needs,” wrote Rick Needham, Google’s Director of Green Business Operations, on the company’s blog. “We’ve already invested in several large-scale renewable energy projects, so we’re excited that this new partnership with SolarCity helps people power their homes directly with solar energy, too. We think ‘distributed’ renewable energy (generated and used right at home) is a smart way to use solar photovoltaic (PV) technology to improve our power system since it helps avoid or alleviate distribution constraints on the traditional electricity grid.”

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