DALLAS — How can we make solar more accessible to the public? This question has been dogging the industry since its inception. Installing solar on a home is no easy task, and though prices have reduced dramatically in recent years, it can still be very costly for most homeowners. Enter: solar leasing.
Leasing programs have allowed the industry to get more in-tune with the public. It also has garnered more recognition through creative marketing campaigns and business strategies, and companies are taking notice.
At Solar Power International, several established solar companies are introducing solar leasing programs to their business models in hopes of reaching a broader customer base.
SANYO has announced that it is partnering with Brightgrid to introduce a three-tier leasing program. Customers have the option of putting no money down, a partial payment, or paying for the system in full. Why pay in full? The program strives to take the uncertainty out of solar, and each plan includes the install costs and a 20-year maintenance and monitoring program. “We wanted to make it available for everybody, and when you don’t have to put up any upfront payment, everyone can afford it,” said Anna Lickova, Sales and Marketing Manager at SANYO. To sweeten the offer, SANYO will be including 3D television in the deal.
But this isn’t where SANYO’s vision ends. It hopes that these televisions will soon be able to display a home energy management system. With this program customers will be able to monitor their system’s efficiency, their own consumption habits, share these statistics with their neighbors and friends though social media, and play educational games about energy efficiency. “We are trying to make it a community program. People are disconnected today, and we’re just trying to reconnect them,” said Matt White of SANYO.
CentroSolar has also announced a partnership with Brightgrid to establish a CentroLease program. The program will involve a similar three-tier payment system with an operating 20-year term that includes a full warranty on all parts, theft insurance, and revenue grade monitoring. “We looked at the residential market as a key market for our products and the services that we offer. The residential marketplace is being driven by finance solutions – more and more homeowners are demanding it for purchasing their solar solutions,” said Mike Thompson, Senior Manager of Business Development at CentroSolar.
Though these companies are creating new, innovative programs, established solar leasers are introducing savvy marketing tactics and making game-changing business deals.
Sungevity has been in the game since 2007 and recently made great strides in the East Coast market. To achieve its success, Sungevity took to the streets over the summer to meet potential customers face-to-face in a popsicle truck. Outfitted with solar panels for refrigeration and a biodiesel engine, the truck traveled the coast to major cities, attracting crowds everywhere it went. Individuals received solar leasing quotes on iPads while waiting in line for a refreshing organic popsicle in the summer heat.
“We want to do this in creative, fun ways and get customers engaged in the process. The ice pops were a big catch; people loved them. It worked great and helped launch us in the Northeast, as did a brand takeover of the Acela train. It put us in front of hundreds of thousands of energy-conscious customers,” said David Kennedy, President and Founder of Sungevity. Watch the video with David Kennedy below for more details on Sungevity innovation.
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Sungevity also recently announced a partnership with Lowes that allows them to solar leasing via the popular hardware store. Sungevity currently is in Lowes stores in California and New Jersey and will be moving to new stores soon. “We are getting literally hundreds of quotes every week from that relationship just in the small subset of stores they have put us in. With over 1,500 stores, things have been going well and we hope to be with them for the long-haul,” said Kennedy.
Solar leasing is a new concept, but it is growing rapidly, said Kennedy: “We are now 50 percent of the residential market, at least. Which is a pretty amazing thing to say because four or five years ago there were no solar leases. Consumers are speaking with their feet of where they are going. When we present the ‘cash or buy’ proposition to our customers, 99 percent of the time they go with the lease. Why wouldn’t you?”