Another Way to Skin the Solar Cat

With Republicans on the march against solar power in Maine, Arizona  and on Wall Street it would be easy to get depressed.

But it would be better to get creative.

FLS Energy of Asheville, North Carolina is creative. They’re an installer of solar systems, and while they do some work on solar photovoltaic (PV) they may be better known for their solar hot water systems.

FLS is gaining market traction with its solar hot water lease. Solar leasing isn’t new, and solar hot water isn’t new. Commercial solar contracts aren’t new either. FLS just combines them all.

The problem is that commercial solar water systems can cost anywhere from $100,000 to $10 million. Even if they produce a lot of water, that’s a big chunk of change. So FLS does just what residential PV outfits like SunRun do. They write a lease for the water.

FLS signs 10 year contracts for the water, with customers like Guilford College in Greensboro, NC, which it can heat for less than an electric utility could. (To the left is the college’s installation on a dorm, from the Guilford College website.)

Then FLS gets subsidies from those local utilities, who use FLS to meet their own green power commitments to state government. The only state commitment required is that the local utilities get a certain percentage of their load from renewable sources.

In the case of North Carolina, where FLS is based, this is done in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates.

Getting deals done, and getting systems installed, is the name of the game. The big innovations of 2011 are not all technical. Many are financial.



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Dana Blankenhorn has covered business and technology since 1978. He covered the Houston oil boom of the 1970s, began making his living online in 1985, and launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of e-commerce, in 1994. He has written for a host of off-line and online publications including The Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and ZDNet. He has covered PCs, networks, telecommunications, cable technology, Internet commerce, the Internet of Things, Open Source and Health IT, He began covering alternative energy at his personal blog,, in 2007.

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