The financing, marketing and sales of rooftop solar panels is exploding into a big business. On the heels of Sungevity raising a whopping $125 million of equity and project financing last week, and the IPO of SolarCity last month, solar financier OneRoof Energy has announced that it’s raised $30 million in equity from Korean energy company Hanwha Group.
Launched in 2011 and based in San Diego, Calif., OneRoof Energy — one of our 13 solar startups to watch in 2013 — teams up with roofers and electricians to sell rooftop solar systems and financing products (like leases). The company says it has $100 million worth of solar agreements, projected sales of solar financing deals of $300 million, and it says within 2013 it will have helped develop solar rooftop systems for 10,000 homes.
While solar startups that are making next-generation solar panels struggled in 2012 — and will continue to in 2013 — solar startups that are selling services are on the up and up. Solar nerds call those the “downstream” solar companies.
Those companies are doing well because solar cells and panels are at one of their cheapest points in history, and in the U.S. and China solar panels are being installed on rooftops at a rapid rate. The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that there were 3.2 GW worth of solar panel capacity installed in 2012 in the U.S., up from the 1.89 GW installed in the U.S. in 2011.
The boom in the U.S. is also because of the emergence of solar financing options like the one that OneRoof Energy provides. Customers pay little or no upfront cost for the systems, and then pay off the solar system over time, anywhere between a decade to two decades. Many customers can even find agreements where they pay less on their monthly energy bill with solar. But to provide financing agreements like that OneRoof Energy needs to raise project financing from investors like banks to cover the upfront cost of the system.
Korean conglomerate Hanwha already invested in OneRoof Energy back in 2011, and has funded other solar startups like solar panel tech maker TenKsolar, silicon wafer maker 1366 Technologies and Crystal Solar in Silicon Valley. Hanwha also spent $370 million for a nearly 50 percent stake in China-based silicon solar cell and panel maker Solarfun Power in 2010 (which has since been renamed Hanwha SolarOne). Hanwha has its own solar business is called Hanwha Solar, which set up an office in the U.S. in 2011 and inaugurated a $14 million research and development center in Silicon Valley.