Thinking of Going Solar? Consider Renting

CitizenreAs the price of solar comes down, adding PV power to properties is no longer the sole pursuit of corporate giants like Google and Wal-Mart, but has gone residential as well. And as cities such as Berkeley, Calif., look to help homeowners finance the addition of solar to their homes, startup Citizenr? is planning to rent it out.

Citizenr? plans to design custom solar systems for the homeowner and then rent them the equipment. The company, which we first noticed through a post via Jeff Nolan, says that by controlling everything from “silicon to service,” they will be able to remove redundancies and push down the bottom line, thereby making solar available to every homeowner — regardless of income. Although given the rapid growth of large solar manufacturing companies driving down the cost of production, we (and many others) can’t see how manufacturing would really be the most cost-effective model at this point.

Different companies have approached the solar service-based economic model in different ways — MMA Renewable Ventures focuses on financing while companies like SunEdison, Recurrent Energy, and Tioga Energy offer financing, design, installation and maintenance. All of these companies market to commercial, governmental and industrial bodies, and they all use power purchase agreements, whereby the customer agrees to pay a per-kilowatt hourly fee for the energy produced from the cells.

Citizenr? hopes to be vertically integrated, and is planning to start manufacturing cells next year, and start installing them on homes the year after that. The company will charge a flat rental fee for the equipment with an annual guarantee of power production. If the panels’ energy production fall below expectations, Citizenr? will refund the difference, while any “extra” energy is the consumer’s to sell back to the grid. While the company’s online registration process says they hope to to start installing system by early 2008, Erika Morgan, Citizenr?’s VP of communications, tells Earth2Tech that they will be announcing their manufacturing facilities at the end of this year, with production starting nine to 12 months after that.

Still, Citizenr? is quite confident in their position in the market. They claim they will be the largest owner/operator of PV assets in the world. They say they plan to install 250 MW in residential PV systems and another 125 MW commercially on an annual basis. Citizenr? says they have signed up over 25,000 customers, all of whom are now on the waiting list.

Founded in 2006, Wilmington. Del.-based Citizenr? also tells us they are “very close” to closing a first round of equity financing from angel investors, though they declined to tell us the amount.

An ambitious startup, Morgan says that Citizenr?’s use of scale and vertical control will connect of huge demand with a huge, and cheap, supply. Check out actor, environmentalist and Citizenr? media spokesperson, Ed Begley Jr.

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