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.


kenny from cali

Citizenre will make it, when we dont know, Im not worried about when, I know its soon, when they do come out , its going to be a tidal wave of success,so…… have two choices, you can jump on board and get a piece of the action, or you can sit on your butt and watch it happen in front of you…. power to the people..

g. robbins

SEPTEMBER 2007 has come and gone and still w/o a press release of where and more importantly WHEN Citizenre will start installations. Whereas I am still confident that this business model will work, I am not as confident that the start to finish will end up with the current leadership at hand.

If the money was solidily in place the press release would have happened by now. Whereas there might be over 25k registrations up to this point, the amount in initial markets that Citizrenre plan to first open in is much much less. This could hold back the co’s upfront financing.

Being near the first of December and still w/o an announcement, places like Florida which aren’t on the initial list would be looking at 2009 at the earliest for installations. Some eco’s have gone out of pocket with hefty expenses for home shows. I believe most did so believing that they would have seen installations by now. For most of all those pre-signups aren’t going to be worth nearly as much several years after initial sign-ups (as well with all the changes in the contract).

Over 10 Months ago we sent an email as an electrical company interested in a franchise for Central Florida, we have never heard back. In order to sell franchises in Florida and most other states, the franchisor must have on file a prospectus, can’t find evidence of a prospectus in any state we checked. To do solar installations in most states the installation company must be a licensed electrical company, also a problem, because most electrical companies are limited in size in smaller areas covered. In the state of Florida, Citizenre independant ecoproneur is against state statute, here is the reason why; the statute states that anyone who offers electrical services must be an employee of that licensed company. the statute states “anyone who services, installs, sells, etc. That one little word “sell” would violate state law. Could that be one of the reasons Citizenre did not post Florida as one of the first areas?

This marketing plan will eventually come about and succeed, when is the biggest question. Citizrenre should have regionalized its initial marketing plan, and grown by success instead of the opposite with all of the logistical headaches.

Until Citizrenre lives up to its agreement to its eco’s to release the 10% once the 10,000 number was acheived (there wasn’t any mentioned of having to have a corp.staff,etc.) Citizenre will have creditability problems.

Craig Rubens

Are any readers out among the 25,600+ on the Citizenre waiting list? Let us know!

Bonnie Yelverton

Citizenre should be praised for including the manufacture of panels in its concept. With over 25,600 people on its waiting list, that’s a lot of panels they need. By manufacturing them themselves, they are leaving all the other panels available to those who are working out better installation systems.

There are plenty of roofs out there, and a need for all the solar panels we can get. I am looking forward to seeing the first panels roll off the production line and onto the first roofs in a year!


To me Citizenre is an example of great intentions and flawed execution. They have been pushing back their manufacturing start date for a long time- it was supposed to happen in September 07.

However, to witness the level of passion in the space, check out all 374 comments on this 02/07 post on the company:

Seems like Citizenre is trying to do too much. SolarCity and plenty of others are doing great work lowering the costs of solar installation. Trying to fab the PV is just holding Citizenre back.

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