Leasing Solar Panels

A group of major corporates is now offering a rather unique employee benefit as practical way to retain employees. The Solar Community Initiative offers corporate employees the potential for huge savings on their electric utility bills, by bringing down prices of home solar systems.

On October 22nd, Cisco Systems, 3M, National Geographic and Kimberly-Clark announced their participation, which will offer their employees solar power at a flat rate. With the current offer, the average base home solar system would cost just $3/watt – that’s about a third cheaper than the national average rate and roughly half the rate of the average electric utility bill.

The Solar Community Initiative is the first bulk solar purchase program of its type on a national level. Offered by online solar systems marketer Geostellar, and facilitated by the WWF, the initiative is a huge step towards making clean and renewable solar energy affordable enough for the common man.

Benefits of the Solar Community Initiative

Even families, friends and entire communities in parts of the US and Canada of these employees can have solar panel installations. The initiative offers complete systems without any down payments, and qualifying individuals can enjoy an average of over 30% savings on utility bills, even if they finance the entire system. This offer will be available to over 100,000 employees to start with and if even 1% opt for solar power, it could reduce annual carbon emissions by as much as 74,500 metric tons.

According to Keya Chatterjee, Senior Director of renewable energy for WWF, the objective of the Solar Community Initiative is to make solar energy as simple and cheap as possible for the average homeowner. It utilizes the bulk purchasing power of the huge employee base of large companies and their communities, to enable massive discounts for individuals looking to buy or lease solar systems. Even SolarCity recently announced they were renewing their deal with Honda to provide discounts for the automobile giant’s customers.

The Solar Community Initiative is a win-win for everyone. Other than the obvious benefits for the environment and employees, even manufacturers and leasing companies benefit from the initiative. It provides a great platform for attracting new customers, without the massive advertising and marketing costs that still plague the industry. “Now that it’s becoming a more mainstream and cost-competitive approach, it makes sense for environmental organizations to build alliances with the business community to get this technology to market”, says Dan Reicher, executive director of Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University.

Responses to the Initiative Look Promising

At 3M, employees were clearly very interested in the initiative and according to Gayle Schueller, Vice President for Global Sustainability, they were lining up to learn more about leasing solar panels during lunchtime. David Levine, CEO of Geostellar, reported that three executives at Cisco Systems decided to opt for solar systems in their homes on the very first day.

Participating companies could also potentially improve employee retention by increasing job satisfaction. “Employees who are very satisfied with their benefits are more than twice as likely to report being very satisfied with their jobs. Because of this, offering a wider variety of benefits pays dividends for both employers and employees”, says Todd Katz, Executive Vice President of Group, Voluntary & Worksite Benefits, at MetLife.

While it’s just a small step right now, the Solar Community Initiative could definitely be a huge leap toward making solar power affordable for homeowners, and that’s a huge advantage for any company that joins it and their employees alike.