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Sungevity, Sierra Club team up on solar

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Thinking of reducing your carbon footprint? Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, recently helped make that easier for every member and supporter of the Sierra Club.

Last May, Brune signed a deal with Sungevity, a large California-based solar company that has grown dramatically in the past few years due primarily to the rise of solar leasing, to share their commitment to creating a vibrant, clean, energy economy.

“A win for you, a win for the planet, and a win for the Sierra Club,” notes Brune in one of several web comments in which he exhorts Sierra Club members to go solar.

Solar savings
In order to protect themselves from the rising cost of electricity for the next 20 years, homeowners are encouraged by Brune to convert their home energy supply to solar.

According to Sungevity’s website, there are several benefits associated with converting a home to solar energy.

Sungevity notes that with low monthly lease payments customers do not have to put up a large sum of money up front to go solar or take out a large loan in order to add PV to their home. Sungevity also claims that each customer typically saves about 15 percent on electric bills with solar energy.

Sungevity provides monitoring and maintenance as well as a performance guarantee for each installed PV system. Sungevity insures the system as well, which means that homeowners will not have to add it to their insurance policy.

Leasing drawbacks
Among the potential drawbacks of Sungevity’s solar leasing model (Sungevity also allows customers to buy outright, although it’s lease vs. buy page seems tilted toward leasing over buying) is the fact that you won’t save as much money over the long term as compared to buying a solar system outright.

It’s also not clear how leased systems affect home resale values; that is, a solar lease could complicate things for you if you try to sell your home if the prospective buyer does not want to take over your solar lease.

Finally, critics of solar leasing sometimes paint the economic model it is based on as problematic. In the solar leasing model, among other things, venture capitalists are making money high up the money chain based on various tax write-offs and complicated financing schemes, solar value projections, etc. that could potentially backfire.

Some critics of solar leasing also charge that some solar leasing companies inflate the projected rise in basic utility rates in order to make the savings represented by leasing solar appear artificially high. Of course, there’s nothing to stop a solar company that’s selling a system outright from doing the same thing in trying to get you to buy, as opposed to lease, a solar system.

Sierra Club bonus
Overall, with the Sungevity/Sierra Club team-up there is an added bonus for homeowners who go solar before the end of October: They receive $1,000 towards installation and Sungevity will contribute $1,000 to the Sierra Club.

For example, the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club will receive about $750 from each installation in Colorado, with the rest going to the national branch. This money will be used to explore, enjoy and protect Colorado.

Director Joshua Ruschhaupt is enthusiastic about the program in the state.

“If a Sierra Club member or supporter wants to make a tangible difference, every day in their lives, to make the world a better place, installing solar panels for electricity use is one of the best ways,” notes Ruschhaupt.

In addition to having operations in Colorado, Brune, the Sierra Club and Sungevity have solar campaigns in Arizona, California, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York.

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Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune in front of his Sungevity home solar system.

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