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3M, Cisco Systems, Kimberly-Clark Offer Employees Home Solar Financing


The tubes started buzzing earlier this week with news that leading corporations 3M, Cisco Systems, and Kimberly-Clark Corporation have partnered with the World Wildlife Foundation  and the National Geographic Society to offer their employees something that we're going to call "instant" solar financing on their home solar systems. The idea is to take advantage of bulk-order group purchasing power to slash costs, and to vet one standout solar company to manage the financing and pre-qualify reliable contractors to provide the installations.

Giving employees a great deal on home solar installations is just part of the perk. The other part is relieving individual solar purchasers from all the time, hassle, and guesswork involved in choosing a reliable solar financing and installation company.

The solar company selected by the partnership is  Geostellar, which has received Energy Department funding to develop a low cost, streamlined solar purchasing process that enables it to offer one of the best solar deals, if not the best, available today.

But wait, there's more -- lots more. The excitement was touched off by a story in The New York Times on October 22, but the new solar financing partnership is just one small piece of a huge bundle of solar initiatives announced by the Obama Administration back on October 18. Somehow that slipped under our radar, so before we dig deeper into the solar financing perk let's take a look at the whole package.

Solar financing and much, much (much) more

The October 18 announcement runs down a long list of executive actions recently undertaken by the Obama Administration to promote the U.S. solar industry, many through public-private partnerships and commitments.

The "executive action" track has become something of a political buzzsaw recently, but the depth of the private sector involvement demonstrates that U.S. companies are not exactly being dragged kicking and screaming into the solar marketplace (check out the growth of SolarCity, for example).

Among the private sector initiatives listed in the announcement, the Obama Administration highlighted progress in the area of solar financing. The standout examples include Goldman Sachs, which back in May committed to an additional $10 billion in financing and investments for distributed solar.

Citi also gets a mention for an innovative financing transaction that will cover more than three dozen renewable energy systems at $160 million.

The October 18 announcement also took note that 28 new partners, including private sector property owners, are joining the Administration's Better Buildings Initiative, a public-private initiative designed to spur investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy while establishing best practices models.

The executive action package also included a raft of initiatives for federal agencies that dovetail with the solar industry and other clean tech sectors.

Two of those highlights include solar jobs training for military veterans, and Agriculture Department loans and grants for rural renewable energy and energy efficiency projects through REAP, including solar financing.

Speaking of taking the guesswork out of solar financing, another highlight is the soon-to-be-announced launch of Solar Powering America, which will provide individuals and business with one-stop access to all available federal resources for promoting the solar industry.

In addition, the Administration released an updated version of its Guide to Federal Financing for Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy Deployment. That toolkit is designed to help government agencies and their private sector partners identify solar financing and other renewable energy opportunities.

GeoStellar, WWF and Solarmojo

Put the new solar financing employee perk announcement in this context, and you can see how deeply the solar industry is penetrating into the fabric of corporate America.

The new solar financing deal is actually the brainchild of WWF (World Wildlife Foundation). It comes under the organization's Solar Community Initiative, which officially launched on October 22.

According to WWF, the deal provides employees with a flat rate that is about 35 percent lower than the current national average, and about 50 percent lower than average electricity rates. The solar financing angle is based on a power purchase agreement, which means that the property owner pays nothing up front. The installation is paid off through the monthly electricity bill.

For companies seeking to attract and keep sustainability-minded employees, offering a discount on Geostellar's already competitive pricing is a significant perk that costs them virtually nothing.

If you are a business owner, you can jump in, too. Under the promotion code "solarmojo," Geostellar has stated that the deal for 3M, Cisco, and Kimberly-Clark is available to all comers nationwide until the end of this year.

Image (screenshot): Courtesy of Geostellar.

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Tina Casey headshotTina Casey

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.

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