San Francisco is moving to make renewable energy more affordable to small businesses, launching a group-rate purchase program that the city hopes will allow businesses and commercial property owners to actually pay less for electricity by going solar.
Solar@Work was developed by San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, which determined that high initial costs and a lack of affordable financing were the main obstacles preventing small businesses from purchasing solar power. Solar@Work takes an aggregating approach, combining several businesses into one buying group, who also jointly lease the solar equipment. This allows the businesses to purchase power at a big discount. And as more companies sign on, the price continues to drop, the city said.
SolarCity was chosen as the program vendor, and will provide more than 2 megawatts (MW) of power-generating capacity to participating businesses in the next six months, the city said. Other collaborators on the program include the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the solar consultancy Optony, The city said an unspecified amount of funding for the program came from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar America Cities program, as well the DOE’s SunShot Initiative.
San Francisco’s goal is to use renewable energy to provide all of the city’s electricity needs. Therefore, said Melanie Nutter, director of the city’s Department of the Environment, “we need to do everything we can to make sure our local and regional building owners have the ability to install renewables with minimal up-front investments.”