Sunrun Shows That SolarCity Is Not Alone

It doesn’t have the Elon of publicly traded SolarCity, that whiff of Musk that so excites people, but privately held Sunrun is demonstrating – and benefiting from – the broad growth of residential solar.

The San Francisco-based company said on Tuesday that it had “secured financing to support the purchase and installation of more than $630 million in home solar projects across the United States.”

sunrun solar

image via Sunrun

Sunrun says it has 35,000 customers in 11 states, with that state total up by one recently, Connecticut having been brought on board just last week.

Sunrun was started by a couple of Stanford MBAs who realized that because homeowners pay the most for power, they could benefit the most from generating their own with rooftop solar. The trick to making rooftop installations accessible was through leasing or power purchase agreements – different models that both mean the homeowners doesn’t own the system and thus avoids big upfront costs.

This has become the dominant model for going solar on U.S. residences. Meanwhile, continued policy support through the 30 percent federal investment tax credit and steadily falling hardware costs have only made the business more attractive for installers and their backers – which explains the new financing Sunrun brought in from Wall Street.

“Commitments from established investors like J.P. Morgan highlight the strength of Sunrun’s business model and the excitement around residential solar,” Sunrun co-founder and co-CEO Edward Fenster said in a statement. “We have maintained an uninterrupted source of project finance during this time of explosive growth and the expiration of the federal grant program. Our ability to attract project capital has enabled us to give more Americans access to affordable clean power.”

Sunrun said that overall it has “attracted enough capital to support the purchase of more than $2 billion in solar systems” – and it’s raised $145 million in venture capital from Accel Partners, Sequoia Capital, Foundation Capital and Madrone Capital Partners.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.