How Autodesk, United and Genentech employees get cheap solar

How Autodesk, United and Genentech employees get cheap solar

What organizations and companies are giving employees discounts on solar installations?

As the Federal solar Investment Tax Credit comes to an end next year, the road to California’s renewable future will likely take a detour.

But before the credit winds down, 14 companies and government agencies including United Airlines, Autodesk, the City and County of San Francisco, and Genentech have combined forces and are optimizing purchasing power and group rates to offer employees a discount on home rooftop solar installation.

The organizations partnered with the Business Council on Climate Changes’ (BC3) Energy and Carbon Leadership Group to offer qualified employees who are homeowners an expected average of 15 percent discount from market prices on rooftop solar installation.

The discount benefit program is a part of the SunShares program, which is administered by the non profit Vote Solar, which first launched a solar group procurement program in 2012 in Arizona, California, New York and Illinois. 

Although this isn’t the first time companies joined together to reduce the costs of solar, it has been the largest collective effort that the Business Council on Climate Change has organized, according to Michael Parks director of Business Council on Climate Change.  

In total, the participating companies this year have over 150,000 employees as compared to 2013 which consisted of 80,000 employees.

Any employee that is a homeowner in the Bay Area or Northern California can go through a no-cost prequalification inspection, where an installer will determine whether solar is feasible for the home.  

“The idea here is that by actually working together they can actually pool together a much larger group of employees,” said Parks. “They can kind of run it as a campaign, where they’ll be not just discounts on solar, but emphasis on education about solar.”  

Parks adds that this year is different not just because this might be the last time that California residents can take advantage of the state’s tax credit, but also because this year it’s more business driven.   

“In the past the direction of it was more like the city of San Francisco came to us and ‘said can you get some businesses to join on this,’” said Parks.

Those employees that are able to take advantage of the discount, however, can request a solar appraisal beginning in August. In October, qualified customers can move forward with their installations and sign a contract with their installer.

So far, 340 homeowners have taken a discount on solar prices as a result of past SunShares programs in Northern California, totaling 1.5 megawatts of solar capacity. Last year, the group rate for Solar PV was $3.50 per watt according to SunShare’s website.

Parks also mentions SunShares’ joining process is not over yet. Until July 10, companies can participate in program and allow their employees to take advantage of solar tax credit for the last time.

The program does not require any cost or qualifications other than the companies will be responsible for marketing the program.

The program doesn’t have a solar provider yet, and it is still accepting requests, in past rounds the program has used REC Solar and Sunrun, according to Parks.

According to Katie Excoffier, sustainability manager at Genentech, the SunShare program excels in part because it lets the organizations collaboratively decide on the solar installer.

“The process gives employees a feeling like they’ve participated in the decision making on who the best vendor is for our needs,” said Excoffier.