Solar Group Purchasing Models

Solar group purchasing can greatly reduce the costs of installing solar by leveraging the collective purchasing power of individuals, businesses, or municipal agencies to secure discounted pricing by buying in bulk. Experience has shown that participants favor the integration of group purchasing with emerging solar financing models – including solar leases, power purchase agreements, and property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing – that allow customers to install solar at little or no upfront cost and with monthly costs that are less than what they would otherwise pay for power from their local utility. San Francisco’s Department of the Environment (SF Environment) works directly with local communities to facilitate solar group purchases and provides support through the procurement process.

This paper was prepared by SF Environment and is based upon work funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar America Communities initiative and a SunShot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge grant managed by SolarTech. The paper describes six group purchasing programs, each of which targets a different customer class. These programs include: (1) Solar@Work, a group purchasing program for small- and medium-sized commercial properties in the San Francisco Bay Area; (2) Solar@School, a similar group purchase program for private schools in San Francisco; (3) SunShares, an employee group buy program in San Jose; (4) the Silicon Valley Collaborative Renewable Energy Procurement Project (SV-REP), a municipal group purchasing program in Silicon Valley; (5) Solarize Portland, a neighborhood group buy program in Portland, Oregon; and (6) Milwaukee Power Pack, a citywide group purchase program in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The paper also provides lessons SF Environment learned as a result of its work organizing Solar@Work and Solar@School, which may be useful to other organizations considering similar programs.