SunPower to trial solar leasing program in Australia

America’s second-largest PV manufacturer, SunPower, is set to test its rooftop solar leasing program in Australia, with the launched this week of a pilot program in Melbourne.

The Nasdaq-listed solar company announced on Tuesday it would install its panels on suitable Melbourne metropolitan rooftops at no upfront cost, for a predetermined monthly payment for 25 years.

The agreement includes free monitoring and maintenance for the lifetime of the lease, and at the end of the 25 years homeowners will have the option to purchase the system outright.

“We’re really excited about the trial,” said SunPower’s director of solar ESP Australia, Kevin Whelan, in an interview on Tuesday with RenewEconomy.

“We’ve had great success with (solar leasing) in the US, and we think we can replicate that success here in Australia.”

And while Whelan conceded it was “unfortunate” to hear the latest reports around the fate of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target, he noted that this kind uncertainty around policy and power prices was part of SunPower’s motivation for offering their leasing product here.

“Our program gives a certainty about the cost of energy when there is uncertainty with everything else,” Whelan said. “Irrespective of what happens with the RET, it gives rooftop solar customers long-term certainty on their electricity prices.”

SunPower is also set to launch a separate pilot program in Australia testing the market demand for solar with storage, in a program likely to be rolled out through its partly owned local retailer Diamond Energy.

It is also looking at microgrid solutions in Australia, although it sees the biggest potential in the commercial rooftop market.

SunPower first launched its solar lease program in the US at the end of 2011, and quickly claimed one-third of the Californian market – the nation’s biggest. Within a year, the company was signing up deals at a rate of 2MW a week.

Top image via SunPower

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson