GE buys in as Sungevity looks to expand into storage

GE buys in as Sungevity looks to expand into storage

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GE Ventures buys into Sungevity as it considers expanding into new markets, and into new products such as storage.

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Solar leasing firm Sungevity has attracted $15 million in new equity financing, including a major contribution from the  world’s biggest maker of power-generation equipment, General Electric, as it develops plans to expand in new markets and with new products, including storage.

The investment by GE Ventures and other unidentified investors follows an earlier fund raising this year when Sungevity announced it had raised $125 million in venture capital and project financing, including cracking the mezzanine debt market for the first time.

Sungevity and other firms have pioneered the solar leasing model, which requires no deposit on rooftop solar systems, which have proved to be the most popular method of rooftop solar investment in the US, accounting for more than ¾ of sales in that country.

The company, co-founded by Australia Danny Kennedy, has since expanded into the Netherlands and to Australia, and has more than doubled sales in the past 12 months. It also operates in 9 states in the US.

CEO Andrew Birch says the cost of solar continues to fall dramatically, and faster than predicted, and will soon be lower than average retail electricity prices across the US. It already is in several states.

“Our sales have doubled over the prior year and we are starting to see significant volume from Europe, with utility partnerships and customer referrals driving the uptake,” Birch said. “Our scalable model allows us to capitalize on new growth opportunities faster and with few dollars.”

GE Ventures senior executive director Colleen Calhoun said GE was attracted to Sungevity because of its sophisticated technology platform – where it does it sales online – its capital light business and strong potential for growth “as rooftop solar hits meaningful scale.”

Kennedy told RenewEconomy during a visit to Sungevity’s headquarters in Oakland, California, today, that Australian sales are ahead of expectations since its launch in March.

He said even though the Australian market had high penetration, the industry would not stop with panels on roves – the next step would be to add storage and product mobility (read electric vehicles) to the offering.

“This will be a bundle of services. Rooftop solar is not just a single commodity piece of kit,” he said.

(We will have more on our interview with Kennedy next week).

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