Branden Barber got his first taste of solar energy a decade ago while living in rural Australia, off the power grid. Although he was eager to tap the sun for power when he returned to California in 2006, his green ambitions were stymied by a tangle of regulatory hurdles and high installation costs.
Enter Sungevity. In July the Oakland company arranged to put 16 solar panels on Barber’s roof and took care of all the paperwork—for no cash upfront. Instead, Barber pays Sungevity about $55 a month, with about $30 still going to his utility, PG&E. Sungevity says the savings from the combined bill will increase as electricity rates rise. For most people, installing solar panels is as daunting as “putting an addition on your house or getting a pool,” says Barber, a development director at a nonprofit foundation. “If someone’s going to arrange that for me, yeah, man, I’ll do it.”
Sungevity is one of a growing group of solar middlemen that want to make going green easier for homeowners by dealing with red tape, negotiating with local power companies, and financing solar installations. “We’re trying to build a convenient, Netflix-like experience,” says Danny Kennedy, founder of Sungevity, which has helped residents install solar panels on 1,000 roofs and had $24 million in sales last year.