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Google, SunPower investing in leasing solar panels to homeowners

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Google Inc. is partnering with solar panel maker SunPower Corp. to invest up to $250 million in leasing solar systems to homeowners.

The Mountain View technology giant is contributing up to $100 million, and San Jose-based SunPower will invest $150 million, Google said in a blog post. The goal is to make "it easier for thousands of households across the U.S. to go solar."

"Using the fund ... we buy the solar panel systems," Google said. "Then we lease them to homeowners at a cost that's typically lower than their normal electricity bill."

Google's plans come at a time when new financing methods are driving a boom in the residential solar market. More homeowners now lease panels from solar companies than buy them outright.

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Renewable energy companies are also finding creative ways to finance their businesses.

Solar developers who work with homeowners often have a difficult time convincing traditional banks to fund anything smaller than large-scale projects, analysts said. Many investment firms are unsure of the risks associated with solar and unwilling to wait out the payout period, which can last decades. 

Google has shown a keen interest in investing in green energy projects in recent years.

It has previously invested in solar leasing programs through SolarCity and Clean Power Finance. In November, the company said it planned to pony up $80 million for six utility-scale solar facilities in California and Arizona.

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Follow Shan Li on Twitter @ShanLi

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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