BUSINESS

SolarCity teams up with Best Buy to reach more eco-conscious shoppers

Solar panel installer SolarCity Corp. is partnering with electronics chain Best Buy to guide homeowners and other customers through the process of going solar.

The San Mateo, Calif., company said Wednesday it has placed representatives in about 35 California stores, including 11 in the Southland, to do quick assessments for shoppers and their homes. The program also includes about 15 Best Buy shops in Arizona, Oregon, New York and Hawaii.

These in-store Solar City employees will give shoppers on-the-spot estimates of potential electricity savings if solar panels are installed and what the system could look like, giving the solar installer another avenue to reach potential customers.

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"People go to Best Buy to buy all sorts of devices and appliances, and almost everything you buy consumes a tremendous amount of electricity -- your flat-screen TV, your dishwasher," SolarCity Chief Executive Lyndon Rive said in an interview. "Now we can sell a product that addresses those energy needs."

The new venture by SolarCity comes at a time of rapid growth for solar in California and the country. The number of solar systems installed in 2013 jumped 41% over the year before, according to the Solar Energy Industries Assn. At the same time, the cost of installing panels fell 15%.

Rive said SolarCity has found success in a similar partnership with home improvement chain Home Depot. The key, he said, was getting face time with shoppers to explain how much money they could save by going solar.

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"The services we offer, it tends to be a conversational sale," he said. "Meaning most people don't understand the value proposition until they spend two or three minutes listening to it, and the value proposition is cheaper, cleaner energy."

Best Buy already sells phone plans in-store, which are essentially a utility service, Rive added. "Now we will be able to sell energy through that store," he said.

The Southland locations include Best Buy stores in Thousand Oaks, Corona, Oxnard and Glendora. SolarCity is offering customers who sign up for solar service before Earth Day a $100 Best Buy gift card.

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