Neither Ugly Nor Expensive

on September 26, 2011 at 8:00 AM

“It looks too ugly and it’s too expensive.”

Those are the two impediments to domestic solar, according to David Field, President & CEO of California-based OneRoof Energy.

He told AOL Energy that when a solar panel can fit onto a roof in a way that keep the aesthetics intact, “all of a sudden you hit a paradigm shift,” he said. “That’s how you get solar into middle America.”

After over two years of legwork, OneRoof Energy announced Monday morning that it had secured $50 million in financing for a residential lease program that would allow homeowners to lease rooftop solar panels, at a fixed monthly fee, from OneRoof Energy, in exchange for a discount on monthly electricity bills. The company will install the panels for free and provide a warranty for the panels and the new rooftop.

OneRoof Energy has distinguished itself by partnering with contractors and roofers who are already in the process of redoing and renovating homeowners’ rooftops. The extra work awards the roofers more money for each job.

“A typical reroof for homeowners costs $12,000 – $15,000” in California, Field said. “Our roofers also propose a solar reroof.” With OneRoof Energy covering the costs of solar installation, that means reroofing also comes with a discount on monthly electric bills. Field said he found that in dealing with typical consumers, this arrangement is most attractive and most easily accessible.

Getting into the issues of power purchase agreements just complicates matters, he said.

“The eyes glaze over,” he said.

Beauty In Variety

OneRoof Solar has not partnered with any single solar PV manufacturing company but instead allows roofers to choose the panels that are most aesthetically pleasing for each specific rooftop. New solar panels that come in various colors can fit unnoticeably in between rooftop tiles, he said.

“Personally, I see it more as a utility business,” Field said. “We don’t care about the product, we care about the service.”

Field also said he expects the costs of solar modules to continue dropping, though some sort of plateau is inevitable.

“People are much more aware of their electric bill and what drives that bill,” he said. But typically, he has found that consumers don’t like to change their behavior, or the appearance of their house.

“Everyone wants to be green as long as it doesn’t cost them too much,” he said.

Series A financing was led by Hanwha International, a subsidiary of the Korean Hanwha Group, that owns a controlling interest in solar manufacturing company Hanwha SolarOne. It does not own a controlling interest in OneRoof Energy. Cleantech investment firm Black Coral Capital and its subsidiary US Bancorp completed the financing.

A focus on domestic solar financing has been at the heart of a number of deals in recent months. For more on how contractors working to install solar systems can buy and trade supplies using the latest platform imported from the more-mature European domestic solar market, read about pvXchange.