Searching for solar? Google may be able to help

Google invests in residential solar leasing financier The search giant Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) recently furthered its investment in solar power last week when it and Clean Power Finance announced that Google established a new $75 million fund for residential solar projects. The new fund will support leases in Arizona, California and Colorado—for now—with other states in the works.

Clean Power Finance kind of fits with Google’s search-engine model very well.

“Our open, online platform is available to anyone, and financing is available to qualified installers and partners,” said Clean Power Finance CEO Nat Kreamer. “Our software platform is a comprehensive tool where solar installers can design systems, develop proposals, and get consumer solar financing products.”

It offers online services that help installers across the country crunch the numbers on potential solar projects. The company estimates that a full 40 percent of all residential solar installations in the U.S. in 2010 used its software platform in developing quotes and proposals for homeowners.

“Clean Power Finance has built an innovative platform that connects solar manufacturers, investors like us and solar installers who offer our financing directly to homeowners,” said Rick Needham, Google’s director of Green Business Operations. “We’re proud to be among the first investors to partner with Clean Power Finance, and enable the company to continue forging strong relationships with the best brands in solar.”

It’s the second fund that Clean Power Finance has established for residential solar leases. But the company could not disclose how much or with whom the first fund was established. Systems are still being installed under the first round of funding.

But the investment by Google will allow Clean Power Finance to support up to 3,000 more residential solar leases.

It’s also the second residential solar lease tax-equity fund that Google invested in. Earlier this year, the company invested $280 million in a new fund to support SolarCity residential solar leases.

Through the fund with Google, the company is opening up solar leasing options to more installers.

Companies like SolarCity, Sungevity and SunRun offer solar-lease type arrangements for homeowners, but the leasing companies often require the installers brand the array as the leasing-company’s service. Or they may have to make agreements under which they can only install for the leasing company.

“Approximately 98 percent of solar installers have no good finance offerings. Those that have financing have limited options and don’t get to put their brand first,” Kreamer said. “Think of us like Visa; we’re providing the capital and platform, your bank provides you a branded card.”

The installer can still brand the service as their own with Clean Power Finance as the backer.

Image courtesy of Illinois Solar Tour 2011.