Though the cost of solar panels continues to decline, many homeowners still can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars for a solar energy installation. Short of installing their own system, there aren’t a lot of options for sourcing residential solar energy especially for renters or those with poorly positioned roofs.
Launched Monday, Yeloha, a peer-to-peer solar sharing network, hopes to change all that by making solar available to all homes through the purchase of a solar subscription, which is said to be cheaper than the cost of electricity from their utility.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States generated about 4.093 billion kWh of electricity in 2014, two-thirds of which came from fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas, and one-fifth from nuclear. All renewables combined accounted for only 7 percent, while solar alone was 0.4 percent. Amit Rosner, co-founder and CEO of Yeloha, said he saw that as an entrepreneurial opportunity as well as a demand he thinks he can fill to help fight climate change.
"Our mission is to create and accelerate the confluence of the sharing economy and solar energy. We’ve seen the extraordinary impact of collaborative connections in many industries – from transportation to travel. Now, the power of sharing comes to solar power,” Rosner said.
Yeloha will have two sets of customers. The first, which Rosner calls "sun hosts," are people who have well-positioned roofs and want to go solar but can't afford to buy or lease the panels. Yeloha will install its own panels on those roofs, at no cost, and give them a portion, about one-third, of the electricity they produce, free of charge. The homeowner pays nothing for the installation and equipment and reduces their monthly electricity.
The second set is “sun partners,” or people who want solar power but don't have the right roof for it. They can buy any amount of solar credits from Yeloha and pay less than they would for any other type of electricity. It usually amounts to about a 10 percent discount for those who buy a year's worth of supply, Rosner promises, more for those willing to commit to three to 10 years.
Partners and hosts can choose each other, and everyone has access to online tools that measure production and consumption, and help build a sense of community. Yeloha is "the conductor of the orchestra," Rosner says – overseeing the system, selling power to the grid, and brokering solar credits. "The ones who do everything are the people."
The Yeloha network is an extension of its parent company, Generaytor, an online solar assessment tool and social platform that aims to transform the technical details of going solar "into a fun and dynamic social experience." Yeloha recently received $3.5 million in venture capital funding to fully launch the platform, which is currently only available in Massachusetts by invite only, but plans to roll out to more locations in the near future.
Yeloha isn’t the only company targeting residential solar – the market is ripe for entrepreneurs as homeowners consume more than one-third of the electricity generated in the United States. San Francisco's Pure Energies used social networks to drum up interest and bargain with installers on behalf of whole neighborhoods, while Boston’s CloudSolar wants to "offer panel ownership to everyone in the United States," according to co-founder Michael Sun – the company sells panels to individual investors, builds solar farms, delivers electricity to the grid, and returns 80 percent of the proceeds to the panel owners over the 25-year life of the system.