Solar leases shine bright in California

SolarCity Corp. has been the dream "green" business — creating dozens of jobs, cutting energy use and establishing partnerships in the region.

The company added 62 jobs last year in Sacramento, and plans to hire for 25 installer and management positions to handle the increasing demand for solar-power systems on the rooftops of area homes and businesses.

The Foster City-based solar contractor, already an industry leader in the state, is helping drive a trend in solar leases. Lease arrangements are attracting homeowners looking to gain predictable energy costs while avoiding large upfront installation costs.

SolarCity is twice as big — in terms of kilowatts sold — as the second-largest solar provider in California, said Dennis Cox, SolarCity's regional director for Sacramento, pointing to California Solar Initiative data. The data puts REC Solar at the No. 2 spot in 2010.

In Sacramento, SolarCity has 75 employees, up from 13 in January 2010 — with plans for more than 100 employees by mid-year.

The company outgrew its 6,000-square-foot space on Raley Boulevard, and recently signed a five-year lease for a 15,000-square-foot office and warehouse at 2709 Academy Way. The warehouse holds equipment for 12 installation crews, 12 vans and six support trucks and other vehicles.

"It's the right combination of getting the brand out there, becoming a household name, and a partner that resells for SolarCity," Cox said. Most of SolarCity's customers, such as Dean Lauer of Rocklin, opt for a lease. Customers put no money down and begin saving between 5 percent and 15 percent a month with solar-power systems, Cox said.

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