Sungevity: Solar for Zero Down

October 18, 2011


The U.S. unit of Rabobank Groep, the world’s biggest agricultural lender, created a fund to finance $50 million in residential rooftop solar-power systems installations by Sungevity Inc.

Sungevity is pursuing more than $175 million in projects, the Oakland, California-based company said in a statement. The fund announced today will finance solar systems on over 1,000 homes.

“Next year will be a big year for us after a banner year this year,” said Sungevity founder Danny Kennedy in an interview today. “We’ll continue to raise more funds through 2012.”

Residential solar energy is a “promising market opportunity and we are pleased to support its adoption in California and elsewhere in the U.S. through our new fund with Sungevity,” said Gianluca Signorelli, vice president at Rabobank N.A., in the statement.

Sungevity currently operates in Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York and has leased more than 3,000 systems.

“It’s an incredible time to be in solar as it grows and becomes more affordable,” said Kennedy, whose company has tripled its staff over the last year to more than 300.

According to  the best polling data – Sungevity’s pitch is on target for consumers who are more interested in saving money than saving the planet.


Every time I turn on the radio these days, I hear Sungevity advertisements saying that “solar is not just for environmentalists anymore!”  The Oakland-based photovoltaic leasing company invites prospective customers to “Join the Rooftop Revolution” by saving money, not the earth.

These marketing messages are surprising, given Sungevity’s reputation as a passionate, mission-driven company.  Could Sungevity’s advertising campaign be a smart new strategy to market sustainable products to folks who just aren’t bothered about rainforests, manatees, or the health of the planet? In other words, can they bring solar to the non-LOHAS [Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability] market?

Much of Sungevity’s current advertising emphasizes the financial benefits and reliability of a photovoltaic system.  One recent video shows upper-middle class professionals of all different ethnicities finding money with the same ease that they turn on a light switch.  The video’s message clearly illustrates that solar installations save money and work well – and if they help the environment, too, well, we won’t mention that.  The messages follow strategies outlined in a 2009 report by Clean Energy Group and SmartPower which states that customers do not respond well to the “environmental” argument but that, “Messages that connect on a financial or value level are most likely to succeed.”  In fact, even though PV prices continue to decline, many customer still believe that solar panels are expensive and unreliable.  Sungevity’s current campaign directly challenges these beliefs.

So, important information – the successfu message to today’s smart and upwardly mobile consumers does not include “Oh, and by the way, save the planet”.

I could make snarky comments about “We don’ need no steenkin’ planet…”, but, hey, whatever works.

One Response to “Sungevity: Solar for Zero Down”

  1. “Saving enough to take three tropical vacations” is a clever message. It helps customers sidestep the Greeniac label, and attracts customers who want to “get down to dollars and cents”.

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