Sunrun partners with National Grid to spread solar

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It can sometimes be a struggle to get solar installers and utilities to play well with each other. A partnership announced today shows it’s not only possible, but advantageous, to both parties.

National installer Sunrun has signed a deal with investor-owned utility National Grid that includes multiple interactions, including a direct investment of $100 million by the utility to fund 200 MW of residential projects. For both sides, the goal is to encourage the adoption of rooftop solar in cost-effective, scalable ways.

Initially, the program will target nearly 100,000 single-family homes in downstate New York, part of National Grid’s expansive customer base. The companies will also co-market themselves in an effort to build National Grid’s reputation as a clean-energy purveyor.

“We are excited to partner with a utility focused on truly creating a clean energy future,” said Lynn Jurich, Chief Executive Officer of Sunrun. “This partnership demonstrates our ability to develop new strategic and financial relationships with partners to increase consumer access to rooftop solar while further unlocking value for customers.”

Both companies want to explore how distributed-energy resources can be bundled to create grid stability and more efficient. At the moment, those services are often wed to the 19th century style of generating electricity, namely putting all electricity into a central place and distributing it from the center.

Though rare, it’s not unheard of for utilities to invest directly in solar-installation companies. In February 2015, Duke Energy purchased a majority share in commercial-and-industrial installer REC Solar for $225 million.

There is no indication National Grid has purchased an equity stake in Sunrun.