Cheap Solar Power Just Became An Employee Benefit For More Than 100,000 People

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If free donuts, gym memberships, or flex pay programs aren’t your preferred employee benefit, cheap solar systems could soon be an option. On Wednesday, three major companies — Cisco Systems, 3M, and Kimberly-Clark — announced they will now give employees a deeply discounted way of buying or leasing solar panels for their homes.

Called the Solar Community Initiative, the program promises a flat rate that is on average 35 percent lower than the national average and roughly 50 percent less expensive than average electric utility rates. According to the announcement, the offer will start as a benefit to more than 100,000 employees. If one percent choose to power their homes with solar, more than 74,500 metric tons of carbon emissions would be avoided each year.

Offered through Geostellar, a cost comparison site for solar panels, the program will also include options for employees’ friends and families in the United States and parts of Canada. The initiative was conceived and facilitated by the World Wildlife Fund.

“This takes the bulk purchase model from individual neighborhoods and organizations to a national scale,” Keya Chatterjee, senior director of renewable energy at WWF, said in a statement. “A coast-to-coast, low, flat rate helps mitigate two major barriers of solar adoption — complexity and price.”

The companies will offer a human resources intranet site that will provide a solar discount code and link them to Geostellar where online tools will help the employees determine their property’s solar potential.

“I get the emails: ‘Why aren’t we recycling this, or why don’t we have 45,000 more electric vehicle charging stations,'” Ali Ahmed, who manages energy and sustainability at Cisco, told the New York Times. “So we had a really good feeling that our employees would engage and latch onto this kind of discount.”

David Levine, chief executive of Geostellar, told the New York Times that homeowners paying an average of $147 a month for electricity would instead pay an average of $97 a month over 12 years if they financed the entire system, after which the payments would go to zero. The average base cost of a system will be $3 per watt, which is around 17 percent lower than Geostellar’s regular price and almost 34 percent lower than the average cost in the United States last year of $4.53, according to the New York Times.

New organizations — including companies, municipalities, schools, and clubs — can join the Solar Community initiative to increase their bulk purchasing power and utilize Geostellar’s platform to expand access to cheapsolar for employees, residents or members.