Solar Financing and Leasing Models

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Solar financing and leasing models provide homeowners and businesses with alternative ways to access solar energy without the need for a large upfront investment. These models typically involve a third-party financier who owns the solar system and leases it to the customer or provides a loan to finance the purchase.

Impact on climate action

Solar Financing and Leasing Models in Distributed Solar PV democratize access to solar energy by reducing upfront costs for consumers. By incentivizing solar adoption through affordable financing options, these models accelerate the deployment of renewable energy, reduce carbon emissions, and advance climate action by decentralizing energy production and promoting sustainability.


  • Third-Party Ownership: The solar system is owned by a third-party financier, who is responsible for the upfront costs and maintenance of the system.
  • Leasing and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs): Customers can lease the solar system from the financier or enter into a PPA, where they agree to purchase the electricity generated by the system at a predetermined rate.
  • Solar Loans: Customers can obtain loans from specialized lenders to finance the purchase of a solar system.
  • Financial Modeling and Risk Management: Solar financiers use sophisticated financial models to assess the risks and returns of solar projects and develop competitive financing and leasing options.

TRL : 7-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Online Solar Marketplaces: Startups are developing online platforms that connect homeowners and businesses with solar financiers and installers, streamlining the process of obtaining solar financing and leasing options.
  • Innovative Financing Models: New financing models, such as crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending, are being explored to make solar financing more accessible and affordable.
  • Data-Driven Credit Scoring: Solar financiers are using data analytics and machine learning to improve credit scoring and risk assessment, enabling them to offer more competitive financing options to a wider range of customers.
  • Integrated Solar-Plus-Storage Financing: Some financiers are offering integrated financing solutions for solar-plus-storage systems, allowing customers to finance both the solar panels and the energy storage system together.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Third-Party Ownership Dynamics
  • Advancements in Leasing Structures
  • Innovative Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)
  • Innovative Solar Loan Solutions
  • Financial Risk Management Strategies
  • Role of Online Solar Marketplaces
  • Disruption through Crowdfunding
  • Peer-to-Peer Lending in Solar
  • Data-Driven Credit Assessment
  • Solar-Plus-Storage Financing Solutions

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Sunrun:
    • Technology Enhancement: Sunrun offers residential solar energy solutions, including solar panels, battery storage, and energy management systems. They provide financing options such as solar leasing, power purchase agreements (PPAs), and solar loans to make solar energy accessible to homeowners without the need for upfront investment. Sunrun’s innovative financing models enable homeowners to adopt solar power and reduce their electricity bills while contributing to environmental sustainability.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Sunrun stands out for its focus on residential solar leasing and its commitment to providing affordable and accessible solar energy solutions. Their leasing and financing models remove financial barriers to solar adoption, making it easier for homeowners to transition to clean energy and benefit from solar power without the burden of high upfront costs.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Sunrun primarily serves residential homeowners seeking to switch to solar energy and reduce their reliance on traditional utility electricity. Their financing and leasing models cater to homeowners of varying income levels, enabling them to go solar and enjoy the long-term benefits of clean, renewable energy.
  • SunPower:
    • Technology Enhancement: SunPower is a leading provider of high-efficiency solar panels and integrated solar solutions for residential, commercial, and utility-scale applications. They offer solar financing options such as leases, PPAs, and loans to make solar energy more accessible to customers. SunPower’s advanced solar technology and financing solutions enable customers to save on energy costs, reduce carbon footprint, and increase energy independence.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: SunPower stands out for its focus on delivering premium solar products and tailored financing solutions to meet the diverse needs of residential and commercial customers. Their high-efficiency solar panels and innovative financing models enable customers to maximize energy production, optimize savings, and achieve sustainability goals.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: SunPower serves residential homeowners, commercial businesses, and large-scale solar developers looking to deploy solar energy solutions. Their financing options cater to customers of all sizes, from individual homeowners to commercial enterprises, providing flexibility and affordability in adopting solar power.
  • Nexamp:
    • Technology Enhancement: Nexamp specializes in developing and financing community solar projects that allow multiple subscribers to access solar energy benefits without installing solar panels on their properties. They offer subscription-based solar programs that enable customers to receive credits on their electricity bills for the solar energy produced by community solar farms. Nexamp’s community solar model provides an easy and cost-effective way for individuals, businesses, and municipalities to support renewable energy and save on electricity costs.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Nexamp stands out for its focus on community solar and its commitment to expanding access to clean energy for underserved communities. Their community solar projects provide an inclusive and equitable approach to solar energy adoption, allowing customers who cannot install solar panels on their properties to benefit from renewable energy.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Nexamp serves residential, commercial, and municipal customers interested in subscribing to community solar programs. Their community solar projects target renters, low-income households, and businesses unable to install rooftop solar, providing them with an opportunity to support clean energy and save on electricity expenses.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Stanford University:
    • Research Focus: Stanford University conducts research on Solar Financing and Leasing Models, focusing on developing innovative financial instruments, investment frameworks, and risk management strategies to accelerate the deployment of distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves analyzing the economic viability, market dynamics, and policy implications of various solar financing and leasing models, including third-party ownership, power purchase agreements (PPAs), community solar programs, and green bonds. They also explore the role of financial innovation, securitization, and crowdfunding platforms in mobilizing capital for renewable energy projects.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in residential, commercial, and utility-scale solar projects. By designing flexible and accessible financing solutions, Stanford’s research aims to lower the upfront costs, improve access to solar energy, and enhance the attractiveness of distributed solar PV investments for homeowners, businesses, and institutional investors.
  • University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: UC Berkeley is engaged in research on Solar Financing and Leasing Models, leveraging its expertise in energy economics, public policy, and environmental finance to develop equitable and sustainable pathways for scaling up distributed solar deployment.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the analysis of regulatory frameworks, tax incentives, and financial mechanisms that influence the adoption of solar financing models across different market segments and geographic regions. They also investigate the socio-economic impacts, distributional effects, and barriers to entry associated with alternative ownership and financing structures in the solar industry.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work inform policy decisions, industry strategies, and community initiatives aimed at promoting solar adoption, energy equity, and climate resilience. By fostering innovation in solar financing and leasing, UC Berkeley’s research contributes to the transition to a low-carbon energy system, job creation, and economic development.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Research Focus: MIT conducts research on Solar Financing and Leasing Models, focusing on developing quantitative models, decision support tools, and market mechanisms to optimize the allocation of capital and risk in distributed solar investments.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves applying financial engineering principles, portfolio optimization techniques, and scenario analysis to assess the performance, profitability, and resilience of different solar financing and leasing structures under varying market conditions. They also explore the role of insurance products, derivatives, and carbon markets in hedging against climate risks and enhancing investor confidence in solar projects.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in project finance, corporate procurement, and renewable energy policy. By improving the efficiency and transparency of solar financing markets, MIT’s research aims to unlock new sources of capital, drive down financing costs, and accelerate the transition to a decentralized, clean energy future.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Solar financing and leasing models are widely available in many countries and have played a significant role in driving the adoption of rooftop solar. For example, in the United States, solar leases and PPAs have been instrumental in making solar energy more accessible to homeowners.