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Green Building News

Big Companies Offer Employees a Solar Bargain

Workers at several firms will get a discount on photovoltaic panels for their homes

Bulk buying power will lower the cost of photovoltaic panels for more than 100,000 employees of a group of large corporations. The idea came from the World Wildlife Fund.

More than 100,000 employees of several large corporations will get the chance to buy or lease photovoltaic (PV) systems for their homes at discount prices, thanks to a group-buying plan hatched by the World Wildlife Fund.

The New York Times reports that Cisco Systems, 3M, Kimberly-Clark, and National Geographic are taking part in the program called the Solar Community Initiative.

Employees will be able to get solar systems installed for no money down and then pay 30% less for electricity than they would from their utility, according to an announcement from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Geostellar, a solar company that manages the program. According to The Times, the average cost of a PV system would be $3 per watt, about 34% less than the average cost in the U.S.

Keya Chatterjee, senior director for renewable energy at WWF, told The New York Times that after getting discounts for a group program for its own employees last year, WWF officials decided to take the idea to some of the organization’s corporate sponsors.

“Our objective was to make this as simple and cheap as possible,” she said.

Helping business embrace clean technologies

WWF’s practice of trying to influence corporate behavior in non-confrontational ways has sometimes prompted criticism that the group was too close to business, the article says.

But Dan Reicher, executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University, told the newspaper that other environmental advocates are pursuing similar partnerships with business as a way of influencing energy policy and energy markets in a positive way.

There are benefits to Geostellar, too, because the alliance with WWF is a means of attracting new customers, the article says.

Plans like this also help companies retain employees while satisfying their increasing sensitivity toward environmental and energy-efficiency issues, such as recycling and reducing carbon emissions. Interest among employees of Cisco and 3M was said to be high.

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