Berkeley Lab: Price of Solar Energy in the U.S. Continues to Fall

The price of solar energy in the United States continues to fall substantially, according to the latest editions of two annual reports produced by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

A third Berkeley Lab report, written in collaboration with researchers at Yale University, the University of Texas at Austin and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), shows that local permitting and other regulatory procedures can significantly impact residential photovoltaic (PV) prices.

According to the second edition of the Utility Scale Solar report, larger utility-scale solar projects in the United States have made great strides in delivering competitively priced renewable electricity in recent years.

“The price of electricity sold to utilities under long term contracts from large-scale solar power projects has fallen by more than 70 percent since 2008, to just $50/MWh on average within a sample of contracts signed in 2013 or 2014 and concentrated among projects located in the southwestern United States,” explains Mark Bolinger of Berkeley Lab, one of the report’s authors.

Meanwhile, the average, up-front installed price of utility-scale PV projects dropped by more than one-third since the 2007-2009 period, and average project-level performance has also increased recently.

The report tracks data on installed project costs or prices, operating costs, capacity factors, and power purchase agreement prices. It focuses on ground-mounted solar projects larger than 5 MW in size, and covers both PV and concentrating solar power.

“With the growth in this segment of the solar market in recent years, we are now able to systematically review actual market data to directly observe what large-scale solar projects cost to build, how they are performing, and at what price they are selling electricity,” notes report co-author Samantha Weaver.

According to the latest edition of Tracking the Sun, an annual PV cost tracking report produced by Berkeley Lab, installed prices for residential and commercial PV systems completed in 2013 fell by roughly $0.70 per watt (W) or 12 to 15 percent from the prior year.Tracking the Sun VII_cover

“This marked the fourth consecutive year of significant price reductions for residential and commercial systems in the U.S.,” explains Galen Barbose, one of the report’s authors. Within the first six months of 2014, prices for such PV systems in many of the largest state markets have continued on their downward trajectory.

The continued decline in PV system pricing is especially noteworthy given the relatively steady price of PV modules since 2012. In recent years, reductions in the installed price of PV systems have been driven largely by the falling price of PV modules, but that dynamic appears to be shifting. In particular, the report points to the increasing importance of reductions in soft costs – which include such things as marketing and customer acquisition, system design, installation labor, and the various costs associated with permitting and inspections.

As module prices have fallen, industry and policymakers have increasingly targeted soft costs for further reductions. As Berkeley Lab’s Naïm Darghouth, another of the report’s authors, notes, “The fact that system prices have continued to fall, despite the flattening of module prices, suggests that the various initiatives targeting soft costs are beginning to bear fruit.”

The two Berkeley Lab cost-tracking reports released today also highlight the wide variability in PV system pricing, detailing the installed price differences that exist across states and across various types of PV applications and system configurations. For example, roughly 20 percent of all residential systems installed in 2013 were priced at or below $3.90/W, while an equal proportion was above $5.60/W.

Based on a third Berkeley Lab report released today, How Much Do Local Regulations Matter?, some of this variation in residential PV pricing is driven by differences in local permitting and other regulatory procedures.

In particular, based on data from Vote Solar and Berkeley Lab, variations in permitting among cities can drive differences in average residential PV prices of as much as $0.18/W, or $900 for a typical residential PV installation. Based on data from DOE, meanwhile, variations in not only permitting but also a wide range of other local procedures (interconnection, planning and zoning, net metering and financing) can drive even-larger PV price differences among cities: two different statistical models estimate maximum city-level average price differences of $0.64/W and $0.93/W, or approximately $3,000 for a typical PV system.

“A variety of efforts are underway to make local procedures less onerous, and more conducive to solar market growth,” explains Ryan Wiser of Berkeley Lab. “These results highlight the magnitude of PV price reductions that might be possible through streamlining burdensome local regulatory procedures.”

The three reports, along with related summary slide decks, 2-page fact sheets and data files (as applicable), are available for download. Upcoming webinars on these reports will be announced in the near future.

Solar Market to Grow 75 Percent by 2019

Led by China, the solar industry will grow at a CAGR of 8.3 percent from 37.5 GWp in 2013 to 65.6 GWp in 2019, but emerging trade disputes involving the Asian giant, as much as global policies, cast a shadow over short-term prospects, according to Lux Research.

China became the biggest solar market in the world with 11.8 GWp installations in 2013, and has been key to faster-than-expected global recovery. Since the competitive bankruptcy-ridden cost environment of 2012, module supplier margins have increased, with most Tier-1 suppliers topping 10 percent toward the end of 2013 and 15% in the first quarter of 2014.

With solar now fairly common in most parts of the world, it reaps the rewards of direct incentives but also faces uncertainty due to pressure on trade activity with China,” said Matthew Feinstein, Lux Research Senior Analyst and the lead author of the report titled, “Solar Market Size Update 2014: Reform for the Long Haul.”

“Furthermore, as an increasingly commonplace electricity source, most major markets are dealing with some combination of these dynamics, complicating the status of policy globally,” he added.

Lux Research analysts evaluated the growth trajectory of the solar industry, besides weighing policy and other challenges. Among their findings:

Growth is fastest in the Americas. At a CAGR of 16.3 percent, the Americas will be the fastest-growing region in the world as its new installations market nearly triples from 5.3 GWp in 2013 to 15.4 GWp in 2019. The U.S. will pace the rest of the Americas, growing from 4.7 GWp to 11.7 GWp but South America will grow 10-fold to 2.5 GWp in 2019. The Asia-Pacific region will grow at a lower 8.2 percent CAGR but will account for over 50 percent of global demand, led by China, Japan and other emerging markets.

Cost cuts will be sustained. With cost cuts critical to the sustained growth of the industry, incremental increases in efficiency are on course from technologies such as passivated emitter rear contact (PERC), heterojunction with intrinsic layer (HIT) and selective emitter (SE). System costs will drop by between $0.36/Wp for utility-scale and $0.60/Wp for residential by 2019. This will translate to a 20 percent cut in total system costs.

X-Si remains technology of choice. Crystalline silicon (x-Si) will dominate the solar market through 2019 even though other module technologies such as copper iridium gallium diselenide (CIGS), copper zinc tinc sulfide (CZTS), cadmium telluride (CdTe) and thin, flexible, epitaxial silicon (epi-Si) have the potential to become major threats in the future. X-Si, with an 84.6% market share, will grow from 31.6 GWp in 2013 to 55.7 GWp in 2019, growing at a CAGR of 8.45%. CdTe and CIGS will be a distant second – growing to 4.8 GWp and 4.2 GWp, respectively, in 2019.

The report, titled “Solar Market Size Update 2014: Reform for the Long Haul,” is part of the Lux Research Solar Intelligence service.

French Kings, Solar Power and Sustainability

Louis XIV is not a frequent reference point in today’s discussions about the world’s energy and sustainability paths. However, this longest ruling French monarch (1643-1715) was known as the “Sun King” as he often referred to himself as the center of the universe and was enamored of the sun itself. He also was the builder of Versailles, the construction of which was viewed as very innovative for its day with gardens and roads that Louis XIV arrayed in a pattern to track the sun’s movements.

2014 International Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France. PHOTO: SDEurope

2014 International Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France. PHOTO: SDEurope

With this in mind, it is not such a stretch to understand why the organizers of the 2014 International Solar Decathlon chose the Versailles grounds in which to hold this extraordinary exhibition, from which I have recently returned. The 15-day exhibition featured more than 20 universities from around the world, with Brown University/Rhode Island School of Design and Appalachian State University as the two U.S. competitors.

During each day of the competition, the entrants were subjected to judges’ inspection to assess performance in categories, such as architecture, communications (ability to literally tell their house’s story to press and visitors), energy efficiency, engineering and construction, and sustainability.

PIMA’s sponsorship of Appalachian State and the providing of polyiso insulation by Atlas Roofing to ASU demonstrated the role high-performance insulation plays in the future of the built environment.

However, it is not individual product performance that most impresses the visitor to these extraordinary homes. Yes, they all make exceptional use of the solar power generated by their installed PV systems (they are limited by the rules to only 5 kWh of electricity production from which they must run refrigerators, air conditioning, washers and dryers) and each home has an array of innovative products. But it is the synergistic result of the products’ application combined with the unbelievable ingenuity of the students and professors that excited me the most.

2014 International Solar Decathlon PHOTO: SDEurope

The “decathletes” at the 2014 International Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France. PHOTO: SDEurope

Some buildings were representative of new construction. For example, the ASU entrant was a modular townhome with the potential to assemble into a collective urban building.

In addition, recognizing that existing buildings are the greatest energy challenge, the effort to improve our world’s retrofit capabilities truly caught my eye. For example, the Berlin Rooftop Project focuses on abandoned rooftop space in that city to create studios for younger urban dwellers, while the Dutch (Delft University) addressed the poorly insulated townhomes that make up over 60 percent of Dutch homes by applying a “second skin” while including a garden capability within the home.

The several days I spent at the event were educational, but nothing was more inspiring than speaking with the students themselves. Be they from Chile, France, Germany, Japan, the United States or any of the other countries involved, their passion was compelling. The intellect and commitment of these future architects, engineers, designers and urban planners to finding sustainable solutions for the planet gives me a distinct optimism for our future.

A Minneapolis Neighborhood Plans to Bring Solar, Vegetation and Bees to its Rooftops

As part of its commitment to maintain and enhance the physical, social and economic environment of its Minneapolis neighborhood, the Southeast Como Improvement Association (SECIA) has begun a program in which it is matching the owners of buildings with low-slope roofs to solar and green roof providers, as well as beekeepers.

The Southeast Como neighborhood is surrounded by industrial buildings and essentially is the last of Minneapolis’ industrial hub. A community resident who considered the industrial buildings’ rooftops wasted but valuable space approached SECIA about partnering with Minnesota Community Solar. The for-profit organization builds large solar arrays in locations ideal for generating solar power—like roofs—and works with utilities so any Minnesota ratepayer can have access to solar energy. While SECIA’s Executive Director Ricardo McCurley was researching that option, he met a green-roof consultant who is part of the Minnesota Green Roofs Council, a nonprofit that supports green roofs in the state. In addition, Minneapolis recently eliminated permit requirements to maintain beehives in the city above 1 story.

“It occurred to me we should just play matchmaker,” McCurley says. “Let’s get a bunch of options on the table and match them to local property owners.”

After receiving a $3,000 grant from Minnesota’s Clean Energy Resource Teams, an organization that connects individuals and their communities to resources that will help them implement community-based clean-energy projects, SECIA began surveying the neighborhood. “We have an intern who currently is looking at aerial images of roofs and doing rough estimates of square footage, as well as collecting contact information for building owners,” McCurley notes. “Then we’ll be contacting all these property owners in person and via telephone and asking them questions about their flat roofs, like ‘Are you planning to reroof any time soon? How is the stormwater management on your property?’”

If the property owners show interest in learning more about sustainable options for their rooftops, SECIA will invite them to a luncheon that McCurley compares to speed dating. “We’ll have different providers of the various technologies at the luncheon, so they can talk about options,” he says. “Then if we make a match, we’re going to help the property owner through the process of finding grants to make it more affordable for them.”

McCurley thinks the program will be a success if just one property owner opts to install solar panels, a green roof or beehives. But he hopes for many installations and to make more connections within the neighborhood to expand how roofs are used. “We’re big into urban agriculture in the neighborhood,” McCurley explains. “Wouldn’t it be cool if one of the green roofs connects with a farmer who would lease the green-roof space?”

Although the program currently is in its infancy, McCurley is certain it will increase Southeast Como residents’ awareness about the benefits of green roofs, solar arrays, bees and even trees. “We’re dealing with the emerald ash borer here in the Twin Cities, particularly in our neighborhood. We’re already losing a lot of our tree canopy,” he says. “If our residents’ buildings were shaded by a beautiful ash tree and now they’re not, they’re going to feel that in HVAC costs. So what are the options to make a building more efficient? This program provides many great options!”

Want to Be Involved?
If you’d like to assist in the Southeast Como Improvement Association’s mission to bring solar, vegetation and bees to its rooftops, email Rooftops@comogreenvillage.info, SEComo@secomo.org or call (612) 676-1731.

A Trade Association Brings Roofs to the Sustainability Discussion

Roofs, first and foremost, keep water and the elements out of a building. The roofing industry has done this quite well since the modernization of buildings began more than a century ago. Along the way, a number of trade associations—ARMA, ERA, MCA, NRCA, PIMA, SPFA, SPRI—have formed and evolved as materials and trends have changed. Each group provides excellent information relative to its mission and goals. Yet we know change keeps coming.

THE BYRON WHITE COURTHOUSE, DENVER, features a RoofPoint-certified high R-value (R-30) roof for energy savings. A dual-reinforced Derbigum modified bitumen membrane, 90-mil base sheet and a high-density coverboard were installed.

THE BYRON WHITE COURTHOUSE, DENVER, features a RoofPoint-certified high R-value (R-30) roof for energy savings. A dual-reinforced Derbigum modified bitumen membrane, 90-mil base sheet and a high-density coverboard were installed.

Since the turn of the century, the awareness and push for energy efficiency of buildings and the sustainability for materials and building design has grown substantially and has become an important topic in the public forum. Sustainability and environmentalism are universal topics.

Serving as a unified voice for issues involving roofing, energy and the environment, the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing was established in Washington, D.C., in 2008. The non-profit organization’s focus is to advocate and promote the use of environmentally friendly, high-performance roof systems, not just within the U.S., but in North America and globally. The center is a member-based association consisting of roofing manufacturers, roofing contractors, roofing consultants, raw-material suppliers and other trade groups within the roofing industry.

To promote the sustainability of roof systems, the center develops resources, products and educational information that can be used by the building industry to advance the longevity, durability and overall sustainability of roofs. Increased awareness of the importance of a building’s roof is critical to the center’s mission. The roof can be a large contributor to the energy efficiency of the building, a long-term asset and, increasingly, a location for energy production (solar, wind).

ROOFPOINT

The center’s premier program is RoofPoint, a guideline for environmentally innovative nonresidential roofing. RoofPoint is used to evaluate new and replacement roofs for commercial and institutional buildings based on their environmental performance during the life cycle of the building the roof covers. This provides a useful measure for what constitutes a sustainable roof during design, construction, operation and decommissioning.

RoofPoint is primarily a rating system, and when certain minimums are met, a roof can become a RoofPoint Certified roof. Certificates and plaques noting RoofPoint certification can be awarded and used to validate a commitment to sustainability and the environment.

RoofPoint is based on current state-of-the-art processes and methods, remaining technology neutral. It does not rank or prioritize materials or systems; however, RoofPoint emphasizes energy efficiency and long-term performance and durability as overarching key attributes of a sustainable roof. Material recycling and reuse, VOCs, water capture and reuse, hygro-thermal analysis, and operations and maintenance are a few of the categories within RoofPoint.

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New Roof Must Last as Long as the Solar Panels It Supports

As thousands of Silicon Valley employees exited Hewlett-Packard (HP) global operations headquarters to head home for the evening, a crew of 25 roofers–under the glare of temporary spotlights–toiled diligently. They were fastening thousands of 1/2-inch DensDeck Prime coverboards to the 10-year-old insulation system covering the building’s metal deck.

Originally planned to be white, Hewlett-Packard ultimately selected a tan-colored membrane, to reduce glare because two levels of the building have glass-to-ceiling windows that allow visual access to the roof.

Originally planned to be white, Hewlett-Packard ultimately selected a tan-colored membrane, to reduce glare because two levels of the building have glass-to-ceiling windows that allow visual access to the roof.

Soon after, they adhered a single-ply, fleece-faced, tan-colored Sika Sarnafil EnergySmart roof membrane to the DensDeck Prime boards, creating a state-of-the-art 300,000-square-foot reroof. The added protection was much-needed, as it provided the durability and compressive strength to safely accommodate a massive system of solar panels that were installed atop 85 percent of the roof.

“We chose DensDeck Prime because it provides the best support for the new membrane, the existing roof and all the (solar) equipment that will go on top of it,” explains Steve Nash, vice president of Waterproofing Associates, who designed the reroof system in conjunction with Ted Christensen of Independent Roofing Consultants, and selected the materials to make it work. “With all the weight that will be bearing directly on the roof membrane, we need the ultimate roof substrate.”

Installing the massive, electricity-generating system of solar panels was an intricate endeavor, especially because its presence will complicate any repairs to the roof during the solar energy system’s anticipated 25-year life cycle. The building owner called on Nash to create a roof with a life cycle that would mirror the life of the solar panels.

The building owner desired a roof with a life cycle that would mirror the 25-year life span of the solar panels, which cover 85 percent of the roof.

The building owner desired a roof with a life cycle that would mirror the 25-year life span of the solar panels, which cover 85 percent of the roof.

“If the roof were to need repairs, the solar panels would have to be disassembled and out of service until the repairs are finished. And that can’t happen,” Nash adds. “Basically, we have to build a virtually maintenance-free roof.”

Protection—Above and Below

Cost-effective because of its energy efficiency and high levels of dimensional stability, the Sika Sarnafil G410 membrane is frequently installed over an underlayment of DensDeck Prime because its surface treatment provides a stronger bond for adhered membrane applications. Also, DensDeck Prime roof boards’ high pounds per square inch (PSI) compressive strength is an advantage as a durable platform for roofs with heavy equipment, like solar panels, on top.

Adding further complexity to the building’s new roofing system was the fact that the owner chose only to replace the original membrane—from another manufacturer—that had sprung a number of leaks in recent years. Keeping the remainder of the original roof—2 inches of fiberglass insulation, a built-up gravel surface and 1/2 inch of fiberboard—saved considerable time and money, as well as avoided having to send thousands of pounds of materials to landfills.

However, it did require adding the layer of DensDeck Prime to do double duty: carefully protect the layers of the original roof that would remain while forming the foundation for the Sika Sarnafil membrane.

Upon completion of the five-week project, which was conducted only at night and on weekends so the noise wouldn’t interrupt the HP employees during normal work hours, the new roof is aesthetically pleasing. Originally planned to be white, the owners ultimately selected a tan-colored membrane, to reduce glare because two levels of the building have glass-to-ceiling windows that allow visual access to the roof.

Nash notes the new roof’s beauty will only be exceeded by its durability. “With thousands of pounds of solar panels sitting on top of it, the roofing membrane cannot fail. So you get the best materials available to make it last—and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

Solar Racking System Meets Common Rooftop Challenges

Silverback Solar's engineering department was able to utilize as much roof space as possible for solar panels by elevating them above HVAC equipment with the Silverback Solar racking system.

Silverback Solar’s engineering department was able to utilize as much roof space as possible for solar panels by elevating them above HVAC equipment with the Silverback Solar racking system.

A barrel roof with HVAC equipment and skylights is not the ideal platform for a crystalline panel solar system, but a watertight attachment system from Silverback Solar allows architects, engineers and contractors to work with such challenges.

Silverback Solar’s mounting system features a roof attachment system that creates a completely watertight structural mounting point. It also features a patented adjustable sprocket to allow adjustments with the curvature of the roof. The Silverback product is lightweight and durable, which makes the building of the racking easy and faster to install. The ability to adjust the bracing and supports makes the racking very adaptable to varying roof terrains. More importantly, there is no cutting of materials since the racking comes precut and bundled per array, which is also identified per location on the site layout from Silverback.

Each part is labeled alphabetically, so all that is needed is a measuring tape, protractor to confirm the pitch and a 5/16 impact driver to install the self-drilling screws to hold the brackets to the pipe.

Silverback Solar designs, manufactures and distributes engineered racking systems for mounting photovoltaic and solar thermal systems. Solar panel racking systems work on commercial flat and low sloped roofs as well as ground mount applications.

S-5! and LM Curbs Celebrate 20 Years of Collaboration

S-5!, a provider of attachment technology for the metal roofing industry, celebrates its 20-year association with LMCurbs, a single-source supplier of metal roofing accessories. Impressively, LMCurbs has sold more than 8 million S-5! product components during that time.

According to S-5! CEO, Rob Haddock, when it comes to attaching metal roof applications, “S-5! and LMCurbs have maintained a successful relationship because of our mutual commitment to genuine innovation and the highest quality standards.”

VP of Marketing at LMCurbs, Clint Funderburk, agreed wholeheartedly, saying: “Partnering with S-5! has really proven to be a jointly-profitable business venture. Each member on our carefully selected team represents the highest level of expertise in their respective skill. So what we’re finding at LMCurbs is that architects and contractors look to us for answers when it comes to finding solutions for the most challenging aspects of metal roofing applications. We, in turn, are able to provide them with truly innovative and unique attachment solutions by S-5!”

LMCurbs was the first distributor to carry the world-renown S-5! ColorGard bar snow-retention system and was also the first to carry the globally popular S-5-PV Kit for mounting solar. LMCurbs distributes the full line of S-5! products, including the two newest S-5! innovations, the X-Gard pipe snow retention system and the Utility System.

RISE Announces New Certified Solar Roofing Professional Eligibility Track

Roof Integrated Solar Energy (RISE) has announced a new eligibility track for its Certified Solar Roofing Professional (CSRP) designation, which will enable a greater number of solar roofing professionals to qualify for this certification.

The new eligibility track allows those who have three years’ experience, involvement in a minimum of five projects installing commercial and residential roof-mounted PV systems, and 40 hours of recognized education and training eligibility to sit for the CSRP exam.

In the past, RISE had identified three eligibility tracks to qualify to take the exam. Candidates were required to demonstrate they meet at least one of these tracks.

The new track has been added to the list of the previous three minimum entry tracks, which are:

  • Three years’ experience installing roof systems as a roofing contractor or employee of a roofing contractor in addition to completing 40 hours of recognized education or training.
  • Three years’ experience providing technical roof system consulting services that include a minimum of five installed roof system projects in addition to completing 40 hours of recognized training programs.
  • Two- or four-year construction-related degree from a college or university accredited by an accrediting agency or state-approved agency recognized by the U.S. secretary of education or training.

“The RISE board of directors recognized that many rooftop solar professionals possess the unique roofing and PV system experience critical to the roles of a CSRP, but who previously were not eligible to sit for the exam,” explains RISE executive director, John Schehl. “The new eligibility track opens a door of opportunity for these professionals and provides greater choice to the public.”

RISE and the CSRP credential benefit roofing professionals by demanding a higher standard for all rooftop solar installations by providing a distinguished, nationally recognized professional credential that can enhance a career, satisfying consumers by protecting their roofing and solar investments, increasing the number of successful rooftop solar installations, providing the public with tools to identify skilled rooftop solar energy professionals, promoting a healthier roofing industry by differentiating between those who understand how to integrate those systems with the roof safely and effectively from those who simply understand PV systems, and ensuring roof-mounted PV systems work is overseen by individuals who are knowledgeable and experienced in roofing and PV system technologies, safety and construction processes.

RISE was created by the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing and the National Roofing Contractors Association to provide a means of evaluating and certifying solar roofing professional to support the widespread use of rooftop solar energy. RISE evaluates and certifies solar energy installers for knowledge about critical roof system construction and maintenance practices necessary to support successful rooftop solar energy installations based on principles regarding the installation and maintenance of rooftop solar energy systems without adversely affecting roof system performance and service life. RISE also provides the public with tools to identify skilled rooftop solar energy professionals.

Web-based Platform Allows Individuals and Organizations to Support Clean-energy Development

SolarCity is transforming energy delivery by making solar power more accessible and affordable than previously possible. Now the company wants to provide a new avenue for individuals and institutions from around the world to participate in and benefit from that transformation. SolarCity has announced plans to launch a new, Web-based investment platform through which it intends to allow a broad range of investors, including individuals and organizations of all sizes, to participate directly in solar investments that have previously only been available to large financial institutions.

“People want to support clean energy development. Customers are seeing the benefits of getting solar for their homes but they would like to participate in other ways as well,” says SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive. “Previously, only institutional investors could participate in the financing of most solar assets. With our investment platform, we’re hoping to allow far more individuals and smaller organizations to participate in the transformation to a cleaner, more distributed infrastructure.”

SolarCity has acquired a privately held financial technology company, Common Assets LLC, which developed the investment platform SolarCity will use to distribute its investment products. Tim Newell, the president and chief executive officer of Common Assets, and John Witchel, Common Assets’ chief architect, have joined SolarCity as part of the transaction. Newell, who will serve as SolarCity’s vice president of financial products, brings more than 25 years of investment, technology and government experience, including roles as senior advisor to private equity firm US Renewables Group; managing director of venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson’s clean technology affiliate fund; managing director and head of investment banking for E*Trade’s investment banking affiliate, E*Offering; and head of investment bank Robertson Stephen’s financial technology group.

Witchel, who will serve as SolarCity’s senior technology architect for financial products, is an experienced technology executive and successful entrepreneur with experience in large-scale financial innovation. Notably, Witchel was co-founder and chief technology officer of Prosper Marketplace, where he oversaw design and development of the first person-to-person online lending marketplace in the U.S. Common Assets was backed by U.S. Renewables Group (USRG), a private equity firm that specializes in renewable energy investments, and Jim McDermott, managing partner of USRG, served as chairman of Common Assets prior to the acquisition.

“SolarCity’s financial products will provide an exciting new opportunity for people to make an impact—both for their own financial future and our global future—by investing in the shift to solar energy,” says Newell. “Unlike crowdfunding and community solar approaches that typically aggregate investors to provide loans for individual projects, SolarCity plans to offer debt investments backed by diversified portfolios of solar assets.”