Who will win the solar financing wars?

Solar financing startup Clean Power Finance raised $37 million from Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, and Claremont Creek Venture. I’ve been a big fan of solar financing for some time because it lowers the barrier to entry for rooftop solar and makes for some interesting finance products like solar backed securities. Solar leasing and power purchase agreements are arguably the single biggest factor in growing installation rates on the residential rooftop side.

And I wonder which solar financing model will win. Companies like SolarCity and Sungevity are one stop shops where they do both financing and the panel installation and maintenance. But Clean Power Finance, which claims to partner with 80 percent of major residential solar companies, doesn’t do the installations themselves. The company just provides software and financing so that solar installers can provide better financing options to their customers. It also builds the relationships with investors and lenders who can offer up the capital in exchange for Clean Power Finance creating access to returns based on solar payments.

So there likely is enough room in the market for companies like SolarCity that do it all and companies like Clean Power Finance which just do the financing end. On the one hand, is SolarCity more competitive because it’s just one company with one profit to make, rather than a margin for Clean Power Finance and a margin for its partner solar installers? Or does Clean Power Finance have an edge because it’s dedicated financing strategy could lead to it having lower costs of capital and competitive financing offerings for its partner solar installers? Only time will tell but it’s good that regional, even mom and pop, solar installers can offer easy lease and power purchase agreements to customers, particularly in the many areas not served by SolarCity and Sungevity.