SolarCity, Airbnb partner to offer up to $1,000 to new solar owners

Airbnb announced a partnership with SolarCity on Tuesday that will offer up to $1,000 in solar rebates to those who host or rent properties through the home-sharing firm.

The rebates for residential solar-panel installations are available in the 19 U.S. markets served by SolarCity. In addition, new and existing customers of the San Mateo firm who become Airbnb hosts will receive a $100 travel credit.

Partnerships such as the one between Airbnb and SolarCity come as solar companies are seeking ways to reduce their costs of finding new customers. One method solar companies have increasingly been using is tapping the customer and membership base of other firms and organizations.

“Customer acquisition is quite expensive as a business proposition,” said Bernadette del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Assn. “It’s all about how to get that customer and getting them to say yes.” 

In linking up with SolarCity, the San Francisco home-sharing service is also trying to position itself as a clean-energy firm, noting that the typical residence consumes far fewer resources than a hotel.  It released a study that claimed home sharing can save billions of liters of water, tons of waste and the energy consumed by the equivalent of what 280,000 homes use in a year.

Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s head of global public policy and  communications, said during a Tuesday news conference announcing the partnership that millennial travelers who use Airbnb are not just looking for ways to save money.

“Global climate change is the challenge of our time,” he said. “Sustainability is really how [millennials] live their lives.”

SolarCity has been diversifying its offerings in recent months, including new financing options that allow customers to benefit directly from a 30% federal tax credit and other incentives.

The $1,000 rebate will reduce the cost of the typical residential solar system in California by almost 13%, to about $7,000, including government incentives. The rebate is a limited time offer that drops to $750 after March 31 and is available through Dec. 31, 2017.

The deal comes as Solar City shareholders are expected to vote next month on a $2.6-billion merger with Tesla Motors.

For more energy news, follow Ivan Penn on Twitter: @ivanlpenn

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