Group Purchasing: Power in Numbers

Group purchasing programs leverage group buying power to obtain lower prices, attract better financing options, and simplify the installation process for program participants. The San Francisco Department of the Environment has implemented three group purchase programs in recent years.

San Francisco SunShares. San Francisco SunShares is a group discount program to reduce the cost and complexity of installing residential solar. The employee solar group-buy model was pioneered by the City of San Jose in 2010. Like San Jose, the SF SunShares program is reaching the residential sector by offering discounted solar to city employees and retirees. In addition, the program is being offered to employees of Business Council on Climate Change (BC3) member companies and organizations. Confirmed BC3 participants include Blue Shield California and the University of California San Francisco. The program is available to participants from April 2013 through June 2013.

Solar@Work. The World Resources Institute (WRI), with the support of SF Environment, launched this commercial solar group purchase in 2011 to help small- and medium-size commercial property owners in San Francisco obtain affordable solar PV systems and affordable financing options. The program secured a 20 percent discount for participating members and provided streamlined financing options, including a $0 solar power purchase agreement. For more information, check out WRI's Purchasing Power: Best Practices Guide to Collaborative Solar Procurement.

Solar@School. In 2012, a group of four private schools in San Francisco joined forces to issue a Request for Qualifications under this innovative new program. Although the schools do not have a tax appetite, they were looking for a way to take advantage of the significant tax incentives for solar projects available from the federal government. Through third-party power purchase agreements, they were able to reduce their operating costs and allocate more funding to school-related programs. The schools have the combined potential to install over 500 kW.

For more information on group purchase program models, read our policy brief on group purchasing.

Group Purchase Providers

GroupEnergy [mygroupenergy.com]
One Block Off the Grid [1bog.org]

This list contains all the solar group purchase providers that the SF Department of the Environment is aware of. The City and County of San Francisco neither endorses nor assumes liability for the quality of work performed by any of these companies. If your company is not listed here and would like to be, please send your request to be added to renewables@sfgov.org.

Additional Information for Group Purchasing: Power in Numbers

WRI group purchasing guide
This Best Practices Guide is intended to assist commercial and government entities in the process of organizing and executing a collaborative solar purchase.
SF Energy Map
A map of renewable energy activity around the City, including installed solar systems, case studies, and monitoring stations.
Solar@Work Press Release
San Francisco Launches Solar@Work: Innovative Model Creates Breakthrough in Solar Affordability for Small Businesses
Purchasing Power: Best Practices Guide to Collaborative Solar Procurement
This Best Practices Guide is intended to assist commercial and government entities in the process of organizing and executing a collaborative solar purchase.
Green Tenant Toolkit
The Green Tenant Toolkit will assist tenants and landlords in reaching their sustainability goals within commercial buildings.