For years, Bruce Crawford dreamed of putting solar panels on his one-story house to cut his power bill and "do something good for the environment." But he couldn't see past some dark clouds -- the $20,000 to $30,000 purchase price.
Then, a Silicon Valley start-up called Sun Run offered Crawford a way to go green without straining his wallet. Last month, the company installed a 3.8-kilowatt system on his pitched roof for $6,000. Crawford, 62, says he'll immediately save money on his electric bill. Sun Run monitors and maintains the system, replacing worn parts at no extra cost.
It's one of several companies upending solar's traditional business model by supplying systems to homes and businesses at minimal or no cost, owning and maintaining them, and charging customers for the power they use -- much like a utility. Yet unlike a utility, these firms typically charge a bit less than standard electric rates.