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Airbnb partners with SolarCity to offer incentives to hosts who switch to solar power

Community hospitality company Airbnb is partnering with solar power provider SolarCity to encourage Airbnb hosts to switch to solar power in their homes.

The companies are offering incentives to those who choose to install solar. SolarCity will offer up to $1,000 cash back on solar panel systems to Airbnb community members in each market where SolarCity operates through March 31, 2017. After that, the rebate drops to $750 through Dec. 31, 2017. SolarCity customers who become Airbnb hosts will receive a $100 travel credit from Airbnb.

Airbnb has previously touted the environmental benefits of home sharing over hotels. Based on methodology by the Cleantech Group, the company said that in the last year Airbnb travelers reduced water consumption by 4.2 billion liters.

Solar panel installation. (Photo/Elenathewise/iStock/Thinkstock)

Getting homeowners to switch to solar energy is another way to cater to travelers looking for lodging that prioritizes sustainability.

"Travelers, especially millennials, want a more sustainable choice and homeowners want to make better use of the 13 million empty houses and 36 million empty bedrooms in the United States alone," said Chris Lehane, Airbnb's head of global public policy and communications. "Cleantech Group estimated that the average Airbnb guest night results in 61 percent less carbon dioxide emissions as compared to a night in a hotel."

Toby Corey, president of global sales and customer experience for SolarCity, said homeowners can save money on utility bills and fix their energy costs for years to come as the result of installing solar panels on their property.

"Our partnership with Airbnb demonstrates the important role energy plays in our everyday lives - including travel - and how clean energy can reduce everyone's carbon impact on the world," Corey said in a statement.

Over the course of 30 years, an average SolarCity power system will offset 178 tons of carbon dioxide, the company said.

"This partnership will create the first opportunity for many Airbnb guests to stay in a solar-powered home and allow them to experience firsthand how easy it is to use clean energy to contribute to a cleaner, healthier society," Corey said.

Solar power usage has been on the rise in the United States and the forecasts for the industry show significant growth by 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Capacity is expected to reach 27 gigawatts by 2017, up from 10 gigawatts in 2014. This is the highest growth rate among sources of renewable energy, the DOE states.

Part of the reason for the growth in solar usage is because of cheaper solar panels and a federal tax credit for solar installations, Climate Central reported in October. Data from The Solar Energy Industries Association indicates the cost to install solar has dropped by more than 70 percent in the last decade in the U.S.

Even in some of the cloudiest cities across the country, solar is becoming more viable, according to SolarCity.

Out of the top 10 countries for cumulative installed solar capacity in 2015, the U.S. ranked fourth, trailing only Japan, Germany and China, according to the International Energy Agency.

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