Recently at the January monthly Real Estate Roundtable breakfast sponsored by the University of Cincinnati, I was introduced to a fascinating new concept – the Roof Lease. Featured speaker Mike Phillips, President of Cincinnati based national real estate developer Phillips Edison Company, mentioned that Roof Leases are starting to spring up across the country. The basic concept is that in exchange for 15 – 20 years of guaranteed income (or in other words, payment for electricity generated from solar panels installed on the roof) a solar energy provider installs and maintains solar panels (generally with the help of grant money) on the roof of your shopping center. Once installed, the solar panels are capable of generating sufficient electricity to power the entire shopping center and provide a number of direct benefits for the landlord. These benefits include the ability to market as a green center featuring controlled electricity costs for tenants, reduced common area electric costs for itself, and the potential of becoming eligible for certain energy related tax credits. As an added benefit, solar panels can be easily hidden from sight; so there are no aesthetic concerns nor is their addition to an existing center likely to run afoul of antiquated zoning code height restrictions.

As a side note, if anyone knows about emerging trends in the shopping center world, it should be Mike Phillips. His company owns more than 240 properties across the county and his popularity was evidenced by the largest turnout by far of any UC Real Estate Roundtable breakfast in recent memory.