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Thousands of Canadian employees of multinational technology firms Cisco Systems Inc. and 3M Co. will get a chance to take advantage of a new employee perk – discounted solar panels for their homes.

Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Thousands of Canadian employees of multinational technology firms Cisco Systems Inc. and 3M Co. will get a chance to take advantage of a new employee perk – discounted solar panels for their homes.

They'll be able to participate in a program, announced on Wednesday by the World Wildlife Fund, that will give North American employees of several major corporations discounts if they buy or lease solar panels. The bulk-purchase program, called the Solar Community Initiative, will be offered to about 145,000 workers at Cisco, 3M, Kimberly-Clark Corp., Johnson & Johnson, the National Geographic Society and a couple of other businesses that didn't want to be named, said David Levine, the chief executive officer of Geostellar, an online solar power portal that is organizing the program for the WWF.

The only Canadians who will be eligible are about 2,000 workers at Cisco and another 2,000 at 3M who live in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

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Mr. Levine said the idea is to use the bulk-purchasing power of large numbers of potential buyers to negotiate steep discounts from solar panel manufacturers and local installers. Geostellar will also use its automated ordering systems and high-technology remote sensing technology to determine the size and design of solar systems that need to be installed on the houses, thus helping reduce the installers' costs.

The WWF said the solar-panel systems for participants in the program should be roughly 35-per-cent less expensive than if they were bought individually.

"This takes the bulk-purchase model from individual neighbourhoods and organizations to a national scale," said Keya Chatterjee, WWF's senior director of renewable energy.

A spokeswoman for Cisco Canada said the company signed on for the program because it will provide "discounted rates and tailored financing options for employees in the U.S. and Canada based on a quick and free solar analysis of one's home."

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