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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Solar Leasing: An Exciting New Way to Get Solar Panels

(photo courtesy SunRun)

There are many ways to go about getting solar panels on your home. Most of them involve hiring a good contractor to design and install a system on your roof. And, unfortunately, it often involves spending a lot of money up front on the system and installation. Fortunately, there are alternatives that are rapidly evolving that can bring the initial cost of the system down to something much more affordable and sometimes can cost NOTHING up front.
(photo courtesy SunRun)

What are these programs?
They come in many forms, but for the most part they are called solar leasing programs. You may also hear them called solar financing, solar power purchase agreements, or solar rental programs.

How do they work?
They vary slightly, but here are the basics:
  • You contact a solar leasing program provider (we’ll discuss them below)
  • The provider comes to your home and determines if your home qualifies for their program. They evaluate things like sun exposure, roof angle and access issues.
  • If your home is right for solar power, the company usually collects a deposit and you sign an agreement ranging from 10-20 years. In some cases, depending on local solar incentives, the provider may not require any money from you. That’s right, your system could be FREE!
  • The provider hires the installer and oversees the installation. They also manage all maintenance and warranty issues with the system for the life of the contract.
  • The provider collects any and all utility incentives and tax breaks.
  • You immediately start seeing benefits in lower power bills. The solar leasing company is essentially selling you power at a reduced rate that they generate from the solar panels. Savings vary from 5% to 25% on monthly electric bills.
  • Here’s where it gets really good: your power rates from the leasing company are locked in for the life of the agreement. So when the utility rates start to rise (and they most definitely will) your rates will stay the same and your power savings will really take off.
  • You get the satisfaction of generating clean, renewable energy while helping the planet.
What’s the catch?
There are of course some qualifications for the program. People who qualify generally meet these guidelines:
  • They live in states with great solar incentives like Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Programs will be in place very soon for other places like Texas and Florida.
  • They are serviced by a major utility that has a solar incentive program in place, not a local or municipal power cooperative.
  • They have a large space on the roof that is clear of obstructions and faces south.
  • They have a desire to save money and help the planet at the same time.
How do I find a provider?
There are several major solar leasing firms nationwide. They include SunRun (, SunPower (, and SolarCity ( All of these companies have an online form that you can fill out to be contacted for an estimate. There are other programs nationwide, and you can find out more by contacting your utility provider or finding a local solar contractor.

This can be a great way to get solar installed on your home and start seeing the benefits of renewable energy right away.

Kriss Bergethon is a writer and solar expert from Colorado. Please visit his site at Solar Panels.

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