Solar Leasing: An Exciting New Way to Get Solar Panels

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.

What are they?

They comes 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 may be FREE!
  • The provider hires the installer and oversees the installation.  They also manage all maintenance and warranty issues with the system.
  • 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 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 solar leasing 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

Looking at integrating solar power into your home’s energy mix? Check out our current listings of solar energy products, including panels, grid tie systems, and inverters.

Photo courtesy of SunRun

  1. Keith Cronin

    Yes, this is a vehicle for homeowners who don’t have the upfront capital to purchase a system and allows them to go green today.
    For a person to decide on doing this, they need to ask the similar question when buying or leasing a vehicle. Virtually the same value proposition, with benefits, like climate change, externalities aspects of the conversation etc.
    So, do you buy your car or lease it?
    Pay upfront for your energy or lock in the rate for a prescribed period of time?
    More on this at http://www.keithcronin.net or http://www.sunhedge.com
    Keith Cronin

  2. Lorna Li

    Hey Keith,

    Great to see you here too!

    Does solar leasing require an upfront investment? I am considering this for my home. However, I live in a bit of a foggy part of San Francisco, and my roof is partially obstructed by trees. So I don’t get full sun all day, every day.

    Do you think I still qualify?

  3. Keith Cronin

    Hi Lorna

    Many companies usually ask for an upfront payment and lower payments or zero down but larger payments. They take alot of the similarities to auto leasing and apply them to solar.
    Foggy- no worries. The irony is Germany is the leader in solar installed in the world and Ontario is also catching up. So, fog, low relative light etc., plays into the amount of energy that is being produced, but it is at least being produced at the source of consumption. Think, farming on your roof!
    So, yes you still qualify.
    Let me know if you need someone to help you, as I have a close friend or 10 in SF to assist you!!

  4. Uncle B

    Not necessary, Yankee Doodle! Chinese designed reactors, plutonium free, thorium fueled, coming to America soon! For advanced peak at superior, up to date, fail-safe reactors see Tsinghua University, China, pebble bed gas reactors. Chinese government selects brightest, strongest, students from vast gene pool, far larger pool than American capitalist can, and educates them for free, inter-breeds them as no Christian society can, and develops super-intellect humans. New, ‘super-race’ working as we speak, on plutonium free, thorium fueled, fail-safe, high efficiency, cheap to build, nuclear power plants.
    China’s own Solar efforts also advancing. Most Chinese use Solar heated hot water, green houses are everywhere, Solar electricity abounds, and further research is on-going at Universities across the land.
    Americans, with credit cards extended to the max, with horrendous mortgages that amount to usury, with car payments, gasoline a premium prices, food costs rising, dollar devaluing, and governments going broke, printing ‘funny money’ by the barrel-load, can hardly be asked to extend themselves and pay for Solar Energy also. This scheme, given that there are a lot of parts to it that allow for capitalist’s shaving off small percentages, will work as long as the businessman’s share, taken off the top, is not so great as to tip the balance. Keep in mind that standard Capitalist methods include planned obsolescence, and the Solar panels are likely to need pre-engineered replacement just at the right time to make corporate profits, keep company doors open keep shareholders safe and comfortable. Remember the rusty cars, parts falling off at just the right time, epoxies in paint, plastics, and rubber hardening, just as the last payments were being made? Beware any long term deal with American capitalists!

  5. Jane

    With a lease the customer pays the equivalent to a 7 to 12 percent interest rate over the life of the contract. The customer does not receive the Federal tax credit or any cash rebate and won’t even own the system after all those payments. All of these financial incentives go to the leasing company. And good luck selling your home with a 15 to 20 year lease tied to the property. If the homebuyer does not or cannot assume your lease, you will have to pay a hefty penalty to break the lease.

  6. CT

    There are a number of solar installation companies offering solar leasing in Arizona these days. Take Salt River Solar & Wind for example. They offer solar leases with payments lower than the money you’ll save in utility expenses. Here’s their website: http://saltriverenergy.com

  7. Jessica Janes

    My hope is that solar becomes more and more developed and prevalent, which will then be reflected in a lower price for panels. If it is difficult to get out of the lease, like Jane said, you might be selling your home or whatever, this becomes a less attractive option. However, there is a good chance I will be staying in my home.

    It will be interesting to see how leasing unfolds.

  8. Green Global Travel

    Thanks for these really helpful basic tips. I never would have known how to contact a solar leasing provider. I will share this cool new tips and hopefully aid in the movement! – Emme @ Green Global Travel

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