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Tue Jan 24, 2012, 02:39 PM

solar leasing biz model

So, my wife and I were at the Phoenix home/garden show the other week, looking into a few of the various companies who specialize in residential solar leasing. There's really three options you can choose: straight-up purchase, pre-paid lease and "zero-down" lease.

The leasing model has some advantages. Installation is insured via provider, warrantied for any damage, parts, labor. All tax rebates are dealth with by provider (they get them, as they own the system). Logistics of removal/storage/reinstall are free and handled by provider for roof replacements.

One thing they don't tell you: the difference between prepaid lease and zero-down is large. prepaid saves you around $12K over 20 years. (5kW installation pricing) So, math is your friend here.

Advantages of owning are, of course, you own it, no strings. You insure it, and it's on you to get the tax rebate logistics correct, etc.

I'm uber-suspicious of leasing almost anything, but I didn't perceive a lot wrong with the leasing model. I'm curious about experiences and opinions of other E/E dwellers.

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Reply solar leasing biz model (Original post)
phantom power Jan 2012 OP
txlibdem Jan 2012 #1
phantom power Jan 2012 #2
txlibdem Jan 2012 #3

Response to phantom power (Original post)

Tue Jan 24, 2012, 06:10 PM

1. You should have already received at least 3 quotes for a solar purchase before signing any lease

You might find that the tax benefits of taking out a 2nd mortgage adds up to more than you'd save by leasing with a down payment -- and you may not have to put as much down.

Owning your solar installation is IMO always preferable to leasing. But if you (like me) can't afford to put a 2nd on your house (or you're under water like millions of home owners) leasing may be your only option. One option is to get a smaller solar array but an inverter that will allow you to add more panels later on as you are financially able. Solar companies don't like to do this because you lose 1 or 2 percent efficiency but so what: one day you'll have the proper sized solar array for your needs and you will own it outright.

If you or your spouse can drive an electric car, however, then you aren't dealing with solar math any more: you're dealing with the price of gasoline (and how much it would be worth to you to stop supporting global terrorism -- each and every time you purchase oil products such as gasoline or diesel a small percentage of that hard earned money of yours goes ultimately into the hands of terrorists). That is the #1 reason to drive an electric car in my view: that they also save you on "fuel" is just a bonus. Solar leasing becomes an even more attractive option when you think of it as paying to NOT further the goals of terrorists.

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Response to txlibdem (Reply #1)

Tue Jan 24, 2012, 07:30 PM

2. Aint nobody signing anything, yet

Just curious about the general principle, as it were.

One thing about the zero-down lease is that literally anybody can take advantage of it, regardless of financial situation. I think that if you did that, you would want to make extra, extra certain of the numbers they quote you, so that your electric bill savings actually do offset the lease fees, or at least that there was a lease escape clause if you could demonstrate you weren't at least breaking even.

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Response to phantom power (Reply #2)

Wed Jan 25, 2012, 07:15 AM

3. The zero down solar lease still locks in your electricity price somewhat

You also have to factor that in. The solar lease company should have data on historical electric utility rate hikes (hint: they jack up the price on a regular basis).

Some solar leases gradually increase the monthly price you pay as years go by and some don't but neither will increase as much as the electric rates that utility customers will end up paying. So you got that going for you. Which is nice.

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