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Solar leasing programs?

Sandwich

Pig my fish!
Staff member
May 23, 2002
16,249
1,142
01776
Has anybody heard of these? I had a guy come to my house and tell me he wanted to install solar panels on the roof, and I would get a fraction of my electric bill back. Basically, they own the panels and lease them to me, I pay nothing, but I get back a fraction of my electric bill, something like 5cents off a 17c/kwh, as I think it is now.

I can't find much info on the company, they appear to be legit, but I don't necessarily want dudes climbing around the roof of my house, and if they do, I want them to be fully insured and liable for any damages to my home. The company is called vivint solar. I don't know if they have any competitors.
 

jimmydean

The Official Meat of Ridemonkey
Sep 10, 2001
29,918
2,708
Portland, OR
That is an interesting concept. Makes sense if the return is enough for them to make it worth while and they have to do all the upkeep on the system.
 

Sandwich

Pig my fish!
Staff member
May 23, 2002
16,249
1,142
01776
My understanding is that there are HUGE rebates/incentives in MA for eco-friendly power (see the Cape Wind project). So, for every 17 cents they put into the grid, they probably get 25c for. So they give me a nickle to keep me happy and pocket the rest, and all they have to do is buy panels in bulk and install them on decent houses.

At least, that's what it sounds like. I've just never heard of anything like that before, and a 5c savings is good unless they're putting non-removal components in and punching holes in my roof.
 

Luckybikes

Monkey
Jan 29, 2006
162
1
Dracut MA
I doubt there is anyway they can do it with out punching holes in your roof and on top of that taking space up for Metering it, and any other controls they would need to keep tabs on it. Also how old is your roof if it a 20 yr roof that is 15 yrs old it wouldn't make sense to have them install it all. I just don't see where they would make enough money doing this to stay in business. Also i make sure they have liability insurance in case the damn things some how set your house on fire or cause water damage or something along those lines.
 

bean

Turbo Monkey
Feb 16, 2004
1,338
0
Boulder
I don't remember the details, but I did see something that made solar leasing sound like a terrible deal. I'll have to see if I can find anything about it.

Generally, I'm always suspicious of anyone who just shows up at my house wanting to sell me on something.
 

Sandwich

Pig my fish!
Staff member
May 23, 2002
16,249
1,142
01776
I don't remember the details, but I did see something that made solar leasing sound like a terrible deal. I'll have to see if I can find anything about it.

Generally, I'm always suspicious of anyone who just shows up at my house wanting to sell me on something.
yup. if it's that good of a deal, everybody would be doing it. That's the sort of stuff I'm trying to uncover though...not much personal info on these guys out there.
 

syadasti

i heart mac
Apr 15, 2002
12,721
290
VT
I don't remember the details, but I did see something that made solar leasing sound like a terrible deal. I'll have to see if I can find anything about it.

Generally, I'm always suspicious of anyone who just shows up at my house wanting to sell me on something.
They aren't going to put up the capital for it for nothing. If you can afford it typically it makes more sense to own the system.
 

C.P.

Monkey
Jan 18, 2004
547
8
SouthEastern Massachusetts
If you're serious about having photovoltaics installed on your home, then get a detailed quote from a company to install a system for you to own. Then, with the "solar lease proposal/terms" and the "install to own proposal" in hand, spend a little bit comparing the pros & cons of the two, with the financials side by side. If you're serious about it, the numbers, among other things will (better) speak for themselves.
BTW: I am not a fan of leasing solar.
 

kazlx

Patches O'Houlihan
Aug 7, 2006
6,721
1,575
Tustin, CA
Depending on your bill, you might be better off buying the system yourself. I have looked into it, but my house is too small to really make use of it. Another guy I work with basically runs his house off of his panels...including heating his pool.
 

bean

Turbo Monkey
Feb 16, 2004
1,338
0
Boulder
Depending on your bill, you might be better off buying the system yourself. I have looked into it, but my house is too small to really make use of it. Another guy I work with basically runs his house off of his panels...including heating his pool.
Can you sell back to the grid? I was talking to someone over the weekend and he mentioned that his sister has panels that they financed. What they get from selling back to the grid is covering the payment for the panels plus a bit extra (usually not much, something like ten or twenty dollars a month).
 

kazlx

Patches O'Houlihan
Aug 7, 2006
6,721
1,575
Tustin, CA
Can you sell back to the grid? I was talking to someone over the weekend and he mentioned that his sister has panels that they financed. What they get from selling back to the grid is covering the payment for the panels plus a bit extra (usually not much, something like ten or twenty dollars a month).
I don't know how exactly his setup works and he lives in a different county than I do. They way he explained it, he can sell back to the grid, but I think they credit him, so when he does use more than he produces, it still doesn't cost him much.
 

syadasti

i heart mac
Apr 15, 2002
12,721
290
VT
My system is installed on our business, 1196 panels, 281kW array with two 125 kW inverters. Net zero electric for first year of operation (2011). We own it, should pay for itself after about 7 years of operation:



 

canadmos

Cake Tease
May 29, 2011
10,150
6,141
Canaderp
My system is installed on our business, 1196 panels, 281kW array with two 125 kW inverters. Net zero electric for first year of operation (2011). We own it, should pay for itself after about 7 years of operation:



That is really cool to see!

What is the upkeep on them? Do you even have to do anything? Snow damage? Do the panels last for the seven years it will take to recover the costs?
 

syadasti

i heart mac
Apr 15, 2002
12,721
290
VT
That is really cool to see!

What is the upkeep on them? Do you even have to do anything? Snow damage? Do the panels last for the seven years it will take to recover the costs?
Nothing much. When I inspected them in January there was one damaged by a strike (don't know if a bird dropped something from above or someone threw something up on the roof from the development to our West - these panels are strong enough to walk on from the corners of the frame) and another than had a manufacturer's defect - out of 1196 panels. The system has a 20 year warranty (panels and inverters). The panels should last at least 30 years but they'll be obsolete long before that. The building is 40 years old but we put a brand new roof on just before we put the solar up.

2011 totals (first full year of operation - note significant snow cover in Winter months that year and still net zero electric):
 
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syadasti

i heart mac
Apr 15, 2002
12,721
290
VT
All grid tied photovoltaic systems are net metered. More here
Kind of annoying if there is an outage you can't generate power for safety reasons. They should have a system that auto-disconnects from the grid during an outage and then lets you start generating again while you wait for the grid to come back on-line.
 

C.P.

Monkey
Jan 18, 2004
547
8
SouthEastern Massachusetts
Kind of annoying if there is an outage you can't generate power for safety reasons. They should have a system that auto-disconnects from the grid during an outage and then lets you start generating again while you wait for the grid to come back on-line.
Look up Hybrid Solar Systems. These are grid tied photovoltaic systems that also have a large battery bank and all related equipment (charge controller, transfer switch etc). The system works by charging the battery bank first, then grid tying the inverter when the charge controller indicates that the battery bank is full. If you MUST have all renewable energy, even for your backup system, then this is the typical way to do it.
Alternatively, you could have a simple grid tied photovoltaic system and a backup genset on site, that is wired through an automatic transfer switch.
 

syadasti

i heart mac
Apr 15, 2002
12,721
290
VT
Those options would be even more capital for an already significant investment and in our peak solar almost all our power is going back to the gird. Plus with batteries we'd get losses - peak times are in the off-season for our business and peak demand for utility customers at the same time. If the local grid was less reliable then maybe it would make sense but there is nothing mission critical or likely demands for business during outages.
 
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C.P.

Monkey
Jan 18, 2004
547
8
SouthEastern Massachusetts
Yup, agreed, batteries are not the most efficient means for backup power...
If you truly need backup power, the cheapest way to go is to just add a genset with a transfer switch.