Solar Panels for Free?
January 2, 2009 10:23 AM   Subscribe

I heard about a company that installs solar panels and then they take part of the energy created as a source of paying for the panels and installation...does this sound right and does anyone know of such a company?
posted by matthelm to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This company appears to rent solar electric systems -- they put up the capital cost and install them, you pay some fixed amount monthly for 25 years and keep/sell the electricity the panels produce. I've heard of people doing this before but can't offer any first or second hand experience. Is this what you were thinking of?
posted by ChrisHartley at 10:53 AM on January 2, 2009

I think what you are thinking of is one of the several companies that are offering a lease-to-own kind of program. What they do is install solar panels on your home that output, on average, the exact amount of electricity that you generate. Then you buy your power from them for 10 or 20 years, after which you own the panels.

Because of this, your electric bill stays the same, you just pay a different person. The company basically gets a loan for the panels and puts them up and you're paying them. They start to earn a profit in just under 10 years.

I know one company, CitizenRe, was trying to do something like this on a national level but hasn't gotten off the ground yet. Several other companies are already up and running, but on smaller regional levels. In CitizenRe's case, if I remember correctly, you never owned the panels at the end, you just committed to buying power from them and they installed the panels on your roof.

another benefit of this is that your electricity rate is usually locked in. While grid electricity might become more expensive in the future, these solar leasing companies won't raise your rates.
posted by lockle at 10:57 AM on January 2, 2009

I haven't heard of solar panel installation companies doing this, but energy companies will buy the energy produced by your panels. PSE&G, for example, will buy energy from residential solar generators, and sell it to corporations who want clean energy. I don't know the details of their loan program. The idea is, you'll have to contribute to an initial investment to get the panels installed, and your investment will pay itself back when you sell the energy.
posted by asras at 10:59 AM on January 2, 2009

There are companies that will put up solar panels on your house for free and then charge you for the power they produce. Also, some electrical companies have programs to put panels on people's houses and run that into their own grid.
posted by delmoi at 11:22 AM on January 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the quick responses. Th info I got was in passing so I really didn't get the full gist of what was being said, but people have given me great answers that will help. I was just thinking about the possibility of a gated community of condos getting solar panels installed on all roofs. If this would be beneficial to the entire community and what kind of payment plan etc would be required to get such a job started....
posted by matthelm at 11:24 AM on January 2, 2009

citizenre is questionable at best. they've done blogspamming and i've seen some opinions that they're just a vaporware MLM company. here's one write-up:
posted by rmd1023 at 11:28 AM on January 2, 2009

After I posted that link I actually gave their website a second read-through and yeah, they look scamy. The use of the term "Ecopreneur" was my first indication. BUT I don't think the basic idea is inherently a scam, just find a smaller regional company that doesn't use the term "ecopreneur" or want money up front with no capacity to deliver.

In the condo case you mentioned all such a company would be doing is getting a loan and hiring a solar installer, then billing you for the electricity you use and then paying back the loan and skimming a profit off the top for their trouble. A reasonably organized neighborhood association could do the same thing but a bit cheaper without the profit.
posted by ChrisHartley at 2:21 PM on January 2, 2009

I remember seeing a news piece on this company too. I think they were based in North Carolina, so it could be Duke Energy, although that's not ringing the right bell for me, completely..
posted by NikitaNikita at 9:24 PM on January 2, 2009

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