New NREL study highlights benefits of solar loans vs solar leases & PPAs

solar loan vs lease

Solar loans are gaining popularity as a solar financing option across the country. Because of the superior savings and similar benefits that solar loans promise, some industry analysts now predict that they will overtake third party-owned (TPO) solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) as the dominant option for solar financing in the USA within a few years.

A new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) examines this phenomenon and sheds more light on the possible advantages of financing your solar system with a loan as opposed to TPO solar lease / PPA.

The most important conclusion of the report is this: While going solar with either of these options is likely save you money on your electricity bills, financing your system with a solar loan could save you up to 30% more than if you go solar with a solar lease or PPA. Continue reading

Solar panels increase home values across USA, confirms new Berkeley Labs study

Solar panels increase home value

Installing solar panels can significantly increase your home’s value, according to a new study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBL). The report, titled “Selling into the sun: Price premium analysis of a multi-state dataset of solar homes“, builds on previous research which concluded that homes with solar in California sold for more than those without.

In addition to California, the new study investigates home pricing trends Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, New York and Pennsylvania by analyzing the sales of over 20,000 homes in these states. LBL’s analysis of the housing markets in these other states shows that the premium paid for homes with solar is not a phenomenon isolated to the Golden State.

The takeaway is this: If you are thinking about purchasing a solar system for your home, the study’s conclusions should give you a boost of confidence that you are making a smart investment. LBL finds that homes with solar panels will benefit from a ‘solar premium’ when they are sold because buyers are willing to pay more for a home with solar panels. Continue reading

Will joining a community solar garden save you money – or foster ‘community’?

Community solar gardens

Don’t have a roof of your own to put solar panels on? So-called community solar gardens have begun to appear in many states across the USA, promising to make it easy to go solar even if you don’t have anywhere to put your panels. ‘Community solar’ has created quite a buzz as the number of solar garden projects has grown.

But we here at EnergySage argue that participating in a solar garden only makes sense if you’re benefitting in some way: whether that be saving money on your power bill, or possibly just knowing that you’ve helped your community take a step towards energy independence.

Community solar gardens: How to go solar without a roof

EnergySage has published a number of articles on the topic of community solar power. You can read more about them

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Are microinverters and power optimizers the future of residential solar power?

Microinverters & Power optimizers

If you’ve been shopping around for a solar panel system, you may have heard of microinverters (from companies like Enphase and SolarBridge) and power optimizers (from companies like Tigo and SolarEdge). These devices – collectively referred to here as Module-level Power Electronics (MLPE) – are quickly gaining popularity in the US as an alternative to conventional string inverters.

In this article we take a look at this emerging trend and examine whether these technologies are the best option for all homes.

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What’s the Financial Value of Solar for Residential Customers? (Part 2): Educating the Public on Solar’s Value and their Available Options

Financial value of solar Part 2

Last week, the NC Clean Energy Technology Center at NC State University, a partner in the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership (SolarOPs), released a report ranking America’s largest cities according to the financial value solar offers residential customers in those cities. Today, the Center released its customer-facing companion report,“Going Solar in America: Ranking Solar’s Value to Consumers in America’s Largest Cities”, which, in addition to explaining the results of the analysis delivered in the previous report, dives into the different policy, incentive, and financing options available to customers considering solar.

Highlights of the customer-facing report include:

1. According to data shared with us by EnergySage, the leading online marketplace for solar, total installed solar PV system prices have declined from $10/W in the late 1990s by 60% to less than $4/W nationwide on average in the 3rd Quarter of 2014. Continue reading

What’s the Financial Value of Solar for Residential Customers? (Part 1): Ranking America’s 50 Largest Cities

Financial value of solar Part 1

As a result of solar PV cost declines, rising utility rates, and supportive public policies and incentives, residential rooftop solar PV has become an affordable option for millions of customers, especially in America’s 50 largest cities. This is especially true if customers have the ability to access low-cost financing options like longer-term loans, leases, and third-party power purchase agreements (PPAs) that eliminate the upfront cost. Thus, the availability of solar PV (and other ways to more efficiently use energy) has caused many customers to seek their own degree of personal “energy independence” by focusing on ways they can diversify their energy choices and exert greater control over their utility bills.

However, most of the customers who want a greater degree of personal energy independence (and the community leaders who wish to help them get there) often do not understand (or are simply unaware) of how solar PV technology can help them save money and reap the rewards of a largely risk-free long-term investment. Often, the lack of familiarity most customers have with solar PV has the effect of increasing the costs (often called “customer acquisition costs”) that solar PV installers must incur to educate consumers and make a sale. When one considers that selling more PV systems is how solar installers can reduce their other costs and make their businesses leaner, more competitive, and cost-effective without incentives, educating customers and community leaders about the “dollars and cents” value of solar PV truly is paramount. Continue reading

Are solar leases always a good idea? Do your homework: sort the facts from the marketing

Third party solar leases have proven themselves incredibly popular in recent years, playing a key role in propelling rooftop solar panels into the mainstream. Depending on the state, anywhere from 50%-90% of rooftop solar installations were financed through a solar lease or PPA at the beginning of 2014, according to the SEIA. You could say that solar leases have revolutionized the US solar industry.

But are solar leases always a good idea? These financial mechanisms are still relatively new and you, as a smart solar shopper, should approach them with a healthy dose of caution and a discriminating eye. This point has been highlighted in the recent efforts of a number of Congresspeople to shine a brighter light on how solar leases are pitched to consumers – both for the sake of those in the market for a system as well as for the solar industry itself. Continue reading

Pope Francis

Pope Francis puts climate change on the agenda for the Church – and the world

It’s not news that Pope Francis has green leanings. Addressing a crowd in Rome earlier this year, he head of the Catholic Church spoke bluntly about the dangers posed by human-caused climate change. “If we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us,” he said, going on to name environmental stewardship as a key responsibility of the Church and its faithful.

The Pope has had the environment on the agenda since his inauguration in 2013. But even back when Francis was still Cardinal Bergoglio, the Vatican was already supporting cleaner energy. The most obvious example of this was the installation of a 100 megawatt rooftop solar array to meet the bulk of the micro-state’s energy needs. This act, along with speeches he made, earned then-Pope Benedict the nickname ‘The Green Pope’. Continue reading

‘Free solar panels': Are they really free?

If you’ve been shopping around for a solar panel system, you’ve probably heard at least one company advertise ‘free solar panels’ – that they will install a solar system on your roof for free. But, much as with anything, remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch (or a free solar panel).

Decoding the sales pitch: The term ‘free solar panels’ is sometimes used to advertise solar lease or solar power purchase agreements (PPAs). Under both types of arrangements, a company will put solar panels on your roof for no money up-front, but will charge you for the electricity that they produce. Most offers will save you money but not all of them, so make sure you’ve thoroughly compared all your options. Also consider buying the solar panels or financing them with a zero-down solar loan.

Free solar panels pure energies

Free solar panels UK

Examples of companies advertising ‘free solar panels’

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Top solar panel manufacturers 2014: Do you need to go with one of the ‘big 10’?

Big ten solar panel manufacturers

Who were the global top solar panel manufacturers in 2014? Industry analysts at IHS have released their list for the year, based on updated shipping forecasts from each of the companies included. The results are very similar to 2013’s, albeit with some reshuffling. But do you as a solar shopper need to worry about whether the company you’re considering is one of the ‘big 10’?

Solar panel rankings: volume vs quality

Because IHS’s rankings are based on the total volume of solar panels that the companies ship by the end of 2014, being in the top position does not necessarily mean they offer the highest quality panel. Some of the smaller manufacturers specialize in premium products, whereas most of the larger manufacturers have gotten to where they are by either making a panel for the mass market or by focusing their efforts on large-scale projects. That being said, a company’s proven ability to produce and sell a large amount of product is testimony to its brand’s credibility, engendering trust among consumers and installers alike. Continue reading