Renting The Sun

By Chelle Cordero

April 17, 2013 5 min read

Solar power is a renewable, reliable and clean source of energy. The Environmental Protection Agency says, "Solar energy is considered environmentally friendly because the sun is a natural energy source that does not require the burning of fossil fuels and the associated air emissions. In addition, it is considered renewable since the energy produced from the sun does not deplete any natural resources and will never run out."

Photovoltaic systems use the electrical properties of materials known as semiconductors to produce electricity. When hit by sunlight, a semiconductor material creates an electrical charge, which can then be transferred through a circuit to anything that uses electricity.

Installing solar panels on your roof can provide you with electricity, heat and hot water. When used in combination with solar cells and supplementing your utility company's supply, you are guaranteed of never being in the dark. Unfortunately, many homeowners have put off installing solar panels on their home because of the initial outlay -- estimated at approximately $30,000 to $50,000 -- even though the savings can eventually pay for itself.

The good news is that some companies are now making solar panels available as rentals. Renting solar panels will still decrease your overall utility bills and soften the impact of acquiring the system. If you move, you can cancel the rental agreement. Check with companies in your area to make sure the sunlight is optimal and what arrangements they can make with your local utility companies. Renting solar panels makes sense; you can help the environment, lower your utility bills and save money on an otherwise expensive installation. You'll realize savings right away.

The EPA explains, "A solar power purchase agreement is a financial arrangement in which a third-party developer owns, operates and maintains the photovoltaic system, and a host customer agrees to site the system on its roof, or elsewhere on its property, and purchases the system's electric output from the solar services provider for a predetermined period."

Since solar power leasing companies own the systems, they can sell their tax credits to investors who need tax credits to get a lower tax rate. The leasing company can afford to install solar panels for no money down and only a monthly fee, which is generally well under what the customer has been paying for electricity from their local utility. Since the leasing company owns the panels, the homeowner is not entitled to rebates or tax incentives, but they do not have to face the high installation costs of buying either.

The solar services provider functions as the project coordinator, arranging the financing, design, permitting and construction of the system. The company gets an income from their investors, the investor saves on taxes and the homeowner saves on utilities; it's positive for everyone. Some companies will allow the residential customer to make a balloon payment at the end of the lease to purchase the panels outright.

One company, Citizenre, based in California, began leasing solar panels around 2007 and has successfully installed systems in several states; they are eventually looking to install photovoltaic systems throughout the country. Citizenre will come to your home and assess the viability of installation, making sure that your roof is structurally sound and receives sufficient direct sunlight. They will also contact your local utility company to make necessary arrangements and hookups. Leases are typically signed for a period of ten years or more.

Another company that will lease solar panels is Sungevity, which is also based in California. The Sungevity solar lease will also provide you with a low monthly lease fee and the peace of mind from helping save the environment and saving money in your pocket. Despite rising electricity costs, Sungevity claims, "There's a way to lock in low rates and take back the power from your utility company." Sungevity began its leasing program in 2011.

The Unites States Environmental Protection Agency offers a lot of information, laws and local regulations for interested homeowners. Look for solar services providers to find one doing business in your area and start renting a piece of the sun.

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