Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Want Solar for Your Home, but can't afford it?

Aside from having access to adequate sunshine to make installing Photovoltaic panels on or near a home, the largest hurdle for most in adding locally generated solar to their electric consumption is the up front capital cost of installing the system. There is now an emerging market for companies offereing power purchase agreements (PPA). In this arrangement, the homeowner signs a long term contract with a company that will install and maintain the PV system and the homeowner will purchase the power generated. The company doing the installation takes on the capital costs and presumably will begin to make a profit at some point during the term of the contract. These systems do not become a homes sole electric source, the home remains connected to the grid and can draw on the power of the grid at any time at whatever rate the local utilities set.

One such company is Sun Run Generation. It appears that there is some form of up front payment to Sun Run, the homeowner is making an investment in their PV system, but not the entire cost, "Your initial payment to Sun Run is 50% less than the upfront cost of buying the same solar system outright." Its a step towards lowering the barrier of entry.

Unfortunately, they've just opened their doors and are only offering services to households in California. They actively monitor the system, perform periodic maintenance as well as mandatory repairs as the system operates. The homeowner doesn't need to become an expert on the PV system on their house just to keep it running correctly.

More locally, in New England, one company that is performing solar hot water and PV systems is SolarWrights. It doesn't appear that they do PPA agreements.

Want to know how much solar costs? Check out GetSolar.