Thursday, 4 September 2008

Solar power for less than your cable bill

Original Article

Solar power companies have been working around the clock to drive down the price of clean electricity from the sun so it can one day be as cheap as the energy we get from dirtier sources, like coal plants.

Until we get there, however, some solar panel installers have come up with a solution that they say will give more people access to solar energy. How are they doing it? By allowing customers to lease, rather than buy, the photovoltaic solar panels for their roofs.

It’s the same idea, really, that has enabled some people to get behind the wheel of a luxury car they could otherwise not afford — low or no upfront costs followed by a monthly bill.

SolarCity, based in Foster City, California, is one company that recently started offering leases to its customers. Chief Executive Lyndon Rive told Reuters he wanted to do away with the hefty cost of buying solar panels — on average about $20,000.

“Even those who really want to make an environmental change can’t part with $20,000… the solution is just too costly for them.”

Under SolarCity’s lease program, customers with a small home could pay as little as $70 a month for a 2.4 kilowatt system, Rive added. The company is also allowing customers who sign up before July 31st to put no money down on their system. After that, upfront costs should be between about $1,000 and $3,000, Rive said.

“We can essentially make it so that everybody can now afford clean power,” Rive said.

The leased projects will be financed through Morgan Stanley, and SolarCity said it will serve as a one-stop shop for both installation and financing.

Right now the program is only available in California, but SolarCity is expanding to Oregon, Arizona and has plans to go to the East Coast.

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