Residential Customers Prefer Buying Solar Panels

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By Roy L Hales
Originally published at The ECO report

The days when close to 70% of California’s residential solar installations were leased may be over. Tara Kelly, chair of the San Diego chapter of CALSEIA, said now most residential customers prefer buying solar panels.

Most Residential Customers Prefer Buying Solar Panels

jim walking up ladders – Courtesy Sullivan Solar Power

Speaking for her own employer, Ms Kelly added, “While it can fluctuate, about 96 percent of Sullivan Solar Power’s customers use cash or loans and only 4 percent use leases.”

“We offer clients all financing options, we see clients opting for a solar loan over the solar lease since they’re able to get a great interest rate, can receive a 30 percent federal tax credit and will own the system in 12 years. If someone pays taxes, the loan is much more attractive than a solar lease since Uncle Sam covers about a third of the system.”1

“We’ve seen a definite increase in ownership over the last two years. Once customers decide on ownership, the question is then on how they’re going to finance. There are different financing options available. Typically, they are offered through ‘solar-specific’ financing companies who focus on solar and have programs specific to the intricacies of solar installations. Another increasingly popular financing option is the use of local credit unions who have started to offer energy efficient loan programs, ” said Ian Lochore, Director of Residential Sales, Baker Electric Solar. 2

Work Through PACE

Installation Photo - Courtesy Baker Electric Solar
Installation Photo – Courtesy Baker Electric Solar

He added, “PACE is another energy efficient loan that allows financing through homeowners’ property taxes. It’s been growing quickly over the last two years, but we typically do not present PACE as our first option as we do not believe it is always in the best interest of the homeowner. Either way, we let the homeowner make the decision – we simply provide guidance and help the customer choose the best option for them,.”

“PACE is becoming more popular as many more jurisdictions now offer it, (but) most of our clients pay cash or use a 12-year loan,” added Ms Kelly.

A “significant number” of the 9,000 solar applications the county  expects to issue this year are  PACE related.

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob has been a champion of the PACE program since it first appeared in 2008. A spokesperson from her office explained that while it may not make the most sense for all, this program can open the door to those who might not otherwise be unable to tap in renewable energy technology. San Diego finally opened the door to residential PACE programs in 2014. Since then,three companies have been operating within the county.

  • 20,290 applications have been approved through the HERO PACE program.
  • 4,986 were approved for Ygrene PACE
  • 2,501 were approved for California First3

129It would appear that roughly half of these projects were completed by the end of June. A spokesperson for HERO PACE stated “8,356 homes have been improved with $225 million in HERO financing.”  In addition, HERO financed projects for “2,748 homes in the city of San Diego,” that are not in the county’s tally.4

As PACE is also used for  energy- and water-efficiency renovations, the number of homes that received solar panels is unknown.

PACE programs presumably financed less than 10% of the 93,076 rooftop solar installations within San Diego Gas & Electric’s territory (which includes the city & county).

Mauzy Heating, Air & Solar, obtains about 30% to 40% of their work through the HERO Program.

“We’ve been a HERO Registered Contractor from the day that they came in to San Diego and it opened up in San Diego County and being a HERO Registered Contractor is amazing. To be able to provide the level of service that we do and now that level of service is affordable to a lot more customers than it was before. You know before our level of service was not as affordable by some people but with the program it’s allowed us to bring that level of service to people with a little bit smaller budget or that need to a little bit of time to pay for the type of installation that we’re going to do,” said Matt Mauzy, the company President.

Top Photo Credit: Installation Photo Courtesy Renovate America, which operates HERO PACE. 

Footnotes

  1. Emails from Tara Kelly,  chair of the San Diego chapter of CALSEIA & Deputy Director of Community Development for Sullivan Solar Power
  2. Email from Ian Lochore, Director of Residential Sales, Baker Electric Solar
  3. Email from the office of San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob
  4. Email from spokesperson for the HERO PACE program