New financing alternatives for solar power installations

One very tangible reason that people have been slow to adopt solar technology, other than its questionable current efficiency posture, is that very few of individuals or businesses have excess money to plunk down on the systems.There have been all manner of financing and credit and leasing programs invented to pick up the slack, but I wanted to point to two new ones that are cut out of a different model.

One very tangible reason that people have been slow to adopt solar technology, other than its questionable current efficiency posture, is that very few of individuals or businesses have excess money to plunk down on the systems.

There have been all manner of financing and credit and leasing programs invented to pick up the slack, but I wanted to point to two new ones that are cut out of a different model.

The first is a new Power Purchase Agreement for small-business owners that was introduced in early July by SolarCity, with the backing of U.S. Bancorp. The new program is specifically targeted at companies that own their headquarters or office real estate outright. It provides financing for commercial projects as small as 20 kilowatts (or 2,000 square feet) on up to 1,000 kilowatts (100,000 square feet) or more. In exchange for the installation, the owner signs a 15-year or 20-year agreement to buy power from SolarCity according to "predictable" rates.

Lyndon Rive, founder and CEO of SolarCity, says his company (and its financial backer) will "own" the system. If you sell the building or your business, the ownership can be transferred to the buyer. "Everybody is afraid of the smaller systems because of the complexity involved. We're testing out this model," he says.

California and Arizona are the first markets being targeted. It would take about six to eight months to get an installation into place if you were to invest today, he says. Here are the complete details of the new program.

Any business or church or school or non-profit group with unshaded rooftop space of at least 4,000 square feet is generally a decent candidate for the program, Rive says. The only stipulation is that you MUST own the building you're outfitting.

Speaking of non-profits, an organization called GRID Alternatives has been tapped to handle the California Solar Initiative Single-Family Affordable Solar Homes Program (aka SASH). That means the organization will handle applications for 1 to 3 kilowatt solar photovoltaic projects among low-income households supported by Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison.

To qualify, you need to be a customer of one of these utilities, own your residence, have a household income that is 80 percent or less of the median income in the area, and live in a California Public Utilities Code 2852-compliant home. Here's more information.

GRID Alternatives has been running similar projects across California, where it has trained more than 2,000 volunteers. The proposition is that these systems can help reduce electricity in these homes by about 75 percent. So far, that translates into savings of $3.8 million, based on current installations.

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