Environmentally-conscious families are now looking to turn away from fossil fuels and other polluting forms of power generation. Driven to cleaner energy resources, numerous private sector companies and nonprofit organizations have begun to seriously invest in the growth and development of solar technology, such as low-cost solar photovoltaic cells. Capable of generating power in almost any area that receives enough sunlight, never before has it been so simple to cut back on electrical costs and the use of carbon-emitting fuels simultaneously.
Even so, the installation of a complete solar electric system is still beyond the means of most ordinary individuals. To widen access to the clean, affordable power provided by the sun, SolarCity (of which Elon Musk is chairman) has developed the concept of the solar leasing plan. Within the solar lease paradigm, the homeowner doesn’t have to pay any fees or charges in advance to receive a solar installation. Instead, the lessee agrees to pay a certain, fixed amount each month in exchange for the electricity supplied by the solar setup. In most cases, solar leases offer prices that are quite competitive with the charges levied by traditional electrical suppliers.
This type of financing has proven popular, and it has spawned a host of imitators. Sun Edison, Sungevity and SunRun are just a few of the competing firms eager to expand their market presence by offering solar leases to clients who might otherwise not be able to afford their services.
Solar leases empower regular people to take control of their own energy production and consumption. Understandably, traditional power companies are less than enthused about this development. Salt River Project in Arizona has even dinged its clients with a $50 monthly fee if they have solar panels installed on their roofs. Ironically, those power companies that fight against solar to preserve their margins may find themselves relegated to obsolescence and irrelevance if solar winds up adopted as a mainstream power solution. More farsighted energy providers have decided to embrace solar energy either by offering their own solar power products or by teaming up with solar enterprises to develop ways of integrating solar seamlessly into the pre-existing electricity generation and distribution infrastructure.
Some people are enchanted by the prospect of do-it-yourself solar as a means of saving money. While the components needed for such an endeavor are readily available and getting more inexpensive with each passing day, any projected savings may prove illusory. There are highly technical factors involved in proper installation as well as building code requirements that are generally confusing and vary from location to location. A qualified solar installer is well-versed in these obscure details, and can do a better job than all but the most committed laypeople. What’s more, solar leases almost always include free installation, so there’s even less reason to try to do everything yourself.
Unfortunately, solar leases are not currently offered in all 50 states. However, even old-school energy suppliers are slowly getting on board the renewable energy train. It may be possible for you to request that your local utility firm supply you only with electricity generated by solar panels or through other renewable means.
If you own a home and you use electricity from the grid, then you owe it to yourself to keep an eye on developments in solar tech. While solar is a viable solution only for a fraction of homeowners at present, this will likely change as availability increases and equipment costs decline even further. In the coming years, you too could be the recipient of a double boon: reduced electricity prices combined with lower levels of environmental harm.
Contributing Author: Beth Kelly is a freelance blogger and researcher. In her free time, she likes fixing old cameras and learning to speak new languages. She was born and raised in Michigan but now resides in Chicago, IL. Find her on Twitter.