Topics:Green Living Solar Financing Solar Savings Solar Equipment Energy Efficiency Solar Incentives Solar Companies Solar FAQs solar power solar panels green living solar news
If the State Supreme Court rules in their favor, Florida residents may soon be legally able to purchase electricity from independently owned solar power companies. Yesterday, the Florida Supreme Court listened to attorneys argue about the cost-effective, environmentally friendly aspects of solar power and the benefits of permitting residents to use it. Opponents of a constitutional amendment to make such an allowance say the amendment is contrary to state law. Currently, Florida homeowners are relegated to rely on state-regulated utility providers. Attorney Robert Nabors represents some 121,000 Florida residents who have formed a group known as Floridians for Solar Choice. The has compiled signatures for a "Solar Choice" ballot initiative, hoping to block the government or any utility companies from passing on rules or rate fees for solar plants. Group officials indicate that an additional 110,000 signatures could soon be presented. If the amendment is ruled constitutional, Florida residents would be able to put out 2 megawatts of solar power and in turn sell the power to neighboring homeowners or businesses. The Florida Supreme Court will not decide whether the proposed amendment is sound or viable but whether the proposal is accurately spelled out and is confined to one subject. One utility company advocate, former Florida Supreme Court Justice Stephen Grimes, asserted that the amendment would take away authority from the Public Service Commission and local governments, even though the ballot summary does not expressly say this. "The ballot summary fails to advise the voter that small solar providers can completely ignore health, safety and building code regulations," said Grimes, speaking on behalf of the Florida Electric Cooperatives Association. "They didn't want the voters to know that." In order for the proposed amendment to go before voters in the next election, solar power supporters have a Feb. 1, 2016, deadline to acquire 683,149 signatures. This, of course, is contingent on the court's affirmative ruling of the proposal.
For most of the solar industry's 140-year history, solar-harnessing technology has only been available to the environmentally conscious elite. But for the past decade, residential solar companies have been clamoring for the business of the everyday consumer - and solar energy has never been more widely available, or more affordable. The sudden increase in competitive solar energy companies has not only driven down the price of solar energy, but it also correlates to the steadily climbing number of state and federal incentives for making the switch. If you've been wanting to add solar panels to your home or place of business, it's important to be aware of the purchasing options available to you. Leasing/PPAs vs. Buying/Solar Loans Generally, people go solar in one of two ways: they either lease their solar panels, or buy them. As making the switch to solar is both an economic and an environmental decision, your choice to either lease or purchase your home solar system will greatly depend on your financial and sustainability goals. (For more information on the best solar companies near you and their pricing options, check out our Top Recommended solar companies) The Solar Lease Leasing is a popular option among solar enthusiasts. It gives lessees the opportunity of acquiring a solar system for as little as $0 down. Leasing is the best option for you if you match any of the following descriptions: You care less about receiving financial benefits for making the switch to solar, but are primarily interested in the environmental benefits of using a renewable resource. You have a relatively small tax bill that would erase the tax credit benefit for going solar. You are either unwilling or unable to make a sizable cash investment for a solar system. You don't want to be responsible for the care and maintenance of your solar system. You have a credit score above 700. Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) In addition to solar leases, customers can also finance their solar system through a power purchase agreement, or PPA. The main difference between solar leases and PPAs is what you're paying for: lessee will pay the leasing company for the solar equipment, and the energy is essentially free; meanwhile, PPA users pay for the energy at a set price per kilowatt hours. Other important differences between solar leases and PPAs are as follows: Solar Leases vs. PPAs* No down payment 15-year or greater contract, transferrable to new owner You pay for the equipment, not the power generated. Lease payments rise 3-4% per year. Lease company usually takes care of maintenance, etc. No tax benefits Option to purchase at the end of the lease Excellent credit required *Power Purchase Agreements Upfront costs of $1,000 or more 15- to 18-year contract, transferrable to new owner You pay for power generated. Flat electrical rate PPA company in charge of maintenance and repairs No tax benefits Option to purchase at the end of the lease Excellent credit required If you plan on leasing or entering into a PPA, you should be prepared for a lengthy contract, sometimes up to 20 years or more. And depending upon your current homeowners insurance policy, leasing out a solar system could leave you with higher insurance premiums (though, this is not always the case. Sometimes solar leases can actually decrease your premiums. Check with your insurance provider before signing your lease). Purchasing Your Solar System Although solar systems are considerably cheaper now than they were 10 years ago, they are still expensive, ranging between $10,000 and $20,000 for a full system. Potential buyers should also be aware that solar systems are also an investment, complete with real returns. Purchasing a solar system is the best option for you if you fit the following descriptions: Your main interest is in maximizing the financial returns on your solar system investment. You either have the cash on-hand or can borrow to pay for the system upfront. You are a business that could treat the solar system as a depreciable asset. Your tax bill is greater than the accompanying tax credit. You want to increase the resale value of your home. Buying a solar system is a great way to invest in your home, but it's important to remember that years can transpire before you see any noticeable returns on this investment. And, as you are the owner of the solar system, you are also responsible for its care and maintenance. You will also be responsible for the installation cost, which can be quite expensive. The Solar Loan In addition to purchasing your solar system upfront, you also have the option to finance your system through a solar loan. Solar loans are very similar to any other home improvement loan, paid off in monthly installments and assigned a specific interest rate. Loans for your solar system are either secured or unsecured. Secured loans use the home itself as collateral, while the riskier unsecured loans charge higher interest rates and no collateral: Solar Loan Options Secured Loans Unsecured Loans Home Equity Loan Zero money down Borrow against equity built in home 7- to 20-year terms 3.5% to 5.5% interest rates Interest is tax deductible. Lender can foreclose on your home if you default on the loan. FHA, Title 1 Loan Zero money down Guaranteed by the government Home is collateral 7- to 20-year terms 5% to 7% interest rates Lender has lean against your home; can pay the loan when/if you sell your house. Zero money down No collateral required Up to 10% interest rates Similar to other personal loans Interest is not tax deductible Defaulting will negatively impact your credit score. Because the monthly payments to your solar loan tend to be significantly less expensive than your ordinary electric bill, going the solar loan route allows you to immediately start saving money on your utility bill. A wide variety of institutions offer home solar loans: Local and national banks Utilities companies Solar panel manufacturers Credit unions Specialty finance companies And more . . . Even though the cost of solar is half what it was a decade ago, thus making it easier for institutions to offer solar loans, not all solar loans are created equal. Potential borrowers should do their homework before signing their solar loan agreement. Questions to Ask Yourself before Going Solar How much Money Do I Have On-Hand? Residential solar panels are expensive, about $10,000 to $20,000 if you're purchasing the system outright. So if you have that much on-hand, or are able to finance that amount through a solar loan, then purchasing the system is the better option; if not, you should consider a solar lease or a PPA. Can I Use the Tax Credit? If you plan on purchasing a solar system, you should also consider the accompanying tax credit that comes with it. This tax credit will generally reduce your tax bill by about 30%. If your tax bill is significantly larger than the tax credit, the benefit is clear and you should buy your system; but if your tax bill is smaller than the credit, there is no benefit, and you might consider leasing instead. Who will Maintain My Solar Panel System? Buying your own system means that you are solely in charge of its care and maintenance. And although solar systems are largely low-maintenance, making repairs yourself can be both costly and expensive. On the other hand, leasing your system What Is My Credit Score? If you plan on purchasing your solar system, your credit score will not matter so much; however, if you need a solar lease or a solar loan, your credit becomes a lot more important. A credit score of 700 or greater will usually help you secure a solar loan or lease. Compare Solar Companies
A solar energy startup company, "Bright," is making waves with their new project to bring solar energy to the "expensive and complicated" energy system in Mexico. Jonah Greenberger, founder of Bright and ex-Chevron employee, aims to build cost-effective and environmentally-friendly solar panels for the sunny country, reports TechCrunch. Here's what he's planning: Bright will install the panels for free and provide a subscription-based fee system (much like cable). The money for installation and panels themselves comes from private investors, who lease the use of the panels by the homeowners. Investors make money on the generated power. The company will be competing with energy provider Envolta, which builds and installs the panels. Bright pays a contractor to install pre-made panels. Bright installs one panel per day, and is hoping to get to 50 per day soon. One installation costs between $10,000 and $20,000 depending on the contractor and the area of installation. Homeowners will then pay about $250 per month to Bright, who splits the payment with investors. Bright homeowners have the option to drop out of the service at any time, as per a signed contract with Bright. Compare Solar Companies