Solar Financing Options with No Upfront Costs

The following is most of a press release I received yesterday regarding a solar financing method for residential consumers.  In short, the press release is about a solar financing option where a company (in this case SunRun) installs solar pv panels on your roof and they pay the majority (or all) of the upfront installation costs.  You just have to pay them a monthly payment for the energy, just like you would your normal utility.  This is basically what a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is.  Some entity pays for the upfront costs for an energy producing asset, then that cost is recouped through the purchasing of power that the energy producing asset creates.

Deciding if solar will or will not work in your location is based largely on the tax incentives that your state has set aside for clean energy.  It also depends on your electricity rates, net-metering rules, utility flexibility, etc.  It is for these reasons that SunRun is currently only available in 5 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.  Many people are surprised to learn that one of the least influential reasons whether solar will work or not is how much sun your area gets!  Solar PV is largely determined by financial realities, and your state's utility and government leaders determine this.

Another option similar (yet competitive) to what SunRun offers is PACE financing.  In both cases the upfront costs are subsidized (or completely covered) but in the case of PACE financing, instead of paying a monthly payment to a company, you pay an increased rate on your property taxes that goes to paying back the initial solar financing that was issued by your local government.

In either case, it is encouraging to see innovative ways to bring solar energy to more homes!


PG&E Corporation and SunRun Create $100 Million Home Solar Financing Fund

San Francisco – June 21, 2010 – Pacific Energy Capital II, LLC, a non-utility subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), and SunRun Inc., the nation’s leading provider of home solar financing, today announced a $100 million tax equity project financing agreement to fund SunRun’s installation of more than 3,500 new home solar installations across the nation. The investment, principally funded by PG&E Corporation shareholders through Pacific Energy Capital, creates the largest residential solar financing vehicle established to date.  Under the agreement, Pacific Energy Capital will provide financing for the rooftop energy systems and both parties will receive payments from SunRun customers. SunRun will manage the projects.

SunRun offers home solar power without high upfront costs through power purchase agreements (PPAs) and solar leases. Through SunRun's popular solar plans, homeowners pay as little as $0 upfront to get solar panels installed, followed by a low, monthly payment to have solar energy at home. SunRun provides complete solar maintenance, monitoring, repairs, insurance and money-back performance guarantee for all its customers, making it simple and affordable for homeowners to switch their home to clean solar electricity.

"As a company in a region where distributed solar is becoming increasingly important, we are focused on continuing to take advantage of smart, strategic opportunities that enable us to acquire an in-depth understanding of this market and these technologies,” said Brian Steel, Senior Director of Corporate Strategy and Development at PG&E Corporation. “Our investment with SunRun reflects this ongoing effort. Additionally, it allows us to continue supporting the advance of renewable energy, which is a priority for our company, utility customers and policymakers."

The solar systems funded under the agreement are expected to be installed in 2010 and 2011 in at least five states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. SunRun currently serves more than 4,000 customers in these five states, and is growing 500% year-over-year. SunRun now partners with 15 leading solar integrators that are located across the country and that collectively employ more than 2,500 solar workers.

About PG&E Corporation
PG&E Corporation is an energy-based holding company headquartered in San Francisco. It is the parent company of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, one of the largest electric utilities in the United States. Pacific Energy Capital II, LLC, is a non-utility subsidiary of PG&E Corporation that makes investments in areas of strategic relevance to the holding company. Today’s announcement is the second tax equity financing announced by PG&E Corporation.

About SunRun Inc.

SunRun’s mission is to make affordable home solar available to every home in the country. With SunRun, homeowners get solar panels installed for as low as $0 upfront and simply pay a low monthly rate for solar electricity. SunRun’s solar financing products are developed to meet the needs of homeowners who want clean solar electricity without having to pay high upfront costs or to become an expert on solar technology. SunRun has partnered with PG&E Corporation and U.S. Bancorp for project financing and is backed by leading venture capital firms Accel Partners and Foundation Capital. Additional information about SunRun is available at


If you live in one of the lucky five states we'd be interested to hear your experience with SunRun!

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As I understand it, the contract guarantees an annual increase of 2.9% which is less than the historical increase of 6% if you are a PG&E customer. Yes, it is for 20 years. I am exploring entering into a contract with them. You can pay an up-front amount and not have any payments. The amount is high, but you receive maintenance and monitoring for the 20 years, and if your system generates greater savings, you get a check for those savings. At the end, you can "keep" the panels at their depreciated cost which by that time is "0". You still may have a bill from PG&E for a smaller amount. Yes, read everything.
Long Term Solar Lease Programs will keep you locked in a lease agreement for 10-15 year. Read the fine print. Your payments will increase each year. If you don't have the money to install solar, don't lease it. Insulate your house first. It's cheaper, and you will gain more in energy savings.
ckmapawatt's picture
John, Why do the payments go up each year. Can't you lock them in?

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