The Masses Seek (and Find) New Solar Panel Provisions
Have you and your friends ever thought about how cool it would be to retrofit your Chicago homes with solar panels? For the average American (and probably for you), that likely seems about as realistic as installing a full-length basketball court in the basement.
Unfortunately, the case for custom-built basketball courts isn’t likely to change, but solar panels are rising in popularity, and the reason may surprise you. Those who manufacture and install solar panels are realizing that, in order to target a broader audience, they’ll have to proactively manage costs for interested homeowners.
So they’re focusing on free.
It’s true. Operating through major chains like Home Depot, industry-leading installers are making themselves more visible to the masses and making solar power more accessible by capitalizing on major tax breaks and some creative financing techniques.
The process is pretty simple, though it’s still far from flawless. Homeowners sign a contract, agreeing to pay for whatever solar power is generated, while the company itself pays for the panels and their installation. Complications arise only when the panels either don’t work as anticipated, meaning the installer has to pay their customer to switch back to traditional utilities, or the homeowner decides to relocate.
Even so, the process is working for many. According to Greentech Media, a research firm, the number of both residential and commercial solar panel installations has doubled in the past two years.
Another hitch tends to be the panels themselves. SolarCity, Sunrun, and Sungevity – all leaders in the panel installation industry – are doing well in the current market, but they’re feeling serious pressure as a result of competing Chinese manufacturers. A large coalition of stateside manufacturers is claiming that these Chinese companies have violated international trade laws (severely undercutting prices) and has petitioned the U.S. government to impose new taxes on their imports.
“You hear a lot of gloom and doom about the industry,” said Sunrun’s president, Lynn Jurich. “You know, ‘The manufacturers are losing jobs, they’re shutting down,’ but if you look where the actual money is in these systems and where the jobs are, it’s really in the installation.”
Fortunately, Corporate America is firmly on board with solar panel projects, and industry titans like Google, U.S. Bancorp, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch are providing funds for upfront costs involved in solar panel retrofits. Representatives of these companies have said they see potential for steady profits, as returns for this type of investment are generally between 7 and 13 percent.
Of course companies like Google have little trouble paying for or investing in whatever suits them. On the other hand, if you’re one of the many area homeowners who would love to test drive solar panels but can’t imagine paying the $30,000 that it costs (on average) to retrofit a standard Chicago single-family home, then aligning yourself with a company like SolarCity or Sunrun could be a sound bet.
True solar power could cost as little as a monthly utility bill. Plus, this route means you’ll avoid both fluctuating energy costs and the complicated bureaucracy that often surrounds energy credits and tax breaks.