Sarah and I just signed a solar lease agreement with Sungevity after five days of going back and forth with their sales rep to make sure we understood everything we were getting into and that it was a good deal for us. If we had the ~$40K needed to buy the system outright, that would be a better deal, but since we don't, can't finance it, and aren't likely to be able to anytime soon, this should give us more modest benefits in the immediate term.
What we get:
- A solar system that should provide ~70% of our annual electric usage at a rate that works out to $0.21/kWh (or better, they guarantee a certain minimum production) the first year and goes up by 2.9% each year after for the 15-year term of the lease. Since our average electric rate is currently $0.20/kWh, that should result in immediate savings for us, as we'll be buying the remainder of our power needed at a lower rate from PG&E, and shouldn't hit their upper rate tiers anymore. (OK, it's a little more complicated than that due to seasonal light level fluctuations, but the basic idea is close enough.) It's basically a hedge against PG&E rates going up faster than 2.9%/year - since the numbers here http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/energy/
htm show rates as having increased an average of 4.2%/year over the last 11 years, I feel safe making that bet.
- Free maintenance on the system for the duration of the lease, unless we break it ourselves. We'll work to keep Josh off the roof.
- the option to buy the system at the end of the lease for the current market rate for 15 year-old panels, renew the lease for another 5 years, have them remove the panels for free, or lease a new, current tech system from them.
- $1000 referral bonus since we were referred by buffaloraven
He also gets $1000 for referring us. We're putting our $1000 down as a prepayment on the lease, which brings down our monthly payment a bit.
- An iPad2 (current promotional bonus for signing before Sept. 1.) These last two tell us that sungevity expects to make enough off of us to cover these "freebies" - since we'll still be saving money over sticking with PG&E, I'm fine with them also making a profit off the deal.
- Warm fuzzies from having solar power - something we've wanted for a while now.
What we don't get:
- Any tax incentives for solar panels - they get them instead and that's priced into the rate they offer to lease us the panels.
- A bump in home value due to solar panels installed. This will actually make the place a little harder to sell, since anyone buying would have to qualify for the lease or we'd have to prepay the remainder of it. Since we don't plan on selling the house anytime before Josh moves out on his own, that doesn't bother us.
Overall, it's a good deal for us and I think for others who can't afford to buy solar outright and don't plan on moving anytime soon. I was glad that I had estimates from another company that just sells the system to compare things to - it helped me make sense of this, and I also discovered that they'd screwed up their math in the proposal (the other company, not Sungevity)
For anyone interested, they'll give you a quote off a google maps image of your house if you go to www.sungevity.com/
I ended up having to photograph our actual roofline for an accurate quote since a couple of big trees that no longer exist show up on our google maps image. If you're interested, enter our referral code of 90957 and we'll both get the $1000 referral bonus ($500 each after Sept.1)