SolarCity, the Google-backed residential solar powerhouse headed by South African-born entrepreneur/underwater hockey enthusiast (and cousin to Elon Musk) Lyndon Rive, is best known for offering innovative and affordable solar leasing options to homeowners — and Honda-owners — scared away by the prohibitive cost of purchasing rooftop photovoltaic arrays outright.
Now, with a potentially game-changing direct loan program called MyPower, the San Mateo, California-based based company is also targeting lease-shy homeowners who very much do want to own the solar installations gracing their roofs but may need a little help. Essentially, this "paid by the sun" loan arrangement presents “the perks of ownership, but none of the hassle” while appealing to homeowners who long to stand on their front lawns in the company of (envious) neighbors and point upwards and proclaim, “yeah, I own that.”
Whether it be a matter of pride, control or simple bragging rights on the part of the homeowner, SolarCity hopes that MyPower will result in an uptick of residential installations in roughly half of the 15 markets where the company, the nation’s largest residential solar installer, has a presence: New York, New Jersey, California, Arizona, Hawaii, Colorado, Connecticut and Massachusetts. SolarCity city plans to eventually unroll the program to its additional markets including Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and the District of Columbia.
SolarCity anticipates that by mid-2015, half of its new customers will opt for MyPower over leasing options or other agreements. Said new customers must have good credit to be eligible for the loan with a minimum FICO score of 680.
And while MyPower is a marked move away from the affordable solar leasing models that SolarCity, along with competitors such as Sungevity and SunRun, helped to popularize, it isn’t exactly the first time the company has dabbled with loans: In 2012, the solar provider partnered with Boston-based Admirals Bank to launch the Home Energy Loan, a lending scheme geared toward homeowners embarking on energy-saving overhauls such as installing new doors and windows or replacing insulation.
SolarCity explains that MyPower, a program that has the potential to keep more cash in the pockets of homeowners than a solar lease, is structured in a similar way as a purchase power agreement (PPA) but with the big added perk of ownership. That is, when a customer makes a monthly payment on the (generally cheaper) power generated by their installation, they’re putting a dent in the 30-year, low-interest (a fixed annual rate of 4.5 percent) loan provided by SolarCity. Basically, the more clean energy an individual rooftop array produces each month, the more the customer is able to pay down their loan.
MyPower’s unique structure creates America’s most affordable solar loan—with a lower cost than PPAs in many locations. MyPower can allow customers to pay as much as 40 percent less for solar power than utility power, and unlike other loans, MyPower allows customers to prepay their entire balance or prepay a portion of their solar loan to lower their monthly payments at any time, with no fees or penalties.
Installation and maintenance of each lifetime warranty-equipped system is covered by SolarCity as part of the loan agreement. It's also worth noting that a federal tax credit which would go to the installer, not the homeowner, in a leasing situation would further help customers pay down their loans.
Any thoughts, solar-curious homeowners? Does a direct loan from the nation's dominating residential solar provider appeal more than a leasing plan or PPA agreement?
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