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American Energy Independence (As originally published in The Danville/Alamo/Lafayette Today Newspaper, Feb 2013)

Read Original Newspaper Article PDF here

American Energy Independence : The bad news is that America has again increased her appetite for energy. The good news is that the majority of the energy plants constructed in 2012 are renewable biomass, solar, geothermal, hydro, and wind plants. Domestic oil and gas production are also up. As a result of our every increasing energy independence and energy exports, there are predictions are that a geopolitical shift in energy pricing will move from the Middle East to the United States within the next 10 years. This may eliminate the price fluctuations that we suffer from as a result of international events or politically motivated embargoes.

Lease vs. Purchase of Solar : There is one very important factor that consumers must take into account when considering a solar lease. A leased solar system will reduce or eliminate your electricity bill. However, the leased solar system carries a monthly lease cost . The difference between the lease cost and the electric bill reduction is the savings the consumer should realize. A financial company owns the system and pockets most of the savings generated via the lease. It used to be that a leased solar system was the only choice for the consumer with no investment cash available for a purchase. Much like a traditional loan agreement, a leased solar system is a contract between a consumer and finance company to make payments on the leased system for 20 years. However, the main difference is that a solar lease never leads to an ownership position in the solar system.

The Path to Ownership (and greater returns): The federal government has recently provided backing for loan products through private banks, at reasonable interest rates, for energy efficiency home improvements. This zerodown PowerSaver loan product allows consumers to trade electric costs for loan costs (vs. lease costs). The proceeds of the loan provide a “Path To Ownership” that a lease does not provide. Some industry experts are predicting that this loan option will be a “lease killer” because consumers will be made aware that ownership always results in much greater financial savings.

Another Reason to Own: Recently I was surprised to hear that leasing companies often restrict their customer’s access to online solar system performance monitoring. Lease companies would rather not field continuous calls from homeowners who have concerns about their systems production and the resulting arguments about payments for perceived under performance. The perceived “underperformance” is oftentimes attributed to kilowatt overproduction estimates by the contractor during the bid process (Discussed in last months article). In most cases, the actual performance numbers are appealing enough to the consumer, but in these competitive times, the “anything to get the job” approach can prevail. From a consumer’s standpoint, I believe that the lessee/owner of a solar array has an absolute right to monitor the system’s performance and get accurate performance calculations; after all, they’re the ones paying for it.

California Solar Initiative FACT : According to California statute, solar contractors and solar equipment providers are required to keep all solar installations operational for 10 years at no cost to the consumer. Purchase of a solar system ensures that it will be maintained for 10 years, assuming you choose a contractor with integrity and longevity in the industry.

By Mark Becker, GoSimpleSolar

Mark Becker is the President of GoSimpleSolar , by Semper Fidelis Construction Inc, a Danville based Solar Installation Firm (License 948715). Mark can be reached at 925.915.9252. Visit GoSimpleSolar’s showroom at 114 West Prospect Avenue in Danville or www.GoSimpleSolar.com, or email Mark@GoSimpleSolar.com.