SolarCity offers new loan program for homeowners

Source: By Ivan Penn, Loos Angeles Times • Posted: Friday, June 3, 2016

SolarCity workers install panels on a Denver home with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), center, in 2010.

Rooftop solar giant SolarCity said Thursday that federal and state tax incentives would go directly to consumers under the company’s new loan program that allows homeowners to buy solar panels instead of leasing them.

Homeowners now have the option of purchasing solar panels through 10-year or 20-year loans from SolarCity. The program is available in California and 13 other states.

Residential solar companies have most often offered 20-year leases for solar with no money down. But a 30% federal tax credit and any state incentives would go to the solar companies rather than the customers because the tax benefits go to the owners of the product.

Some homeowners prefer to own their system and have chosen to pay for their panels upfront or with assessments on their property tax bills. But for many people, owning the system has largely been possible only through the property tax assessment because of their inability to pay thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars for solar panels.

“Being able to own your system is important to consumers,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Assn. “I think it matters to a good number of people.”

SolarCity Chief Executive Lyndon Rive said he expects the majority of his company’s customers to opt for the leasing program. But he expects 15% to 20% of his business to come from the new purchase program.

“This program,” Rive said, “will allow thousands of additional customers across the U.S. to install solar this year and start saving money immediately, and we expect to have multiple lenders on the platform that will allow us to expand to several new states by the end of the month.”

A 10-year loan will carry a 2.99% interest rate while the interest rate for a 20-year loan will be 4.99%.

Payments will start at $50 month, depending on the size of the solar system. The average system in California, about 6 kilowatts, will run about $118 a month on a 20-year loan, Rive said.