For several years, we have touted the benefits of leasing solar panels, as opposed to buying them. In fact, many companies and consumers believe that it makes more sense to enter a solar panel lease, than to purchase a solar array. This is because solar leases may allow you to convert to solar power without any money down.
But now, news has broken that leasing solar panels may be more expensive than buying them. Hagens Berman, a consumer-rights law firm in Seattle, Washington, announced recently that it is investigating SunRun – one of the leading companies offering solar leases – for a possible class action lawsuit.
Jeff Mayer, CEO of Soluxe Solar in New England, believes that similar lawsuits may be filed against other companies that offer solar leases. The problem isn’t necessarily with SunRun, it’s with the leasing model.
Hagens Berman recently stated that it is investigating “reports that [SunRun] engaged in deceptive practices in the lease of its solar roof panels to consumers” and is researching to see if there was any violation of California law.
So, does it make more sense for people to own solar panels, or enter into solar power purchase agreements? Some people who have worked at utility companies believe that leasing solar panels is detrimental to consumers.
One of the primary reasons is that solar panel leases are based on the presumption that the consumer will save money because utility costs are expected to increase over the years.” Some experts believe that utility prices have been flat recently and, thus, the savings with a solar lease are simply overstated. However, given the fact that many solar panel leases are over a term of 20+ years, it is difficult to say that the price paid pursuant to solar panel leasing will be the same as, or not significantly less than grid-based electricity.
On the other hand, buying solar panels requires consumers to pay the upfront cost. This may be offset by utility rebates, along with state and federal tax incentives. And then the power the panels generate is theirs forever.
Depending on where you live and consulting a crystal ball as to what may happen with electricity rates in the future, its not 100% certain that leasing solar panels will be more (or less) expensive than buying them.
As a consumer, you will want to ask for specific information on the monthly cost of a solar panel lease and compare it to your average electricity bills before making a decision to buy or lease solar panels.