Financing the Solar Dream: Page 4 of 4

Leases & Power Purchase Agreements

Inside this Article

Paul Bartlett with the SunRun-owned array on his roof.
Leased systems are becoming a popular option for consumers who want to minimize their up-front costs. Retired university professor Paul Bartlett is pictured with the SunRun-owned array on his roof.
SolarCity’s online calculator
SolarCity’s online calculator can quickly estimate PV system performance and savings.
A SolarCity-leased PV system
A SolarCity-leased PV system on a Phoenix, Arizona, home.
Paul Bartlett with the SunRun-owned array on his roof.
SolarCity’s online calculator
A SolarCity-leased PV system

To simplify the overall process, California State Representative Mark Leno, of San Francisco, has introduced legislation that would require plain-language disclosures for lease, loan, or PPA offers. Under the proposed law, a state-required disclosure form—like those required for home or vehicle purchases—would take some of the work out of comparing the options. Until then, clear off a large swath of counter space for the paperwork.

One beauty of lease or PPA financing is that it protects you from increases in utility rates for the energy you generate and use. If you return power to the grid, you may even receive increased payments over time as rates rise.

While leases and PPAs are certainly viable options, Hall still encourages homeowners to buy if they can. “Don’t underestimate the value of buying a system outright,” he says. “The system can appreciate in value and is a good economic investment—but only the owner of the system will have the right to those benefits. With a lease or PPA, you are only entitled to what the contract provides.”

Seizing the Solar Moment

A key consideration in choosing to adopt solar technology, be it through direct purchase, a lease, or a PPA, is when, if, and how rebates and tax credits will be continued or reinstated. Even though Congress extended the federal tax credits for eight years, state rebates and tax credits may likely diminish next year.

While a rebate may amount to several thousand dollars for a homeowner who purchases a solar system, the tax credits are mostly of interest to individuals and larger companies with sizable tax liabilities. Not surprisingly, solar companies have aligned themselves with well-funded Silicon Valley and Wall Street firms that seem to have an unlimited appetite for tax credits, which they can repackage in a variety of ways to their customers/investors. That’s good news for homeowners who will need the financing assistance that a lease or a PPA provides.

The bottom line is that a solar lease or PPA makes it possible for any homeowner to stop talking about tomorrow and act now. Ask installers in your area about new financing programs, and remember—no matter your financial means, you can seize the solar moment.


Charles W. Thurston is a market analyst and writer specializing in new technology, financial trends, and the global trade affecting growth industries like solar energy.

Solar Lease & PPA Programs:

BEohana Solar •

Connecticut Solar Lease Program •

Helio Micro Utility •

Power Solutions •

SolarCity •

SunRun Generation LLC •

Tioga Energy •

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