Subsidized Solar Sprouts in the Suburbs

Diane Cardwell reports on the creative ways in which solar installers are taking advantage of government subsidies, creative financing, and cheap Chinese-made panels to make solar power accessible to the mass market.

With the number of residential and commercial solar installations more than doubling over the last two years, it seems as though solar power installation companies have found the right blend of economics and marketing to beging to penetrate the mass market. While the manufacturing side of the industry in the United States has struggled, due mainly to competition from Chinese firms, "Major players in the installation business, like SolarCity, Sunrun and Sungevity, are thriving," writes Cardwell.

"The structure of the deals varies by company and state, but the overall approach is generally the same: Customers agree to pay a fixed monthly charge or rate for all the solar power produced, and the companies that finance the systems pay for the installation and take the value of any tax breaks or renewable energy credits for which the customer would ordinarily be eligible. Some companies concentrate on financing and use local contractors for sales and installation, while others do everything themselves."

"Through such arrangements, industry executives say, customers can lower their power bills, escape the uncertainty of fluctuating energy costs, and avoid the complex bureaucracy of federal and local credits, rebates, grants and tax breaks."  

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