Tesla Offers Solar Panel Rental Program

A recent post on solar-power-now.com mentioned that Tesla has yet to aggressively re-enter the residential solar power market after acquiring SolarCity.

Well, the company just announced a new angle to their solar power business. They are now offering homeowners the ability to rent solar panel systems for as little as $50 per month. Homeowners must pay a fully refundable $100 fee upfront and also sign a contract that says that they must pay $1,500 if they change their minds and want the solar panels removed. Currently the program is only available in California, Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Mexico.


In many ways, this new approach to entering the solar business is very similar to SolarCity’s leasing strategy. Basically, it entailed the company entering higher-priced electricity markets and offering slightly cheaper prices than what the local utilities were charging for power. They would pitch it as a win-win; we install the system for free and you see savings right away.

However, the best value in solar is still in buying a solar power system.

Elon Musk has admitted this in a recent tweet – “With the new lower Tesla pricing, it’s like having a money printer on your roof if you live a state with high electricity costs. Still better to buy, but the rental option makes the economics obvious.”

Basically, purchasing (whether with cash or getting a loan) a solar panel system would save you considerably more money over the long term than renting.

Here’s an example of what the company offers for their program in Arizona.

  • System size – 3.8kw (smallest of the three they offer)
  • Monthly rental – $50
  • Value of Annual System Generation – $700-$900
  • Net Savings – $110-$280

A good deal, right? Sure, savings are more than $100 per year and homeowners do not have to do much or make any real commitments. Instead, many thousands of dollars can be saved over the long term when a solar power system is purchased.

The difference between renting solar and buying is very similar to renting or owning a home. When homeowners buy solar they will have acquired an asset that they will eventually have paid off, much like a mortgage. Solar, however, can be paid off in just a few years.

It’s very apparent that Tesla and other large solar companies are struggling to find ways to convince people to go solar.

There’s still a disconnect here.

Yes, it’s a marketing problem, but it is primarily an educational one. If homeowners were educated on all of the benefits of going solar, primarily the massive financially related ones, more people would. On the other hand, this new tactic might simply be a way for Tesla to start the conversation, make it easy to rent solar, and eventually turn those renters into purchasers once they see the value.

The big picture viewpoint remains the same. Large solar companies like Tesla still need to find ways of lowering their customer acquisition costs. They simply cannot compete with smaller and local solar panel installation companies on both price and service. In all fairness, Tesla did mention a reduction in the cost of their solar panel systems earlier this year. They are now similarly priced with the other major solar panel installers.

As more homeowners continue to get solar installed on their homes, they will have more conversations regarding their experiences. Word of mouth will surely spread about how much cheaper their local solar company is compared to the big solar outfits.

Kudos to Tesla for bringing more attention to their solar offerings. Hopefully the company will be able to expand their customer base while eventually lowering prices as well.

The Mayor Of South Miami Goes All In With Solar Plus Storage

Much has been written on this site concerning the considerable potential of solar plus storage possibilities. This post goes into an exciting real life case study.

This post comes by way of a Miami Herald article.

The Mayor of South Miami has decided to showcase the potential of combining solar panels with a home energy storage system.

Philip Stoddard has long been a proponent of renewable energy. He lamented Reagan’s decision to remove the solar panels that Carter put on the White House. “We’re smarter now, aren’t we?”

As anyone who lives in Florida can attest, any given hurricane can knock out power for many days. This was the main impetus for Stoddard’s experiment of seeing if he and his family can be energy self-reliant for 7 days.

Photo credit – Daniel A. Varela DVARELA@MIAMIHERALD.COM

Stoddard, his wife and three kids have a fairly average sized solar panel system of 7.5 kw and two Tesla Powerwalls that can store a total of 27 kWh. The combined continuous power that can be drawn from two powerwalls is 10 kWh.

As this was a first for Stoddard, he was certainly concerned about whether this experiment would deliver positive results. After all, most of us expect reliable and abundant power for the many different appliances that we use. Two specific concerns were air conditioning and their electric clothes dryer, appliances that use significant amounts of electricity.

While it was close, the family’s solar panel system and energy storage systems were able to provide for all of their energy needs for seven days.

There must be a catch, right? They must be paying a fortune for this ability. Actually, no. Stoddard mentioned – “It typcially takes seven or eight years to pay off a system and get free electricity. Depending on how much of your electric bil you want to cover, you figure you get about a 14 percent return on your capital investment. If I could get that same return on investment in my retirement account, I’d put it all in solar. You can’t count on the stock market, but you can count on the sun. Solar provides the one opportunity for the average American homeowner to save money while saving the planet.”

What’s truly exciting about this story out of Florida is not just that the experiment was a success. This is no surprise because the technology has been tested and proven reliable. Instead what is exciting about this is the fact that adding solar plus energy storage is now cost effective, especially in the higher priced electricity areas of the country. The fact of the matter is that no matter how many homeowners would like to do the right thing environmentally and be energy self-sufficient, they won’t unless they can afford it.

It’s great that mayor Philip Stoddard is doing his part in creating awareness for his fellow Floridians about what is possible concerning solar and energy storage.

U.S. Now Has Almost 50 Times As Much Solar Than 11 Years Ago

Much can change in a decade.

The solar power industry is a great example. There’s now 48 times more solar in the United States than there was 11 years ago. In 2008, solar only provided 2 terawatt-hours of electricity. That figure grew to 96 TWh by 2018, meeting more than 2 percent of the nation’s total electricity needs.

While 2 percent certainly is not a large figure, the question is – what will the next decade will bring? Solar has grown, on average, 47 percent per year over the past 11 years. Of course, this trend cannot continue as this would lead to solar providing 100 percent of the country’s needs by 2030. Technological, political, logistical, and industrial barriers would prevent this from happening. For example, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, if every rooftop in the country was covered with solar panels, that would only provide 39 percent of the nation’s total electricity needs.

Image source: Cleantechnica

So while solar will not meet the total electrical needs of the country by 2030, and in fact has suffered recent slowdowns, the industry is still on a general growth trend. In addition to very low prices for solar, the 30 percent savings from the Investment Tax Credit has been a significant factor in explaining the growth of the solar industry. This tax credit does not expire until the end of 2021.

Another consideration in how quickly we will utilize more solar power has to do with Renewable Portfolio Standards policies. Most of the states in the union have government mandated policies that state how much of their power needs must be met with sources of renewable energy. Quite a few of the more progressive states have goals of meeting 50 percent of their electricity needs with renewable sources by 2030. Even with these mandates, it’s difficult to predict how much any given state will invest into solar power in the coming years.

Over the next decade or so, it’s fair to say that the growth of solar power will resemble a bit more of a linear growth pattern as opposed to an exponential one. Although the growth rate will slow, we can expect solar to become a significant percentage of total electricity production in a decade from now.

Disney Commits To More Solar Power

Disney has just announced plans to cut its carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2020.

The company now has multiple solar installations, with one of their most notable one being their Mickey Mouse installation that was completed in 2016 near Epcot Center. That project sits on 22 acres and generates enough electricity to power 820 homes.

Their most recent project is also in Florida. This recently completed 2019 installation is quite a bit larger than their Mickey Mouse shaped project. It is a 270 acre facility that can generate 50 MW at peak production.

This solar power project is providing power to the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando. The power plant is large enough to fully power 2 of the company’s 4 theme parks in Central Florida.

More than half a million solar panels comprise this massive system. At 50 MW, it can provide enough power for 10,000 homes. From an environmental perspective, this installation can prevent 57,000 tons of emissions from being produced which is the equivalent of taking 9,300 cars off of the road.

The United States is not the only locale where the company is going green. Disneyland Tokyo utilizes nearby solar rooftops to provide their electrical light parade with 600 KW of electricity. Geothermal energy is used in 2 of the company’s locations in Paris as well as a hotel. In Shanghai, the company utilizes a “heating and cooling plant” to reduce emissions by 60 percent.

Disney is yet another company that realizes that going solar and initiating other green measures has multiple benefits. The primary one includes the ability to save a significant amount of money over the long term. Also, the positive public relations achieved for doing the right thing environmentally has far reaching effects. If nothing else, this and other companies can avoid any potential future backlash for not reducing their carbon emissions.

When large corporations like Disney lead the way in solar power development they provide a great example of what others can do.

We can expect many others to follow suit soon!

Solar Panels Now Required On New Homes In California

The California Building Standards Commission has just approved a mandate that states that all new residential construction starting January 1, 2020 must include solar panels.

While many news outlets covered this story, EcoWatch.com was the primary source used for this post.

Originally proposed back in May by the commission’s Green Buildings Standards Code, the mandate has just passed with a unanimous vote. The rule will apply to all new condos, apartment buildings, and houses. Exceptions will be buildings that are higher than three stories and ones that are often shaded or where space is limited.

California solar mandate
(Photo by Will Lester- The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Kent Sasaki, one of the commissioners interviewed stated, “These provisions really are historic and will be a beacon of light for the rest of the country. It’s the beginning of substantial improvement in how we produce energy and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.”

It is estimated that solar panel installations will cost an average of $10,000 per build.  However, this investment will be more than offset by savings from long term solar power generation, which will be approximately $19,000 on average. These figures were obtained from Drew Bohan, the executive director of the energy commission. Mr. Bohan also mentioned – “With extreme weather events becoming more frequent, there is even greater need for homes that are efficient, reliable, and resilient.”

For those future California homeowners concerned about a lack of options or decision making control, that has been considered. Options to purchase the panels outright, lease them, or enter into a power purchase agreement will be made available. In some cases, homeowners will be able to pool resources together instead of installing solar on every single home. This is basically the “community solar” idea that has already been implemented in cities across the country. Those potentially concerned about costs should know that many industry groups are also supportive of this new solar mandate.

This mandate will not be surprising to many, as California continues to be a leader in clean energy adoption. In fact, this proposal will go along way in helping the state meet its goal of being completely renewable energy powered by 2045.

Savvy homebuyers will choose to purchase their solar panels. Many should be able to add the costs into their mortgage. The financials should be about the same if a separate loan is needed. Either way, the solar savings are quite a few thousand more compared to leasing or power purchase agreements.