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Homeowners Install Solar Panels Without Paying Upfront

By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) – Workers recently swarmed Francisca Guerva’s two-family home, installing a state of the art array of solar panels.

Normally, installing a system of this nature would cost about $30,000. Francisca, however, is paying nothing. She says her neighbors think she has won the lottery.

So how did Francisca manage to get this system for nothing up front? The big difference on her house is the panels were leased.

Not only did she forgo an upfront investment, she also paid nothing for the installation.

In return, Francisa signed contract for the next 20 years, agreeing to buy the solar generated power that is created on her roof. But here’s the big payoff: her locked in rate is significantly cheaper than traditionally generated power.

Kelcy Pegler, Jr. of Roof Diagnostics Solar said, “On an overall average, our customers are saving $25,000-$50,000 over a 20 year period.”

Business is booming all along the Northeast.

Pegler said there are certain criteria a homeowner must meet to be eligible. “It’s for people who have southerly facing roofs, decent credit scores of above 680, and roof spaces that are in good condition and can fit a number of panels.”

Leasing companies can make these offers because solar panels have plummeted in cost. These solar companies take the tax breaks offered for renewable energy.

Ian Bowles, a former cabinet secretary for Deval Patrick and now Managing Director of Wind Sail Capital, doesn’t think these deals are too good to be true.

Bowles believes people who thought solar energy was out of their price range will now be able to participate. “What the solar leasing industry has done has really made these panels accessible for every consumer. For decades, people who wanted to try solar, they were a pioneer, and they had to write a big check in order to get into that business.”

Now middle income homeowners like Francisca, a health care administrator, won’t have to worry about paying ever increasing energy bills.

“It really helps our budget, with a family of five. Whatever little money we can have every month really means a lot.” she explained.

If a homeowner sells their home before the contract is up, it can be transferred to the new owner.

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