BOSTON (CBS) – Solar systems, like the one on the roof of John Collins’ Amesbury home, really can add up to big savings every month. “In the summertime, it would be close to $100,” he said.
But just a few years into his 20-year lease with Vivint Solar, his panels are not generating anything at all. “The technician told me squirrels had chewed through the wires underneath the solar panels. His words were, ‘you are lucky the house didn’t catch on fire,’” Collins recalled.
For safety, the system was shut down until it could be fixed. That was back in August. “Their famous response is, ‘we’ll get back to you’, and they never do,” Collins said.
The panels on Nicholas Bennett’s house in Framingham are producing electricity, actually more than he can use. When he agreed to his lease, he was given the impression that he would be able to cash in on that extra energy. He was wrong. “I am not able to sell it to the electric company,” Bennett explained. “I get a net meter credit, which ends up sitting there and can’t be used.” Over the course of a few years, Bennett has accumulated nearly $700 in worthless credit.
Representative Shawn Dooley of Norfolk is a supporter of green energy and has the panels on his own roof to prove it. But he’s hearing from a growing number of constituents who are regretting their decision to go solar. That’s why he has sponsored a bill to consider greater oversight of the solar industry. “Let’s make sure there’s rules and regulations and if there is a company out there overpromising and under-delivering. Let’s make sure there are repercussions for them,” he said.
This is an issue the I-Team has been tracking, from customers who paid thousands of dollars to a New England company and got nothing in return, to solar leases that held up home sales.
Peter DiGiano of Boston solar believes many of the complaints arise when customers do not fully understand the financial differences between owning and leasing solar. He is not opposed to oversight, if it’s done fairly. “Any policy we enact need to make sure that it doesn’t unduly burden companies that are operating efficiently and ethically,” he said.
A little efficiency is all John Collins is asking for. “It’s a great system. I just wish they were working,” he said.
When the I-Team contacted Vivint Solar, the company told us they fired the employee involved in John’s case and promised to get a crew out to fix his panels.