Making solar available to all: Moving beyond the early adopter phase

By SolarCity

October 01, 2015

The solar power industry is growing rapidly. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), residential solar’s 2015-second-quarter growth was 70 percent, year over year. Our industry now also produces enough electricity to power 4.6 million homes.

The solar market, however, is still in its infancy. Ten years ago, the only way to go solar was to write a five-figure check or take out a home equity loan. That limited solar to a certain type of customer.

However, things are starting to change. Our market is evolving beyond its early adopter phase, toward a more mainstream era. This era will be characterized by solar’s availability to people across a broad economic spectrum.


Evolution driven by economics

Our industry has worked hard to make this evolution happen. But it’s also happening because of the simple economics of supply and demand.

The cost of solar is dropping—fast. Residential solar costs have decreased 45 percent since 2010, according to the SEIA. Meanwhile, polls continue to show that solar is the most popular energy choice in America. That popularity will only grow as more Americans get the opportunity to take advantage of solar’s benefits.

For people with modest incomes, those benefits can be substantial. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, utility costs are the largest household expense faced by most families, after their mortgage. Savings from solar are typically 10 to 15 percent of an electric bill—a significant amount.


Prioritizing broader access to solar power

Third-party-owned rooftop solar power systems have been a game changer. They’ve helped hundreds of thousands of families become part of the solar revolution. But, by their nature—the fact that these systems need to be installed on a roof—going solar is still largely limited to owners of single-family homes.

That’s changing. Today, 24 states have at least one, active “community solar” project. These let people enjoy solar’s benefits without a rooftop system. GTM Research predicts the energy generated by community solar projects in the U.S. will increase fivefold in 2015, and top a half gigawatt annually by 2020. That’s enough to power 82,000 homes, according to SEIA estimates.

Companies like SolarCity are helping push this trend. Earlier this year, we introduced a community solar program to help renters reap the benefits of affordable, clean energy. We’ve also announced a new solar service that can make it possible for affordable housing developers, builders and residents to pay less for solar electricity than they currently pay for utility power. 


Solar for all

The effort to democratize solar is broad. Last month, the White House announced a new initiative to help low-and middle-income Americans gain access to residential solar power. The Obama administration plans to install more solar in federally subsidized housing, make it easier for homeowners to access solar, and push community solar nationwide so renters can access it.

With broad access to solar, families can spend less on commodities like electricity, and save more for things like education and retirement.

Selling a home with solar is much easier than you think

By SolarCity

September 17, 2015

Unraveling the myths and misconceptions about solar lease and PPA transfers

Every two minutes in the U.S., someone installs a solar panel system. The solar power business created jobs nearly 20 times faster than the overall economy in 2014, making it one of America’s fastest growing industries.

Much of this growth is attributable to solar financing agreements—including solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs)—that make it possible for customers to immediately pay less for electricity generated by solar power than they pay for utility bills. Nearly three out of every four residential solar installations in 2014 was made possible by a solar lease or PPA.

Yet, despite their growing popularity, myths about these solar service agreements abound.

Some of the most persistent myths focus on what happens when a solar home is sold. Over the past year, a handful of articles have appeared on the Web suggesting solar agreements actually hinder sales.

Truth is, these articles have been based on isolated anecdotes. For the vast majority of home sellers and buyers, transferring a solar agreement can be as simple as signing up for cable TV, or transferring a utility to a new name.


A strong selling point

SolarCity provides approximately one out of every three new solar panel systems in the U.S. If you see panels on a roof, there’s a decent chance the homeowners are our customers.

We offer customers the option to purchase the system directly or finance it via a loan, lease the system, or purchase the solar power via PPA. All of these options include support if the homeowner decides to sell the home with solar panels, and that includes transfer of the solar agreement if the customer used a loan, lease or PPA. We’ve transferred more than 5,000 solar agreements, and now average more than 20 transfers per day.

If a buyer qualifies to purchase a home with solar from one of our customers, he or she also qualifies to assume the solar service agreement. More than 98 percent of the time, that’s exactly what happens. A small number of sellers choose to move the system to the new home.


An education problem

In 2014, we surveyed home buyers and sellers who had participated in a transfer of a solar lease or PPA agreement. Two things stood out.

First, roughly half of buyers and 29 percent of sellers said that realtors, lenders and other real estate professionals did not understand the solar transfer process. 

Second, about 70 percent of both buyers and sellers thought that having solar added to the overall appeal of the home.

The bottom line? When real estate professionals unravel the myths and misconceptions, they discover that solar energy systems are a strong selling point.


Tips for buyers and sellers

We recommend solar home buyers and sellers keep just a few things in mind when considering a transfer. These tips apply whether the provider is SolarCity or another company.


Look for a fixture filing. A fixture filing is not a lien, and should never prohibit a home sale or refinance, it simply prohibits anyone other than the solar provider from taking ownership of the solar power system without permission. Our solar agreements do not require a lien on the home, and never take priority over the lender’s mortgage interest in the real property. Solar systems provided under leases, loans or PPAs should be classified as personal property that is transferrable between buyers and sellers.


Buyers should always be eligible to assume a solar lease, PPA or loan. If a buyer qualifies to purchase a home with solar from one of our customers, he or she qualifies to assume the solar service agreement.  


Sellers should contact the solar provider early in the process. The provider can educate the seller’s agent on the transfer process and buyer benefits. A five-minute conversation can prevent confusion and ensure a simple transfer.


As the number of solar homes grows, solar agreement transfers will become business as usual. Until then, it’s important that everyone involved take time to understand how they work. Most importantly, realtors, buyers and sellers should be on guard against sensationalized accounts of difficult transfers. The fact is, selling and buying a solar home is easy.

SolarCity’s team of professionals can be reached every business day at 888-765-2489, or 650-963-5916.


Additional Resources:

Solar Energy Industries Association Residential Consumer Guide to Solar Power

Solar Energy Finance Association Consumer Contract Best Practices Checklist

National Renewable Energy Laboratory Model Leases and PPAs


Going solar should be speedy

By SolarCity

September 10, 2015

Improving the interconnection process benefits utilities, customers, and the grid.

If you’ve gone solar, you know firsthand how exciting it can be when you start to save money on your utility bills. It can be equally frustrating to have to wait to get those benefits. The final step in the process of installation – interconnection to the grid – varies depending on utility policies and capabilities. The good news: for some customers, the wait time may be just a day before they can start saving money on their utility bills. The bad news: some customers have to wait as long as 120 days, according to a new report from EQ Research. The report reveals that installers working in 34 utility districts found that permission to operate – the industry term for interconnection to the grid -- waiting times increased 68% from 2013 to 2014.

Rooftop solar’s increasing popularity has no doubt strained the interconnection departments of utilities around the country. But we have ways to speed up the interconnection process and smooth the transition to a grid with many distributed rooftop solar panels. SolarCity’s Grid Engineering department, a cross-functional organization focused on designing a 21st century grid that leverages the benefits of distributed energy resources, recently released a white paper on this topic, titled Integrated Distribution Planning. The paper examines how we can better transition to a distributed energy future while maintaining a safe and reliable grid. The team’s recommendations range from straightforward improvements to existing interconnection processes, like moving the interconnection application process online, to a vision for a more holistic, long-term distribution planning framework that leverages the increasing adoption of distributed energy resources to benefit the grid and its customers. These improvements would provide the transparency and access to grid data that is critical for customers to know where solar would best serve grid needs.

SolarCity’s efforts in designing a grid for the 21st century aren’t just an academic exercise. SolarCity has already worked with utilities to implement some of these best practices. We’ve also partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) to evaluate some of the utility’s technical concerns about increasing penetration of PV. This partnership proved through technical research and testing that the grid could handle more than twice as much solar PV as previously thought. And as we’ve stated in the past, we have an open invitation to any utility wanting to partner to eliminate the barriers to a cleaner, more affordable and resilient grid. To learn more about our efforts to tackle some of the hardest engineering, technical and economic challenges of designing a grid for the future, visit our Grid Engineering team’s most recent white papers and technical briefs at

At the end of the day, customers are the ones who suffer the most from interconnection delays. Utilities and solar energy companies serve those same customers, so we’ll need to work together to find better ways to give the customer what they want. 

Shop summer sales now to make next summer cool and fun

By SolarCity

September 03, 2015

Running low on pool floats? Now's the time to stock up.  Image credit: David Goehring via CC.

Another summer is drawing to a close. Labor Day is upon us. Kids are heading back to school. The daylight hours are getting noticeably fewer. The sights and sounds of fall sports have started to fill the air.

It’s about time to stick the proverbial fork in another summer, right?

Well, before you do, it might be worth your while to go on one last shopping trip with a Midsummer mindset. This is a great time of year to save on both small and big-ticket items that can help you stay cool and have fun next summer…and for many summers to come.

As you hit the stores, look for summer deals and sales on the following:


Air conditioners and fans

The time of year most Americans stop thinking about cooling their home is usually a good time to buy a new air conditioner or fan. As demand drops, so do prices. But get to stores sooner than later to make sure you have a good selection on their sale items.


Swimsuits, sandals and short-sleeved shirts

Look for big sales on summer clothing. Stores are motivated to move this season’s stock to avoid selling it at a loss to discount chains.


Patio furniture

Ready to upgrade from those stackable plastic chairs? Retailers have been known to discount patio furniture up to 90 percent at the end of summer.



Dedicated grill masters (you know who you are) won’t let a little cold weather put a damper on their craft. Most stores, however, seem to associate barbecuing solely with summer. So, they put charcoal grills on sale around Labor Day, while holding out a little longer—think December—on more expensive gas grills.



This is a great time to buy any kind of bicycle—from a high-end carbon-fiber racing machine, to a hybrid, to a starter bike for your kid. Bike shops are looking to sell their current year’s stock to make way for next year’s models, which typically arrive in late fall.


Mowers and outdoor tools

Ok, yardwork is often neither “cool” nor “fun.” But, keeping the grass cut and the flowerbeds weeded can help you enjoy your yard even more, right? And this is a great time to score summer deals on the equipment you need to get the job done. Home improvement and hardware stores need to free up floor space for things like shovels, snow throwers and leaf blowers. That means mowers, trimmers and other tools can see summer discounts of up to 40 percent.


Trees and shrubs

Garden centers and home stores are hoping to get rid of summer inventory as the gardening and landscaping season winds down. Look for big discounts and “BOGO” deals. Just make sure, of course, that whatever you buy will survive its first winter as a new planting.


Regardless of the season, it’s always a great time to go solar. With our innovative financing options and turnkey installation and maintenance service, SolarCity makes it affordable and easy. Find out why there’s no better choice.

Infographic: Solar energy has a big environmental impact

By SolarCity

September 02, 2015

You know installing solar on your home is good for the environment, but have you ever wondered just how big your individual impact is?  Here's proof that one person can make a difference:


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SolarCity's mission is to accelerate the mass adoption of clean energy. Follow solar’s progress here.

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