A Word About Solar Loans

As mentioned before, solar loans are becoming more and more attractive. Green Tech Media even predicts that owned systems will be dominating the market again. There are three types of companies that offer solar loans: traditional banks, solar installers, and special solar loan providers. The loan conditions vary widely, typical offers range from twelve to 30 year fixed loans, both secured and un-secured. Some offers are bundled with O&M services often requiring the installation of panels or inverters from a certain manufacturer.

The lead-generation service EnergySage has a good overview that you can access without having to give up your contact information.

Another option for California residents is the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program that allows homeowners to pay for renewable energy products like solar through their property tax. More information is on their website.

Incentives: Tax credit, net-metering -- oh my

Besides the federal tax credit of 30% that will end December 31, 2016 unless it is renewed, there are a number of other incentives a homeowner who wants to go solar might be eligible for. Local utilities, municipalities, and cities in California all have their own programs. A good source to read up about your options is the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE).

An important prerequisite to make solar work financially is the utilities in California allowing for net-metering. It enables consumers to run their electricity meter backwards. So at times when you consume more power than the solar panels can produce, typically when you start your day and when you come home at night, you’ll receive power from the grid just like before. But when the sun is up and the panels produce more than you can use, the inverter feeds the clean power back into the grid, you electric meter runs backwards. If the solar energy system is sized correctly, you utility bill should be close to zero over the course of a year, meaning you received just as much as you fed back. Some consumers only install enough solar to shave the most expensive tiers of power from their bill, rather than targeting a zero bill. 

Generating annual excess solar is economically not advisable since the utilities only credit you the wholesale price for these excess kilowatt-hours, which is way lower than what it would likely cost you.