News Column

Solar Leasing Comes to New Mexico

July 1, 2013
Rooftop solar panels (file photo)
Rooftop solar panels (file photo)

New Mexico homeowners can now lease solar electric systems for 25 years with no upfront costs thanks to a new partnership between Albuquerque's Affordable Solar Group and Texas-based solar leasing company Sunnova Energy Corp.

Under the new program -- the first such leasing offer for residential solar systems in New Mexico -- homeowners will pay a monthly lease fee to get a solar photovoltaic system installed by Affordable. The system will be owned and maintained by Sunnova during the 25-year life of the lease, removing any customer responsibility for repairs.

It's like leasing a car, said Affordable General Manager Ryan Centerwall.

"You don't have to write a big check anymore to enjoy the benefits of solar electricity," Centerwall said. "We're providing solar power as a service with no out-of-pocket costs for homeowners."

The companies install systems that can offset customers' utility bills enough to make monthly electric costs less than what they pay now, either immediately, or over time as Public Service Company of New Mexico and other utilities raise their rates, Centerwall said. Once installed, Sunnova monitors output to make sure it produces a targeted amount of electricity. If the system doesn't meet that minimum output, Sunnova pays the difference to homeowners.

"Most people will end up paying a lower monthly bill off the bat, and they lock in their energy price (from the solar system) as a hedge against utility rate hikes, so their savings increase over time," Centerwall said. "It's as if you locked in gasoline prices in 1990 for 99 cents a gallon for 25 years. Most people would have paid to do that."

Monthly lease rates rise by 2.9 percent for customers who choose to pay no upfront costs for their system. Or, homeowners can choose to put down money at the start to lower, or eliminate, lease-rate increases.

Lease programs have gained popularity in many states. Third party-owned systems, for example, accounted for 86 percent of all new residential solar systems installed in California from January-March of this year, according to the national Solar Energy Industry Association.

"It takes the worry out of owning and maintaining a solar system," Sunnova CEO John Berger told the Journal . "You come to us and we sell you low-cost power. End of story."

Placitas homeowner Doug Chapman expects to save $19,000 on electric bills under a solar lease he just signed with Affordable.

"They estimate the solar system will cost me $34,000 over 25 years, compared to $53,000 I'd pay for electricity without it," Chapman said. "They do all the maintenance, which takes the burden off me, and there's no upfront costs."

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(c)2013 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)

Visit the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.) at www.abqjournal.com

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Source: Copyright Albuquerque Journal (NM) 2013


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