The competitiveness of solar leasing versus a $ 0 solar loan is a question that has come to my mind over and over again. It is also a subject that comes up a lot in the comments on CleanTechnica. Using EnergySage’s new “Instant Solar Estimate” tool, I decided to run through comparative scenarios for homes in 10 different states. The results actually surprised me quite a bit. Discover them all in this Solar Love repost:
Yesterday I wrote an article on EnergySage’s new instant solar estimation tool. The tool uses proprietary market price data and “leading industry tools and databases” to deliver some pretty impressive reports on solar costs and solar energy savings. One thing I haven’t seen elsewhere is that he compares the financial benefit of switching to solar power through a cash purchase, a Solar loan at $ 0 down payment, and one $ 0 lease or PPA (when available). If you have viewed the example screenshot shared in the article, you’ve probably seen solar leasing was really lame on this metric. The savings over 20 years (for “Anytown, United States”) were:
- Cash purchase = $ 23,000
- Loan of $ 0 = $ 9,900
- Lease at $ 0 / PPA = $ 2,700
Ouch, $ 2,700 versus $ 9,900?
Of course, that’s just a scenario, and it looks like it’s not even for a real house. So I decided to run estimates for actual addresses in various states where solar leasing exists to see what other estimates would show. I had to do a “best estimate” for the utility bills, so don’t take any of this for a fact (well, don’t take such estimates for a fact), but take advantage of the interesting findings I have. done :
1. San José, California
(Address: 286 N 24th St, San Jose, CA 95116 | Monthly electricity bill: $ 150)
In this case, the solar leasing actually beat the solar loan to $ 0:
2. San Diego, California
(Address: 3802 Monroe Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116 | Monthly Electricity Bill: $ 50)
Here, the solar loan with $ 0 down payment replaces the solar lease:
3. Phoenix, Arizona
(Address: 1019 East Hiddenview Drive, Phoenix, AZ 85048 | Monthly Electricity Bill: $ 300)
$ 0 down payment loan ends you lose money, while the lease saves you $ 12,000!
4. Colorado Springs, Colorado
(Address: 7425 Julynn Road, Colorado Springs, CO 80919 | Monthly Electricity Bill: $ 150)
Here again, the lease wins (not counting the cash purchase of course which overwhelms it):
5. Boston, Massachusetts
(Address: 37 Edison Green, Boston, MA 02125 | Monthly Electricity Bill: $ 125)
Here, the $ 0 loan overwrites it:
6. Baltimore, Maryland
(Address: 4408 Eldone Road, Baltimore, MD 21229 | Monthly Electricity Bill: $ 125)
7. Newark, New Jersey
(Address: 541 Clinton Avenue, Newark, NJ 07108 | Monthly utility bill: $ 120)
The $ 0 down payment solar loan is twice better in solar rental over 20 years:
8. Tacoma, Washington
(Address: 3712 North Frace Street, Tacoma, WA 98407 | Monthly Electricity Bill: $ 150)
The $ 0 solar loan bombs, but solar leasing saves you money:
9. Honolulu, Hawaii
(Address: 456 Mananai Place, Honolulu, HI 96818 | Monthly electricity bill: $ 200)
The $ 0 solar loan beats the solar lease, but both completely crush the failure to go solar:
10. Albany, New York
(Address: 28 Lawnridge Avenue, Albany, NY 12208 | Monthly Electricity Bill: $ 200)
The $ 0 down payment solar loan wins again:
Solar Leasing vs Solar Loan vs Solar Cash Conclusions
So in my somewhat random selection of addresses, and using the best electricity bill estimates I could find *, it turns out that the solar leasing and the solar lending option at 0 $ are actually tied (5 to 5) for the number of times they were the best option! Interesting, and I have to say I wouldn’t have guessed it. In addition, there were huge variations in some cases, while they were very similar in other cases.
Either way, you can clearly see that a cash purchase gives you the best return, that’s a no-brainer. The key questions with this option would be: 1) do you have the money for a cash purchase, and 2) where else would you invest or spend that money if you weren’t using it to buy a solar system? and rent or get a loan instead.
Of course, financial savings are not the only element to take into consideration. Solar / PPA leases also often take care of maintenance, monitoring, and almost all the paperwork involved in switching to solar power (including taxes). As well, the EnergySage tool assumes you can take advantage of the incentives in your state. However, if your financial situation does not allow it for some reason, a solar / PPA leasing company still could and could pass on those financial benefits (minus the profits and costs of the business).
Ultimately, however, I think the EnergySage tool shows one thing very clearly: there can be huge financial variations using different funding options. The best thing you can do is look at all of your options, get actual quotes from different installers, and then switch to solar power in whatever way works best for you. There is no simple solution that is best for everyone.
* I searched for the average utility bills in every city but one, then in each of those cities I found houses for sale that were the same size as the houses I found bills for. average electricity.