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Solar Leasing Coming to Long Island?

Will LIPA change its incentive structure to support solar leasing to make clean, free solar energy available to LI families?

By Raina Russo, co-founder and president of EcoOutfitters.net

Update 8/28/12: According to a Newsday report, Leviton has changed directions in regard to offering solar leasing programs, citing a reconsideration of the marketplace. As information emerges, we will keep you posted. Read more here.

Original post follows: 

On my website, EcoOutfitters.net, we are proponents of solar leasing because it makes a solar PV installation accessible to families who might not otherwise be able to afford the upfront cost of a solar installation and don't want to go in to debt to purchase solar panels.

The way a solar lease works is it provides a home with solar panels, which are still owned by either the installer or a finance company working with the installer. The homeowner makes a monthly payment, which is less than what their electric bill would be without solar panels, but probably more than it would be if they were using a solar system that they purchased outright. (Read more about solar leasing options now.)

As cost-effective and eco-friendly as solar leasing is, however, you can't get a solar lease on Long Island. As of now, LIPA (the Long Island Power Authority), prohibits third-party leasing companies from receiving the rebates residents get for installing solar systems in their homes, so it's not a cost-effective choice.

That may change, soon, however. Leviton Manufacturing of Melville, Long Island, NY, an electrical component company, is entering the residential solar energy business with a leasing program through SunRun. The no-money-down leasing option is available through a partnership between SunRun and Leviton in San Diego, California and those within the five boroughs of New York City as well as New York’s Westchester, Orange, and Rockland Counties. In a Newsday article, Leviton announced that it has plans to enter the Long Island market within a year before going national. Can Leviton, a highly influential New York firm, change LIPA's mind?

With 1.1 million LIPA customers, the market could accommodate hundreds of thousands of leased solar PV arrays. The drawback? Many solar installations could quickly eat up LIPA's budget for solar incentives.

The Specifics of a Leviton Lease

Leviton's solar division provides a no-money-down, 20-year solar lease, with the array warranted for the full 20 years. Leviton Solar handles all the paperwork for permits, rebates, and incentives. SunRun manages and maintains the systems, while homeowners make their monthly utility payments to SunRun.

An Eco-friendly Firm

Solar leasing and solar panel installation is indicative of recent steps Leviton has taken to be even more eco-conscious. The company also recently acquired Home Automation, Inc., a privately held, New Orleans-based manufacturer of home automation controls. A stand-alone business unit, HAI by Leviton, will maintain operations in New Orleans, while Leviton will train its worldwide builder and contractor network to install HAI systems, expanding the company's product offerings in terms of home automation for lights, programmable thermostats, audio devices, security and surveillance systems and home theater systems.

These developments show that, like many companies today, Leviton is taking steps to be more eco-friendly and to make it easier for consumers to be eco-conscious as well. Like many companies and individuals, Leviton is recognizing that solar is one path to a brighter, more environmentally sound future.

EcoOutfitters congratulates fellow Long Islanders Leviton for their initiatives and contributions to the solar community.

Raina Brett Russo, of Atlantic Beach, NY, is the co-founder of EcoOutfitters.net, a performance-based marketing company empowering consumers with valuable information and connecting home and business owners with renewable energy providers through its resource-rich Web portal.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Elana August 21, 2012 at 08:15 PM
I hope so! I want solar so bad
DeeJorge August 21, 2012 at 08:31 PM
HEARD LIPA RAN OUT OF MONEY AND ALOT OF PEOPLE NEVER GOT THE REBATE....ANOTHER MONEY MAKER CROCK OF CRAP
Vincent August 22, 2012 at 10:03 AM
Elana: And I assume you want a taxpayer subsidized Chevy Volt also. You can always buy stocks in Solyndra. Oh wait, no you can't.
Chris Wendt August 22, 2012 at 10:34 AM
If only the sun would shine at night, solar energy might make better economic sense. If only the days were longer in the winter time...if it didn't snow.... Solar leasing means solar financing, with implied interest on the loan, plus amortization and depreciation of the equipment, which has a useful lifespan of 20 years. But with leased equipment, you never own it, the other guy does, and, if you don't make your payments, the other guy can simply take back his equipment without having to sue you. Now, consider the Leviton lease, where you make your utility payments to something called SunRun. SunRun is not a regulated utility, offers no protection against price-gouging, and will certainly be taking a 'cut' of the money handled. That 'cut' is cost to you on top of your utility bill. My company pays its Con Edison bills to a pass-through consultant, since we are a tenant in large building. There are continuous squabbles over how the Con-Ed bill is apportioned among the tenants, and how much of a 'cut' the consultant takes, and how much of a 'cut' the landlord takes out of our electric and gas bills. Then there were the several times the consultant failed to make timely payments to Con-Ed, who dispatched crews to either pick up a check or shut off the power to the entire building! These squabbles eventually resulted in our recovering $80K in disputed electric charges for which we had been over-billed. Paying your utility bills to a third party? Bad move!
phil August 23, 2012 at 01:45 AM
That part about paying through them caught my eye too. Seems kinda shady.
Raina Russo August 23, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Elana - you can go solar today, there are plenty of LI companies offering various finance pkgs. I have solar on my LI home and it's doing wonders for my pocket and the environment. I am happy to help get you to the next step.
Chris Wendt August 23, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Uh-oh! Breaking News! "Leviton Quits Solar Leasing in Dim Market" (today's Newsday, Page A40). The reason for his abrupt change was attributed by company officials: "The market wasn't as large as anticipated". LIPA does not allow the type of arrangement where a third party shares in consumer rebates and utility bills are paid by consumers to the third party instead to directly to LIPA. Read all about it: http://www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/leviton-abandoning-solar-leasing-program-1.3921169
Danielle August 23, 2012 at 06:19 PM
This is untrue. There is actually an excess available for residential solar rebates. This is one of the reasons LIPA may be open to rebates for leased systems. I process rebate paperwork for the company I work for and I assure you we're still getting paid.
Chris Wendt August 24, 2012 at 11:13 AM
Danielle is right, there is money for residential solar installations and the LIPA program is ongoing. However, third party leasing programs like that started and now dropped by Leviton, are not allowed by LIPA if the program requires homeowners to pay their utility bills through a third party and assign the rebates.
Raina Russo August 24, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Indeed, news reports are confirming that Leviton has changed course on this solar leasing initiative. We are gathering more information and will report back when we have further details and commentary.
Eugene Rinehart August 24, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Solar leasing isn’t for everyone, but it would be wrong to throw a blanket judgment of “bad” over the entire option. A lot of homeowners don’t want to own the solar system. They don’t want to memorize technical manuals or pay to fix equipment when it breaks down. They don’t want to try to navigate the bureaucracy of solar permitting and rebating, or deal with utilities for interconnection. Sunrun and companies like them do all the work and allow customers to sit back and enjoy the benefits for 20 years. As a successful solar startup and representative of the solar industry at large, Sunrun has a huge responsibility toward its customers and its partners. Many homeowners are already flighty when it comes to solar, and there’s nothing to be gained by encouraging that. As such, Sunrun’s priority is to act with trustworthiness and to save homeowners money to boot. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that.
Eddie August 24, 2012 at 07:11 PM
"Raina Brett Russo, of Atlantic Beach, NY, is the co-founder of EcoOutfitters.net, a performance-based marketing company empowering consumers with valuable information and connecting home and business owners with renewable energy providers through its resource-rich Web portal."... WOW, who wrote that lexicon quagmire? Better yet, who would trust someone who wrote that lexicon quagmire.
Raina Russo August 28, 2012 at 02:44 AM
It may be time to freshen that up. Thanks, Eddie.
GLENN August 29, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Now if we all get solar, will they stop chem-trails so we can have the sun?
Ray Boggs February 11, 2013 at 08:15 PM
It's too bad that solar leasing is coming to Long Island. Just like a swarm of locust the solar leasing companies are invading every neighborhood in America. The solar leasing company will take your 30% federal tax credit worth thousands of dollars. They will also take LIPA's $1,500.00 per kilowatt cash rebate as well as any other incentive that New York offers. In return you'll be left with up to 20 years worth of leasing payments that may increase by up to 3.9% per year for up to 20 years and in return you'll get a 10% to maybe a 15% reduction in your electric bill after you factor in their high lease payment. And good luck ever selling your home with a lease attached to it. What homebuyer will want to assume your lease payments on an outdated solar system when they can buy and own a brand new solar system for tens of thousands of dollars less than your remaining lease payments. Today at longislandsolarrebates.com you can purchase a name brand, grid tie solar system for only $1.66 per watt before incentives. And you can apply for a $0 down FHA solar loan instead of an expensive solar lease and keep all of your incentives for a much better return on your investment.
Ray Boggs May 03, 2013 at 12:53 PM
It's really sad that solar leases are coming to Long Island. Solar leasing will be remembered as the great "Fleecing" of America. The leasing companies will take the 30% federal tax credit with no cap, which can be worth thousands of dollars. They will also take any other applicable financial incentives including any cash rebate from the utility company. In return you'll save 10% to maybe 15% on your electric bill after factoring their expensive lease payment. And worst of all, after making up to 20 years’ worth of leasing payments you won't even own the system, it will still belong to the leasing company. If you want to own it, you'll have to buy it from the leasing company at fair market value, that's the law. The leasing companies use scare tactics to convince their potential customers that they should lease instead of buy, like the myth that solar systems require a lot of maintenance and repairs when the truth is that a modern, properly installed, grid tie solar system requires no maintenance other that an occasional rinsing off with a garden hose to remove dust from the solar panels. Instead of a solar lease, why not get an FHA $0 down solar loan, it's easier to qualify for than a lease (only a 650 credit score and no equity in your home is needed), you'll get to keep the 30% federal tax credit and any cash rebate and best of all, you'll own your solar system for a much better return on your investment. And good luck ever selling your home with a lease attached to it. What homebuyer will want to assume your lease payments on used equipment, using older technology, when they can buy a brand new solar system using the latest technology for tens of thousands less. Today you can easily purchase a name brand, grid tie solar kit for only a $1.66 per watt and that's before incentives and install it yourself or pay a local contractor to perform the installation. It's not as complicated as the solar leasing companies would have you believe. With a lease you'll pay up to triple this cost in lease payments and you won't even own your solar system. And God help you if you ever default on a solar leasing payment. Read your contract very carefully, you won't believe what the solar leasing company can do to you in the event of a default.

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