How to Get Solar Power for Free

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It costs nothing to bask in the sun's rays. But, when you want to harness that "star power" and convert it to electricity, that's when you need to make a hefty financial investment. Homeowners can get a solar photovoltaic (PV) system installed on their property for free by making a Solar Power Purchase Agreement (SPPA) with a solar energy provider. Solar panels and related equipment will be installed, operated and maintained by the solar energy provider with no out-of-pocket costs to the homeowners. The solar energy provider benefits by charging a monthly bill for the electrical energy the homeowners draw from the system.

Things You'll Need

  • Solar energy provider
  • Current electricity bill
  • Choose a solar energy provider. Ask for references. Find out how many solar PV systems the provider has completed so you can gauge its experience. Request a free site evaluation to determine possible locations for your system, which could be the roof, garage or carport, a covered patio or on the ground.

  • Agree a monthly rate for your electricity, as well as the duration of the SPPA, which can be as long as 25 years -- the length of a standard system warranty. Compare the proposed monthly rate with what you currently pay to the utility company.

  • Wait up to two months for a completed solar PV system. The provider must file all necessary paperwork and register the project with your state's corresponding Solar Renewable Energy Certificate Registration Program. This registration, along with structural planning, filing for permits and managing inspections, adds to the time frame. The actual installation of the solar panels takes one to two days.

Tips & Warnings

  • At the end of the SPPA term, you and the solar service provider can discuss whether to renew the contract. If you don't renew, all materials will be uninstalled and removed.
  • The average cost of installing a solar PV system ranges from $15,000 to $60,000, with possible federal tax credits helping to lower the tab. If you can't afford to pay for a system upfront, check into leasing options in which you pay a monthly price over a predetermined time frame, typically 15 years. Once the lease is up, you have the option to purchase the system outright or negotiate a new lease.
  • Even when you have a solar PV system installed, you're still connected to the utility company.
  • There will be occasions when bad weather dampens optimal solar energy absorption. In those instances, homeowners may have a higher electricity bill from the utility company during that time period because less solar energy is offsetting the consumption of electricity from the utility company's grid.

References

  • Photo Credit Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images
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