Solar Ownership Options

There are three common options for financing a solar pv array – purchasing a system, solar lease, and a power purchase agreement (PPA).  The main practical distinction between these approaches is in ownership.

Purchasing a System:
Paying for your system yourself is the simplest path for owning your solar system, but the initial cost of a solar panel system can be the biggest hurdle. Through a direct purchase, or “cash option”, you purchase the solar system just as you would a car or house. Typically the installation has payments due at different steps along the way - usually a down payment once you sign an agreement, a second payment when the panels are ordered, and then a final payment once the installation is complete and operational. As with any larger purchase, you can finance the payments entirely on your own, borrow money from a bank, or finance the purchase through the installer in some instances. With a direct purchase option, you will own the solar array outright - all of the electrical production, all of the “green benefits”, and any applicable incentives will be owned by you.

Solar Lease:
Your system will be owned and maintained by the solar leasing company, typically installed for free. You pay a monthly rate for your solar panel system, but receive free electricity from the panels that offsets the monthly cost of the lease.

Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA):
Similar to a solar lease..you’ll pay nothing for the installation or maintenance of the solar system, which will be owned by the solar company. In a PPA, you pay for the electricity produced by the system directly. This electricity costs less than the electricity provided by your utility.

Purchasing a solar panel system with cash (or loan) is your best option when you…

  • Want to maximize long-term value.

  • Are eligible to reduce your federal and state tax liability through the federal investment tax credit.

  • Are a business, and can realize tax benefits by treating the solar panel system as a depreciable asset.

  • Want to increase the market value of your home by installing a solar panel system.

A solar lease/PPA is your best option when you…

  • Want to eliminate up-front costs.

  • Want to avoid the responsibility of maintenance or repairs for a solar panel system.

  • Are ineligible for federal or state investment tax credits from your investment in a solar panel system.

  • Do not want to wait until the following year to receive the financial benefits of tax credits.