An innovative California firm whose leasing program allows homeowners to install solar panels at almost no upfront cost has just won a $30 million investment defying trends across all U.S. industries during the financial crisis.
And that investment means renewable energy could be coming to rooftops in your state soon. Now operating in just three Western states, SolarCity will expand into as many as 10 more, including some on the East Coast, according to the Los Angeles Times, which calls the company one of the largest installers of residential solar energy systems in the nation.
First Solar, which makes thin-film photovoltaic equipment, is the biggest investor in the company. Thin-film solar has been a breakthrough technology, reducing the cost of manufacturing solar energy technology and making it more affordable. It is just bringing its technology to the residential market.
Most people will save more in electricity costs than they will pay to lease the solar panels, according to SolarCity, which requires little or no money down for the installation. That takes away one big disincentive to the technology that the up-front costs keep many from installing, even if the investment pays itself off in just a few years. When the lease ends, people can extend it, upgrade to new technology, purchase the system or have it removed.
No doubt SolarCity's expansion has a lot to do with government incentives that have both propped up the solar industry and made it more lucrative, thanks to tax rebates and the like, for homeowners and businesses to invest. The company's home state of California has a goal of installing solar energy panels on 1 million roofs, and Congress just extended tax credits related to solar energy for eight years.
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