Which Solar Loan is Right for You?

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Solar leases opened the door for a much wider market to go solar. Homeowners no longer needed to front the large cost of solar, and instead just paid for the power they used.

Today, the trend is starting to again shift as homeowners are wanting to own their solar systems, instead of just lease them. This has led to the rise of the solar loan, which, again, allows customers not to pay for their solar project up front — but with payments going toward ownership of the system. Solar loans have gotten so popular recently that even SolarCity is getting on board, and is offering its own version of the financing mechanism.

The problem with so many companies offering loans, though, is that customers must now sift through them all to determine which is the best option. Many people are accustomed to home and auto loans, but solar loans are new to most.

This is why the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) is releasing a set of web-based tools and information on the subject. These allow homeowners and businesses seeking low-interest loans for energy-efficiency upgrades and clean-energy systems to find the most up-to-date information on financing options currently available.

These tools list California cities and counties that allow property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing programs, as well as extensive information on other low-interest energy loan opportunities. Some examples of eligible measures include attic and wall insulation, HVAC replacements, solar water heating systems, tankless water heaters, low-flow toilets, and of course, solar PV systems. CSE’s financing information is available for free at www.energycenter.org/financing.

“Our new clean energy financing tools make it easy for anyone interested in installing sustainable systems to see where the most favorable loans are available, and to compare the benefits of various financing options,” said Jack Clark, CSE’s director of programs. “The opportunities for clean energy financing are evolving rapidly, and these tools are continually updated with the latest information.”

CSE’s PACE map displays counties and cities in California where the financing programs are available by building type, and provides facts about PACE as well as direct links to loan provider websites. The information is also useful to home performance contractors and solar energy companies looking to target sales in areas with PACE and other energy loan programs, said Clark. With PACE again becoming popular after its initial conception in 2007, this database greatly simplifies the buying experience.

The clean energy financing database CSE has put together identifies and evaluates various loan programs in California, their basic terms, and links to provider websites. The database allows homeowners to sort financing options by energy technology type, user building sector, and type of financing desired.

CSE developed the financing tools with funding from the Department of Energy’s Rooftop Solar Challenge and the San Diego Regional Energy Partnership.