Ways to Finance Solar in Florida
There are a few ways the consumer can finance a solar project in the state of Florida. Wave Energy will provide a quick overview and some of the pros and cons of each solar financing method.
Currently the primary method in which a Florida consumer can get solar power in their home or business. Simply put, you would buy the equipment and pay to have a certified solar contractor install the panels. They are your property.
PROs – They are yours and can be sold with the real-property, easily transferable. Ownership means you have a fixed investment amount which could result in even higher returns if energy prices increase. You essentially locked in your initial investment. As utility energy prices increase, you are effectively seeing a higher rate of return on your investment. Most panels come with a 20-year performance warranty and long term manufacturer warranties. You also will receive a federal tax credit of up to 30% on the purchase.
CONs – Operation and maintenance costs are on you. Most panels are designed to last year’s so this is low risk, low cost, but strong storms, baseballs, and other unforeseen accidents can cost you money. You need to have the capital to purchase and most installations run from $10,000 to $30,000. Home Equity and Business lines of credit are viable options for financing. If going this route, ensure the ROI analysis your contractor provides includes this in the calculations.
Helpful Information – There are a number of financial support programs that come and go. Your contractor should also help you seek available rebates, green-financing loans, and other government subsidies if available. A great program available is the Solar Energy and Loan Fund (SELF). They provide low interest rate loans for homeowners interested in financing for energy-saving improvements, including low-to-moderate income residents.
PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy)
PACE programs are a method of financing sustainable energy improvements on a property via the property tax bill. PACE pays for 100% of a project’s costs and is repaid over a period of up to 20 years with an assessment added to your ad valorem tax bill.
PROs – No Money down and easy to qualify if you are current on your bills and pay your taxes. You also own the equipment, so the same benefits described in ownership apply. Depending on when you purchase using PACE, you may not see the tax assessed until the following tax year. Depending on location, it is available to both residential and commercial property owners.
CONs – Since owned, same O&M risks and costs associated to ownership. The tax lean follows the property, meaning if you sell the property before it is paid off, that lean is transferred to the new buyer, which can sometimes be a detractor for potential buyers.
Helpful Information – PACE is available in various counties and cities and must be adopted by that specific municipality. In Brevard County, Satellite Beach is currently considering a PACE program and most likely will adopt. Your contractor should be able to tell you if you and your property location qualify.
Programs Not Yet Available in Florida
PPA (Power Purchase Agreement)
A PPA allows a 3rd party Solar power supplier to place solar panels on your property which generates your electricity. The solar power supplier agrees to sell you the electricity, and you agree to purchase the electricity generated at a fixed price over a period of time (usually 20 years).
PROs – Usually no to minimal money down. The price of electricity per Kwh is set for the life of the contract, and is set to be competitive with your current electric bill charges, meaning you pay less for electricity than you do now. Since you don’t own the equipment, you are essentially on lease contract, the supplier will maintain and manage the system for you. It’s a very simple, plug-n-play way to get solar power.
CONs – You don’t own the equipment, but its on your roof. You are in essence, giving up valuable real-estate to someone to sell you something. Imagine agreeing to allow a vendor to setup a shop in your front yard and sell you stuff. Fair? Yes and no. You’re doing this to save on cost of electricity. You also cannot take advantage of the federal tax credit. The seller does. Also, if you decide to sell your home, you also must transfer the PPA to the new home buyer.
Helpful Information – PPAs have been around for a while throughout the US, with predominant adoption in the Western States. PPAs may become available to Florida residence soon.
NMA (Net Metering Agreement) or Virtual Net-metering agreement
This is similar to a PPA, but in this case, you are not looking to reap the benefits of solar power at your property, but rather rent the real-estate for a 3rd part supplier to generate a lot of solar power, but then turn around and sell this to another customer under a PPA. This is most common with large companies that have a lot of space, but looking to generate some additional income. The buyers are typically other companies that do not have the solar real-estate to mount panels, but have the desire to use clean energy.
PROs – Again, mainly for large organizations. It is a creative way to enter the solar power market. For consumers, it allows customer’s that can’t produce enough of their own solar to take advantage of the PPA program
CONs – You’re not getting the same value for the solar energy, and only getting a cut for leasing the space. A much more valuable proposition would be to generate your own solar with your own panels and then sell that energy to other consumers rather than using a third party to do so.