Free Solar is NOT free

Subject: Free solar is NOT free.

Companies offering to put free solar panels on your roof should be viewed with extreme caution. In some places, with some company getting so called free panels could be a very costly mistake. In 2012 my wife and I allowed a local company to put 16 panels on our roof. Under the terms of the contract we signed we agreed to lease our roof to the company for 20 years. We did not understanding the exact terms.

After we signed the agreement the company put the panels and associated wiring, inverter, and meter on the house. Last year the panels produced $2,600 in electricity. Our part of that revenue amounted to a whopping $249.

That measly payment is only a small part of the story. We only discovered the real sting in the tail of this lopsided deal when we decided to sell our house. Under the terms of our agreement, we were required to get the new buyer to accept our contract with the company for the remaining 19 years. It seems that not only is this idea unappealing to most home buyers, many people simply object to solar panels on the roof for a variety of reasons.

Solar panels represent something new and novel, and many people are fearful of anything unknown. Without further investigation, or inquiry they simply reject the house. After number showings, over a period of over a month we had no serious offers. Agents advised that the single obstacle for buyers was the solar panels. We were advised that, the only way to make a sale was to get the panels off the roof.

With that information in hand we called the installer and asked the cost of terminating the contract and removal of the panels. Initially we were advised that the cost would be between $40 -$60 thousand dollars. Later, in an attempt to clarify, we were advised that the amount would be $67,000.

Why we asked would it cost so much. The company advised that, the projected future value of our contract had been sold to a private investor. We were further told that we would have to pay to the investor the projected total revenue from electricity produced by the panels on our roof for the 19 year balance of our contract.

So it turns out that, by accepting free solar panels on our roof, we actually diminished the value of our house and unwittingly undertook the liability for all revenue produced by those free solar panels for 20 years. To make matters even more nasty. When we payout the value of the contract, we will then own the panels outright. At that juncture we will have to pay to have the panels removed and the roof repaired.

No matter how you cut it, there is nothing free about free solar panels in our area. Different jurisdictions may have different rules. Different programs may offer incentives to which make it appealing to buy panels outright and recover some or all cost for doing so. I simply caution that when offered free solar panels in exchange for a rooftop leasing agreement, be exceptionally careful and read all the find print before signing up. You could be stepping into a figurative bear trap with serious financial consequences.

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By John Nazarian
Straight Talk with John J. Nazarian, Private Investigator
September 7, 2014
All Rights Reserved, do not reproduce in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author

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