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SolarCity unveils leasing deal for DFW homeowners

In this undated photo provided by SolarCity, workers install solar panels on the roof of a home.
In this undated photo provided by SolarCity, workers install solar panels on the roof of a home. AP

SolarCity wants your rooftop.

The national provider of solar energy systems, based in San Mateo, Calif., is unveiling a program today for homeowners in Dallas-Fort Worth to have solar panels installed, insured and maintained by the company with no upfront cost to the consumer.

Under terms of the deal, homeowners would be required to buy the power generated on their rooftops for 10.9 cents per kilowatt hour over the life of a 20-year contract. In any month that the household needs more power than the panels can generate, homeowners would be required to buy that electricity from The Woodlands-based electric retail provider MP2 Energy at 12 cents per kilowatt hour.

That is more costly than the lowest electric rates currently available on the Public Utility Commission’s website PowerToChoose.com, which range from 5.6 cents to 8 cents per kilowatt hour. But the deal also calls for MP2 to buy back any excess power generated by the solar arrays at 12 cents per kilowatt hour, which would be rolled onto later bills by SolarCity as a credit.

“There is no investment and no risk by the homeowner,” said Lyndon Rive, chief executive officer of Solar City. “SolarCity only makes money when the solar panels produce energy and we maintain the panels to be the most efficient system possible.”

Jim Duncan, chairman of the non-profit North Texas Renewable Energy Group who teaches seminars on solar power, said consumer should be very careful when signing a long-term solar lease.

“It’s a fast-changing industry,” he said. “Two years from now there is no telling what’s going to happen in Texas. A 20-year lease is way too long. There are too many details in solar leases that people don’t look at.”

Specifically, he advises that homeowners make sure there are no additional home insurance costs with a solar lease, and find out who pays for the solar array to come down and put back up if the roof needto be replaced.

Also, be sure to understand what happens to the agreement if you want to sell your house. The SolarCity leasing agreement requires a FICO credit score of 650. Find out what happens if the next homeowner does not meet that requirement, Duncan advised.

Rive said SolarCity is able to make the offer in part because of the dramatic drop in the cost of solar panels over the past decade and a 30 percent tax credit available on installing solar panels in place until 2017.

SolarCity announced last week plans to invest $750 million in residential solar projects in 14 states and the District of Columbia, funded in part by $300 million from Google.

SolarCity will serve customers from its operations center in northwest Dallas. Interested homeowners can contact SolarCity by calling 888-765-2489 for a free solar consultation or visit the company online at www.solarcity.com.

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