New England Clean Energy is offering a new solar financing option to Massachusetts homeowners that combines the benefits of full system ownership with the advantage of no-money-down financing usually reserved for lease and power purchase agreements.
The company’s new Clean Energy Combo Loan offers 100 percent financing for high-powered SunPower systems that cost $14,000 to $55,000. The first year is interest and payment free with the expectation that the homeowner will make a lump-sum payment after receiving the 30 percent federal tax credit followed by a 12-year payment plan at 2.99 percent interest.
New England Clean Energy also ensures that the homeowner’s monthly loan payments are less than their current energy bills. The lower payments combined with the ability to sell the solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) on the Massachusetts market make the systems cash flow positive from the day of installation.
The company just rolled the program out with a soft launch a couple weeks ago and has already had a couple customers choose the option, said Susan Boucher, spokeswoman for New England Clean Energy.
“The combo loan makes solar much more attractive for many more people,” she said.
New England Clean Energy has been in the solar business since 2006, Boucher said.
“The people who were installing solar then were the early adopters,” she said. “They had strong environmental principles and usually strong bank accounts, too.”
The solar leasing companies came into the state with an effort to make solar accessible to more people.
“We offer a solar lease, so we’re kind of agnostic,” Boucher said. “But we don’t sell many leases because when presented with the different financial options, there’s definitely an advantage to owning.”
The tricky part of owning a solar system is financing it. Most people don’t have the cash to buy a solar array outright. They use home-equity financing or refinance their homes. The combo loan provides an easier and lower-interest way for customers to get the best of both worlds.
Before rebates and tax credits, a 6.5-kilowatt solar array using the most powerful solar panels available costs approximately $35,000. An 11-kilowatt system costs roughly $55,000, according to a release from New England Clean Energy.
Boucher said the company has been working on finding ways to offer its own financing, but this program is offered through SunPower and EnerBank.
“One of the great things about the combo loan is that it makes SunPower panels accessible to more people,” she said. “SunPower has the highest power and most efficient panel on the market, because of that, they’re also more expensive.”
But the higher power and greater efficiency mean fewer panels on a homeowner’s roof can produce more electricity. The financing option makes them easier to afford than a lot of lower-quality options.