Good news for Oregon: Solar energy just got a lot cheaper

SolarCity began offering solar leases with no up-front costs to Oregon’s homeowners on Jan. 1.

The company started the leasing program in Oregon thanks to a rules change, which allows homeowners to receive state tax credits for a leased solar system, said SolarCity spokesperson Jonathan Bass.

“Prior to Jan. 1, the tax credits were only available to homeowners that purchased a [solar] system,” he said. “We could have leased the systems to them before that. But it wouldn’t have been cost effective to them [i.e., homeowners].”

Under the lease agreement homeowners can get a 15-year SolarCity SolarLease for as little as $20 a month, significantly reducing their electric bill, if not eliminating it, Bass explained. A 3.2 kilowatt system would cost $25 per month.

SolarCity retains the federal tax credit and other solar rebates for installing the system, he said. The homeowner receives the tax credit from the state over a four-year period. Every year when the homeowner receives the tax credit, they make an additional payment to SolarCity, which is less than the tax rebate they receive, according to Bass.

“We set it up that way so it’s a cash flow positive event for the customer,” he said.

According to Bass, SolarCity is first offering the solar system lease option to residents in Northern Oregon.

“The lease is available in Pacific Power and Portland General Electric territories,” he said. “We’re based in Portland, and those are the two utilities that service the areas that we can service from Portland. We hope to expand to other parts of the state eventually.”

The company has been in Oregon for a number of years and has several hundred customers in the state, Bass said. But those customers are either residential or commercial customers that bought a system from SolarCity.

“We’re happy to sell systems, too,” he said.

SolarCity also offers solar leases in Arizona, California, Colorado and Texas, and according to Bass, the company plans to expand into more states. Already it has more than 10,000 customers, according to Bass.

Image courtesy of SolarCity.