SolarCity announced this week that it is expanding its operations into New Mexico. It is proposing to transform the market for electrical energy in the state with a program that allows customers to sign up for solar power with no money down. It anticipates that the cost of its solar power will be 15% to 20% less than electricity from traditional sources. Some call the plan “solar power for the masses.”
SolarCity finances, designs, installs and maintains residential and commercial solar systems. The company will offer New Mexico homeowners 30-year loans at 4.5% interest, financed by Credit Suisse through a program called MyPower. “The reason the service has been so popular is we address the biggest barrier to solar, which is the upfront cost,” said Jonathan Bass, a SolarCity spokesman. “This way, there’s no out-of-pocket costs.”
The loan is based on a person’s credit rating. The minimum credit score required to secure a loan is 650, and the monthly payment is based on the amount of solar energy the customer’s system produces. The solar installation itself is the collateral for the loan. No lien is placed against the home. The customer can pay off the loan early with no penalties and if the home is sold, the solar loan agreement can be transferred to the new buyer or incorporated into the home’s sale price.
Regina Wheeler, CEO of Positive Energy, a solar design and installation company based in Santa Fe, said she’s excited about SolarCity’s arrival. “We know that when they come to town, they tend to double the market for solar.” SolarCity can also be a powerful ally for promoting solar policies at the state level, Wheeler said. “We’re really happy to have additional support for distributed generation,” she said.
That last part could be important. The existing utility companies in New Mexico are proposing a surcharge of up to $100 a month on home solar installations, claiming solar customers do not pay their fair share to help maintain the existing grid infrastructure. SolarCity’s Bass says, “There is no solar or technical basis for the claim that solar customers don’t pay their fair share for electricity. We’re happy to have that debate.” SolarCity has already filed an antitrust suit in federal court for instituting just such a surcharge.
The chairman of SolarCity is Elon Musk, who has shown many times he enjoys disrupting entrenched interests and challenging existing authorities. Things in New Mexico could get interesting soon. SolarCity began taking applications from residential customers on March 4, 2015.
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Source: Santa Fe New Mexican