Rooftop, Solar

GE’s Solar PV Financing a Plan Made for California

Legislation in California may support the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on a million rooftops, but paying for a system is still an obstacle for many homeowners.

People may have considered alternative power sources, but were discouraged by the cost of installation and the difficulty of obtaining financing, according to GE Consumer Finance. A residential solar electric system can range from $20,000 to $60,000 in unsubsidized costs, depending on the size and type of system. Finding a banking institution willing to finance the home addition isn’t as easy choosing an appropriate PV array for a home, however. “In the 1970s and ’80s a lot of solar-thermal power systems were sold by small, fledgling businesses and financed through traditional home improvement loans,” explained Dean Marks, president of Premier Power, a company that designs, engineers and installs solar electric systems for homes and businesses. “A lot of those companies quickly went out of business, and some customers were unprepared for the maintenance involved and ultimately defaulted on their loans. As a result, some banks have been very reluctant to finance residential solar power.” GE Consumer Finance’s Retail Sales Finance unit began offering credit to homeowners last year for PV systems. Marks said his company has built or retrofitted almost 500 homes with the technology, and many of the systems he installed are manufactured by GE. Before financing was available, Marks said the typical customer for solar power was someone with more disposable income. Now that financing is easily available, more average homeowners are plugging into the sun. Mike Pryde of GE Consumer Finance said the potential market for PV systems is enormous, both in California and across the country. “Solar electric power makes good economic sense for consumers. We’ve seen interest growing exponentially across the U.S. over the last few years and expect that to continue,” said Pryde. “Financing a solar electric system enables consumers to budget for a fixed, monthly financing payment for a limited period of time. This is offset by their reduced electric bill, which will always be substantially less with the solar system as long as the sun continues to shine.” Federal and state tax credits, along with a rebate from the power company, should make PV systems even more affordable. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently announced his support for a state senate bill to create the “Million Solar Roofs Initiative,” a framework to help promote residential and commercial solar energy use. If approved, homeowners who install PV systems would earn an additional 7.5 percent tax credit above and beyond the rebate received from state and federal sources.