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Solar Leasing’ Spurs Growth Across California

Aired 5/29/12 on KPBS News.

Unlike much of the rest of the economy, the solar industry is growing rapidly. New solar installations in California jumped by 21 percent last year. An increasing amount of that growth is from a business model often called "solar leasing."

What's commonly called "solar leasing" is now the most popular way for homeowners to install solar electricity.

A solar company installs the panels for the customer for free or for a minimal cost. Then it sells the consumer the electricity for about ten percent less than local utility rates.

SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said this makes solar power accessible for the average homeowner.

"Before solar was more designed to those who could afford large upfront cost of $20 to twenty-five thousand dollars," explained Rive. "Now the average person can go solar, just start saving money, no investment."

The company pays for the equipment and maintenance, and it pockets the profit over the twenty-year period.

Rive said the option is so popular that in some markets his company has a waiting list of four to six months.

And now there's even more room for growth. The California Public Utilities Commission has changed regulations, extending the financial incentive for solar producers.

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