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Queens Chronicle

Leasing makes solar energy systems more affordable

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Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:56 am, Thu Sep 20, 2012.

Solar energy, once thought to be out of reach for the average homeowner because of the perceived costs, is getting a second look thanks to new leasing options. Businesses and consumers seeking to reduce energy costs and do something good for the planet are choosing the solar lease as a smart way to finance solar photovoltaic systems.

“Many homeowners are surprised to find that the cost of a solar energy system can be upwards of $15,000 to $20,000 even after tax credits, rebates and other incentives,” explains David Schieren, CEO of EmPower Solar, a leading solar engineering and installation company. “With leasing available in New York, solar power has now become very affordable.”

Leasing now available in Queens. A recently announced solar leasing program available to Queens’ residents and businesses will help those considering a conversion. Financing is offered through a partnership with SunPower Corporation, a US-based manufacturer of high reliability solar panels and Citi, a global financial services company.

The SunPower Lease is a Con Ed compliant program that features low monthly payments with $0 down and offers consumers immediate savings on their electric bills, as much as $1,200 a year for residential applications, according to Schieren.

The solar lease has helped dramatically increase solar adoption around the country. Solar leases now account for over 70 percent of solar energy sales in California, the nation’s leading solar market. The sun generates 1,185 megawatts of solar power in California, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The power created by the sun in California is nearly equivalent to the electricity being produced by the Astoria Generating Station, a 1,280 MW natural gas and oil-fired power plant on the East River. Among the many advantages of solar is that it is a renewable energy source and unlike a typical power plant, it does not produce any harmful emissions nor consume millions of gallons of water each year.

PV is the fastest growing segment of the energy market with an estimated 1,800 MW of new solar energy created in 2011, enough to power 350,000 homes.

How does the lease work? With a PV system it’s fairly straightforward, the homeowner enters into an agreement and is obligated to make monthly payments over a set period of time, usually between 10 and 20 years. The combination of the monthly lease payments with a significantly reduced monthly electric bill is still much less than what the consumer had been paying the utility. A typical lease will cost $100 per month, and save the average homeowner $200 per month on their Con Ed electric bill right away.

How does solar power work? PV technology is nothing new. Albert Einstein described it in 1905. PV cells convert sunlight into electricity at the atomic level. PV panels absorb photons of light and release them as electrons. An electric current is created when the electrons are captured enabling the current to be used as electricity. In the 1960s the space industry began using PV systems to provide power aboard the spacecrafts of the day. The energy crisis of the 1970s gave rise to commercial, non-space uses for PV technology.

PV systems generate electricity only when the sun is shining. On cloudy days and at night power is supplied by the local utility. With the sun shining roughly 234 days a year in the NY area, the region is well-suited for residential and commercial solar energy applications, especially because of the area’s high energy prices.

Selecting a PV designer and installer. For a high quality, high performance and long-lasting solar energy system it is best to use an experienced, professional installer, one certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. A professional installer will assess how much energy the home or business consumes, hot water needs, structural integrity of the roof, electrical requirements and the best spot to maximize a system’s effectiveness.

The installer should have a thorough knowledge of local building codes and required permits. Prospective customers should get a few estimates or recommendations from those who have systems. “Word of mouth is the best tool in finding a knowledgeable, professional PV installer who will do the job right,” added Schieren, who is NABCEP certified.

Solar leasing is a great way to lower energy costs, reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil and make a positive impact on the environment. The combination of a monthly lease payment and a drastically reduced electric bill will make a big difference in a consumer’s wallet, or a business’s bottom line. EmPower Solar provides free consultations, site surveys and estimates. Visit empower-solar.com or call 1 (516) 432-SOLA (432-7652).

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