Philadelphia finds a new way to support low-income solar – pv magazine USA
PEA chose three local solar installers, KISS Electric, Moore Energy, and Solar States, and one distributor, CED Greentech, who are offering three standardized equipment options: a premium package using high-efficiency LG solar panels, a standard package using US-made Solarworld panels, and a budget package from Jinko, plus inverters and optimizers. The distributor was willing to cut prices in exchange for selling hundreds of kits.
Once those packages and prices were nailed down, PEA ran a promotional campaign, working with neighborhood groups, elected officials, and the local press to get the word out. In phase 1, 2200 people expressed interest. PEA then called each signup to identify the most promising leads, in order to make the process run more efficiently.
Rigell says that phase 1 will raise about $200,000 for the low-income fund. This would pay for solar installations for 10 to 15 low-income households.
That’s not bad, but then PEA did something especially clever. Instead of just buying solar panels to give away to low-income customers, PEA has lined up investors to finance solar leases and will use the $200,000 low-income fund to guarantee any non-payment of the leases, which reduces risk for the investors. With lower risk, investors will be comfortable with lower profits, further driving down costs.
Thanks to this leverage, about 45 customers will get 75-100 percent of their power from solar on their homes, saving about 20 percent, or $240 per year. After the 15-year lease expires, PEA intends to donate the system to the homeowners, who can then capture all the savings for as long as the solar panels last (typically about 30 years).