Solar Loans Are Getting Easier to Find
Homeowners who want to install a photovoltaic system have new sources of financing
Homeowners looking for a way to finance new rooftop solar systems now have more options than local banks and credit unions.
SunPower Corp., the country's second-largest maker of solar panels, said on June 16 it had worked out a $200 million loan agreement with Admirals Bank that would fund residential solar projects over the next two years, according to a report at MarketWatch.
And in an expansion of a program first announced in March, solar middleman Solar Mosaic Inc. is making crowdsourced solar loans available directly to homeowners online. Borrowers can apply online in two minutes or less, the company promises.
Like solar leasing programs offered by installers such as SolarCity, loans allow homeowners to get into renewables with little or no upfront charges. The difference is that homeowners who lease don't build any equity in their systems.
Mosaic taps crowdsourced investors
Unlike a bank, Mosaic doesn't have a stack of cash on hand that it can loan to homeowners. Instead, the company appeals to potential investors in a process called "crowdsourcing." Investors come up with the cash and are repaid by the homeowner via loan payments. Mosaic signs the loan agreement with the homeowner, and a separate deal with investors.
Asked for details on how the system works, company spokesman Katie Ullmann referred GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com to a blog written by Ann Werner in May. In it, Werner says the process from application to final permitting takes between three and four months.
For the first 18 months of the loan, the interest rate is 4.99%. At that point, homeowners have the option of paying Mosaic an amount equal to the 30% federal tax credit available for renewables, and keeping the 4.99% rate, or pocketing the credit and seeing the rate go to 10%.
Investors are earning between 4.5% and 7%, Ullmann said. Mosaic charges investors 0.5%.
Terms for the zero-down loans are for up to 20 years, and loan amounts are up to $50,000. For the time being, loans are available only in California, although Mosaic says it plans to expand into other areas later this year.
Loans available in every state
SunPower/Admirals Bank loans are available in amounts up to $60,000 and are available all over the country.
The company hasn't responded to requests for more information on the loan program, including when loans might be available and what the terms might be. The company's web site has a section on its lease program, but nothing so far on the loans.
Separately, Admirals offers its own loan program for renewables and energy efficiency improvements, including solar, small wind, and geothermal projects. Those loans are available all over the country.
The bank's website describes a two-tiered loan program, with maximums set at $25,000 and $40,000. In a post at CleanTechnica, Zachary Shahan writes that borrowers in the first tier program must have a credit score of 650 or better. To qualify for a $40,000 loan, you'll need a credit score of 700 or higher.
The interest rate is 4.95%, with terms of between 5 and 20 years.
Whether homeowners add solar with a lease, a power purchase agreement or a purchase financed with a loan, payments for electricity may be lower than if the power were purchased from the utility, MarketWatch said. SunPower also points to higher property values with the addition of rooftop solar.
- Bill Koplitz / FEMA via Wikimedia Commons