Solar Financing Options

Installing a solar system on your property allows you to decrease your electric bills and reliance on the grid by reducing utility energy usage. In addition to the economic and environmental benefits provided by solar power, it can also increase your property value, decrease your carbon footprint, and help hedge against future utility rate increases. Below are common financing mechansims for investing in your clean energy future.

Cash Purchases 

Cash purchases continue to be a popular way invest in solar energy systems and provide the best return on investment. However, purchasing the system directly comes with a steep up-front price tag. 

Solar Loans

Several local banks and credit unions offer solar financing products, including solar home equity lines of credit, and unsecured loans. Always compare rates and offering details to determine which solution might be right for you. The following is a list of local banks and credit unions that SF Environment is aware of that offer solar financing products. Check with your own bank to see if they may offer financing for your solar system as well, or if you can wrap your solar installation into an existing mortgage or home equity line of credit. 

- Admirals Bank: Solar Loans 
- New Resource Bank: Solar Home Equity Financing
- SF Fire Credit Union: Solar Loans
 
(If  you know of solar loans that should be added to this list, please contact renewables@sfgov.org).

Solar Leases and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)

Solar leases and PPAs are two 3rd party ownership options that allow consumers to install solar energy systems without the upfront cost and also allow non-profit organizations to take advantage of tax-related incentives, such as investment tax credits and accelerated depreciation. A solar lease is very much like a car lease, where you lease the equipment for a set period of time and benefit from the electricity it produces during that lease period. A power purchase agreement is similar, although with a PPA you only pay for the electricity your solar system produces. It’s like paying for a car by the mile. In both cases, the customer is essentially hosting a solar power system on its roof that is owned by a 3rd party and enjoying all its benefits with little or no upfront payment. The monthly payment is typically structured in a way that the power generated by the system costs less ($/kWh) than that of the local utility company. Click here for a list of solar lease and PPA providers that serve San Francisco.

GreenFinanceSF (PACE)

Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, helps property owners fund energy efficiency upgrades, on-site clean power generation projects, and water conservation retrofits. Under GreenFinanceSF’s owner-arranged financing model, commercial property owners can negotiate project-specific financing terms with the investor(s) of their choice, and repay the cost of the upgrade over time through their property tax bill. GreenFinanceSF can be used to fund a range of building performance upgrades, from high-efficiency lighting and HVAC retrofits, to solar photovoltaic systems and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The combination of lower rates and longer terms greatly improves the economics of deeper energy efficiency upgrades and on-site power generation projects, and allows for positive cash-flow from day one. For more information, please visit greenfinanceSF.org

Group Purchasing

San Francisco Bay Area communities continue to have great success with group purchasing program to bring down the cost of going solar and provide access to affordable financing. By aggregating demand and leveraging its purchasing power, the buying group can secure a discounted price from a solar installer. In 2013, SF Environment is organizing a group purchasing program called San Francsico SunShares for employees of the City and County of San Francsico and member companies of the Business Council on Climate Change. Previously, SF Environment organized Solar@Work for small and medium size commercial properties and Solar@School for private schools in the city. Group purchases can be self-organized on the neighborhood level and the Solarize Guidebook will show you how! For additional information read our policy brief on group purchase programs.

Download: Understanding Solar Purchasing Options
Download: US EPA's Clean Energy Financing Guide

Additional Information for Solar Financing Options

WRI group purchasing guide
This Best Practices Guide is intended to assist commercial and government entities in the process of organizing and executing a collaborative solar purchase.
DOE Solarize
A community guide to collective purchasing of residential PV systems
SF Energy Map
A map of renewable energy activity around the City, including installed solar systems, case studies, and monitoring stations.
Vote Solar
Weekly webinar series on timely and important solar issues. Each Wednesday 'Get Some Sun' features fresh perspectives that help shed light on all issues solar.
Solar in Action in San Francisco
San Francisco's Challenges and Successes on the Path toward a Solar-Powered Community