U.S. Homeowners Can Now "Rent" Solar Panels, Saving Money

solar hot water laundromat
Now homeowners can sign up to rent solar panels for their home at a price equal to or less than their current utility bill.

Residents of the United States will soon be able to install energy-efficient solar panels on their homes without paying significant upfront costs, according to the renewable energy development company Citizenre. The Delaware-based business has launched a program that allows customers to “rent” the panels for specified periods of time, paying a per-kilowatt fee that takes the place of the local utility bill. The monthly rate is locked in when the 1, 5 or 25-year contract is signed, so as energy prices go up participants are likely to save money while significantly reducing their output of greenhouse gases.

The rental program, called REnU, is billed as a cost-effective response to the challenges many would-be solar users face when confronted with the high costs of solar system equipment, installation, and maintenance. The program’s only upfront charge is a security deposit of roughly US$500, which is paid back—with interest—at the end of the contract. The REnU website has a “solar savings calculator” that estimates the amount of money households will save by switching to solar power. Citizenre also eliminates other disincentives to solar power adoption by acquiring the necessary permits for the system itself and by monitoring a home’s electricity usage closely to make sure it is always equipped with the appropriate number of panels.

The solar panel rentals will be offered in all but the nine U.S. states that have not yet adopted “net metering” laws allowing renewable energy to flow into the national electricity grid. Under the REnU program, solar energy captured during the day is fed into the grid and pulled back out again for use at night. Although the systems won’t be ready to install until September, thousands of homeowners have already begun signing contracts.

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.