The so-called “free solar panels” (sometimes called “pay-as you-go solar” or “solar leasing”) business model that has already seen major success in the USA and the UK is now available in Australia. What are often referred to as free solar panels schemes–although not technically free–are actually pay-as-you-go arrangements that allows customers to install a solar power PV system without incurring an up-front cost, whilst at the same time reaping the benefits of having a solar system and saving money on their power bills. Although it may sound too good to be true, the concept is a simple one that has enabled many homes and businesses overseas to overcome main hurdle in going solar–the capital cost associated with installing a system.
How do free solar panel / solar leasing/ pay-as-you-go solar schemes work?
Virtually all homes and businesses in Australia purchase their power from the electricity grid through an electricity retailer. Having a solar PV system essentially enables a home or business to bypass electricity retailers when the sun is shining (and even when it’s not for those who have batteries). With electricity rates across Australia are rising steadily, avoiding the need to purchase power from the grid will become more and more desirable as time goes on. At the time time, the price of having a solar PV system installed has been steadily falling, making solar power an increasingly smart investment. Even so, not everyone has the resources to pay the up-front cost of a system, and conventional financing plans often inflate the ultimate out-of-pocket cost of a system, reducing end return on investment (ROI).
Solar systems are worthwhile investments, but home and business owners may not have the resources to purchase one outright. A free solar panels scheme sidesteps both of these barriers with simple outside-the-box thinking. There are a few different models, but in essence, this is how they work:
1. Operators of free solar panels schemes install a solar system on a customer’s home or business at zero up-front cost to the customer,
2. Free solar panel scheme customers enjoy the financial benefits the system–namely, savings on electricity bills. Although the deal is most attractive for customers in states with a Solar Feed-in Tariff incentive scheme, even states without one (such as NSW) can potentially reap the benefits depending on their power usage during the day.
The benefits of free solar panel / solar leasing / pay-as-you-go solar schemes to the customer
–No upfront cost to install a solar PV system
–Purchase electricity at a low, set or an inflation-adjusted rate (and insulate one’s self against steadily rising electricity rates from the big retailers)
–Rates are agreed upon at the outset of a 20 year contract term
–No liability for the performance of the system–warranties, repairs, system performance are all the responsibility of the scheme operator.
(Have questions? Initiate a dialogue with a Solar Choice broker for 100% obligation and cost-free advice by filling out the Solar Quote Comparison Request form to the right of this page.)
A win-win situation for both customers and scheme operators
Regardless of the details of how a free solar panels arrangement works, the common threads are that: a) they cost the customers nothing, b) customers benefit financially from their solar system and c) the scheme operator also benefits financially, either by ‘skimming off the top’ of the system’s productivity, or by selling power from the system directly to their customers.
Operators will typically sign a power purchase agreement (PPA) with their customers, leasing the system to them for a set duration of time ,with the opportunity to renew the contract in the future. Such a leasing agreement also obviates the need for the customer to worry about maintaining or servicing the system should there be any functionality issues. Customers may also have the option to make payments to gradually purchase and eventually own the system instead of lease it. However, in such a case, the customer may have more responsibilities with regard to the upkeep of the system than under a leasing agreement.
Finding a free solar panels scheme operators in Australia
The Australian solar industry has grown phenomenally since 2009, and with it so has competition. This competition, combined with the steady withdrawal of incentives on both the federal and state levels, has inspired innovation, with many solar PV installation companies offering deals that make them stand out from the pack.
Free solar panels schemes are one such offering that is now available through the Solar Choice network of installers. Fill out the Solar Quote Comparison request form on the right of this page today to initiate a dialogue with one of our brokers and find out if this offer is available in your area of Australia.
© 2012 Solar Choice Pty Ltd
He is now the communications manager for energy technology startup SwitchDin, but remains an occasional contributor to the Solar Choice blog.
James lives in Newcastle in a house with a weird solar system.
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