I get this question all the time. There are so many companies out there advertising free solar. Well there is a saying, “nothing in life is truly free” – and solar is no different. There is so much unethical messaging and simply false advertising out there, so I decided to write this blog to cut through all the buzzwords and get to the truth. I’ve created a simple breakdown of what solar companies ACTUALLY mean when they say phrases like “free solar” or “nothing out of pocket.”

The Background

First things first. Let’s start with a quick understanding of what is going on behind the scenes in the electric industry. The grid here in the midwest is OLD. Not to mention that only 4% of the power that is supplying the infrastructure is coming from wind and solar power. This means that well over 94% of the electricity that is being generated in the midwest region comes from sources that the EPA has determined are damaging to the environment. Take a look at the chart below from the Comed Environmental Disclosure to see the full breakdown:

syMvQACFe3iY9yBB2sJoJIs0ivClu90HsaWMrLaGB3c7RPYKYz4oKqZShn1S4qLmt zlG7Towdu5n46TooV51vp YEHjiVikG2TjBqroyX9W3JU994j9F 0KnJolvolhzgPt Is Free Solar Really Free?

 

What this Means for You

Upgrading the grid is expensive! And because the government cannot force you to put solar on your home, they did the next best thing – they decided to tax you for it. But how many people would actually buy solar panels with an ROI of 20 years.

A handful of years ago, the midwest installed digital meters. Chances are you didn’t even see the switch happen. The digital meter, also called a net meter or cumulative meter, is a pretty big part of the solution. It tracks electricity bi-directionally. When the older analog meters were used, they were only able to show what you took from the grid electricity usage wise. The new ones are intended to show how much is being sent back to the utility.

The over 100 year old grid was never built with the ability to have a lot of “onsite generation stations” all over feeding back into the grid. Which is exactly what homes, businesses and farms are turned into when solar is installed. Now, according to Enerdynamics, 66% of the electricity is lost between generation and transmission to the source of use.

The “Free” Solar Spin

Now that you have all the background, let’s get to the meat of why you’re here – why “free” solar isn’t actually free.

Even if you are purchasing panels in the midwest, the best case scenario is that 50% of the cost of the solar panel project could be covered if you bought in cash. Leasing companies know that if they take on the initial cost of solar panels and you essentially rent the power and panels combined from them, they would cover the installation, upkeep and maintenance. They have a long term customer over the duration of time of the lease.

Now why on earth would a company want to do that?

Well a typical solar system takes about 8-10 years to get full ROI. The typical solar lease is going to be for about 20 years, that means that after that 8-10 year time frame, the system is paid off and they have a long term customer.

What’s it to You?

If you know anything about the market and how prices are increasing over the last years, you might already know where this is going.

Let’s say the utility in the midwest requests and gets approved for a $1.5 Billion dollar bill to upgrade and augment the grid with more renewable sources. Which, by the way, is only a little less than half of the $3.5 Billion dollar investment that the US made to upgrade the grid. The LARGEST investment ever to date. Do you really think an overall 1 star google rated utility company is going to be like, “Hmmm, you have been such a loyal customer for years dear Illinois resident. Let me take on the cost of this huge grid change.”

Wishful thinking. They are a business, and as a business expenses and product increases are passed downhill to the consumer… well lucky us…

The Logic

Well, if you have what I like to call fixed predictability with something like solar, you know exactly what your price for electricity is going to be. As the utility prices increase over time, you have a set price.

Word to the Wise

There are more than 300 solar companies out there, and let’s be frank here – they are not all the best. There are only a handful that offer a lease option and a lot of times the actual installation itself is brokered out to another company that is subcontracted out to do the installation. Why is this important to you? If you have a company that is using the subpar extra crews from other companies doing the install, how amazing do you think that install process is going to be. IT ISN’T.

Why SolLight is Different

I came from a medical background and actually care more about people than solar panels. Yes, it helps folks out, protects them from price increase and saves money. But most do not know all that is going on behind the scenes. There was a huge gap of misinformation in the solar industry, where the people looking for answers and someone to represent them were just not there. So, we did the homework for you. We screened the top installers and financing companies and made it so you have someone going to bat for you. If you have someone who knows the installers directly and can explain things to you so you know ALL the options available to you in your area and help guide you to make an educated decision, that would be nice. Well, after years in the industry that is exactly what we have done.