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U.S. states with solar leasing (as of March 2010): Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Texas.

A great time to go solar in New Jersey recently got even better thanks to a comparatively new New Jersey solar company, Geoscape Solar, which has become the first in that state to offer customers solar leasing.

Geoscape’s Solar Lease Program allows customers to go solar with no money down while also saving on their long-term electricity costs and doing the right thing environmentally speaking.

Of course, whether buying a solar system or leasing is better for you – whether you live in New Jersey, or elsewhere in the U.S. – depends on a number of factors, most notably your cash flow situation, says Geoscape President and co-founder Jeffrey Chavkin.


New Jersey offers Solar Renewable Energy Credits

new-jersey-mapSolar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) represent all the clean energy benefits of electricity generated from a solar energy system. SRECs can be sold or traded separately from the power, providing owners a source of revenue to help offset the cost of installation. All solar project owners in New Jersey with electric distribution grid-connected systems are eligible to generate SRECs. Each time a system generates 1,000 kWh of electricity an SREC is earned and placed in the customer’s account on the web-based SREC tracking system.

The Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) Registration Program (SRP) is used to register the intent to install non-rebated solar projects in New Jersey. Registration of the intent to participate in NJ’s solar marketplace provides market participants with information about the pipeline of anticipated new solar capacity and insight into future SREC pricing. To learn more about SRECs and how they are generated visit the SREC Registration Program page.
–Source: New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program Web Site

“It’s a matter of doing financial analysis and finding out what’s best for you,” explains Chavkin, whose 15-month-old company offers both solar purchasing and solar leasing.

If you can put together the cash, either by saving or by taking out a bank loan, buying generally is a better option than leasing, according to Chavkin, as it will generally make you more money in the long run.

New Jersey’s SREC program
Another reason to consider buying a solar system if you can, especially if you live in New Jersey: The state’s so-called Solar Renewable Energy Credit system, which pays those with solar systems $675 for every 1,000 kilowatt hours their system produces.

New Jersey’s innovative SREC program can mean a very quick solar payback period, in most cases in as little as four years. After that, you’ll be producing your own electricity for free.

Generally, says Chavkin, most prospective Geoscape customers prefer to purchase a solar system.

“When people look at the lease, if they can somehow come up with money, they would rather own it,” says Chavkin. “In the Northeast, more middle- to upper-income people look at solar as an investment, and they’re more interested in purchasing. However, leasing gives people with lower incomes a chance to go solar as well.”

Many of those who have opted to do a lease with Geoscape are primarily motivated by environmental considerations, says Chavkin. They want to go solar to live greener lives, but they haven’t been able to so because of its large upfront costs.

While those who opt for a solar lease will not, in the long run, realize as big a financial benefit as those who purchase a system outright. They’ll also have peace of mind knowing they are producing their electricity in an environmentally friendly way, notes Chavkin.

Additionally, solar-lease customers for Geoscape get a one-in-all package, meaning the company offers the third-party financing that makes a lease possible and installs and maintains the customer’s home solar system. Geoscape is committed to providing as many options as possible to its customers, says Chavkin.

Solar leasing allows more to go solar
“Our residential solar is self-funded, that’s how much we believe in the incentives,” he says. “We’ll continue to provide that even if the state takes the rebates away. Solar leasing allows everyone an opportunity to go solar, hence, it’s very integral to the ultimate goal of full clean distribution of solar.”

Geoscape currently has 30 customers in New Jersey, with an additional 30 set to go online soon and more than 100 “good leads,” says Chavkin.

johnson-7kwAlthough the economic climate is a difficult one, Chavkin says that he and co-founder Michael Boches opted to start Geoscape 15 months ago due a desire to promote green energy and to grow green jobs, and because the economic climate for renewable energy in New Jersey is a favorable one.

“Who would think in this economy that anyone would want to start a new company,” says Chavkin, whose company currently employs 13 people. “But the bottom line is that there are a lot of incentives for renewable energy and renewable jobs.”

Chavkin is not only optimistic about his own company, and about solar in New Jersey, a state which, he notes, has 5,100 total solar installations, putting it second in the U.S. behind California, he’s also excited about the potential for the growth of solar in the U.S. as a whole.

Solar in the U.S., he says, is about to reach what he calls a “tipping” point, or a point at which it will grow exponentially.

Knowledge key to solar growth
According to Chavkin, to get to this point more people will need to learn about solar, which means the solar industry needs to educate the public about solar.

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“The number one factor is knowledge,” he explains. “There are a lot of people who don’t know anything about solar.”

Chavkin, who says he would support a voluntary industry tax placed on solar installers which would be used to create a general solar education fund, compares solar to refrigerators or televisions when they first came out. First, one person “on the block” gets the new technology. Then, others see it, learn about it, and, ideally, want it themselves.

“Right now, almost no one has solar,” notes Chavkin of the U.S., a country in which less than one-percent of homeowners currently have solar. “Five years ago, no one had even heard about it. Now, they’ve heard about it, but don’t have it.”

With solar becoming more affordable, it will reach a critical mass and then grow quickly, predicts Chavkin.

“We’ll need to have increased gas and electricity rates and there’ll have to be some pain first,” says Chavkin. “But solar will reaching tipping point within the next five to ten years.”

For more information on Geoscape Solar, go to www.geoscapesolar.com.

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