solar-city-home-w-solarAmericans in nearly a quarter of all U.S. states will be able to go solar while skipping the big upfront costs of buying a system thanks to SolarCity’s recently announced expansion of residential solar leasing to Maryland and Washington, D.C. The California-based company will open up shop in those locations in mid-February.

Buying vs. leasing:
Five things to consider

1. Cash. Do you have the cash on hand to buy a solar system outright? If yes, you probably will want to buy the system (see reason No. 4 below for why it’s “probably” rather than “definitely”).
2. Financing. If you do not have the money on hand to pay cash for the system, how will you finance it? And how much will taking out a loan add to the total cost of the system? If you have to borrow a large amount of money to buy a system, solar leasing may well be a better option for you.
3. Cash flow. If you do have cash on hand for a solar system, consider whether paying cash for the solar system will affect your cash flow for other large (potential cash) purchases, for instance, an electric car.
4. Your whole financial picture. Crunch the numbers on the $10,000 to $20,000 (or more) you will need to have on hand in order to buy a solar system outright in terms of alternative uses for the money. For instance, would you be better off financially if you lease a solar system and use the $20,000 to pay down your home mortgage more quickly?
5. Is solar leasing available? As of Jan. 2010, in the U.S. solar leasing is available in parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Oregon. If solar leasing is not yet available where you live, do some research to figure out how soon it might arrive in your area before you make the decision to buy a system .

SolarCity has acquired Clean Currents Solar, the solar installation division of leading Mid-Atlantic based independent green energy company Clean Currents LLC, and will serve Maryland and the District of Columbia from its new operations center in Silver Spring.

“Clean Currents has built a strong, local installation team that we will grow to bring zero-down solar leasing and a range of other clean power and energy efficiency options to Maryland and Washington D.C.,” said Lyndon Rive, SolarCity’s CEO. “This partnership should significantly increase solar and energy efficiency adoption in the Mid-Atlantic region.”

SolarCity provides homeowners and businesses a single source for solar power financing, design, installation, monitoring, repair and energy efficiency services. The company pioneered solar leasing in 2008 with SolarLease®, which allows homeowners and businesses to install and use solar power with no upfront cost, and pay less each month for solar electricity than they previously paid for electricity from the power company.

SunRun, which works with local solar installers to provide the so-called third-party financing that allows consumers to sign up for solar leasing, and Sungevity, another California-based company, are the other two big players in the U.S. residential solar leasing market currently.

With the addition of Maryland and Washington, D.C. to the list in mid-February, residential solar leasing will be available in 11 states and the District of Columbia. These states are:

Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Texas and the District of Columbia.

However, residential solar leasing is available only in select areas of each of the above states and locations.

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