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Will 'Solar Loans' Decrease Reliance On Nonrenewable Energy?

The biggest provider of rooftop solar panels in the U.S. will now offer customers loans to buy the panels for good rather than leasing them.
Posted at 2:49 PM, Oct 08, 2014

The biggest provider of rooftop solar panels in the U.S. shook up the country's solar power options with a big announcement on Wednesday. 

California-based SolarCity revealed they would be rolling out loans on their solar panels that would allow customers — who previously could only lease panels — to ultimately own them as well. 

As The New York Times notes, the move isn't unprecedented — some of SolarCity's rivals have loan systems as well. But "The SolarCity loan, called MyPower, is unusual in that its repayment is based not only on the overall value of the system but also on how much electricity it produces."

So basically, the more power your system produces, the quicker you can pay back the loan and ultimately buy the system — although the overall price of the system doesn't change. 

And SolarCity's been on the move lately, this past summer announcing plans to build a new solar panel manufacturing plant — projected to be the biggest in the Western Hemisphere — in New York to help keep up with demand. (Video via WIVB)

But SolarCity's CEO told Bloomberg that plant alone won't be enough.

LYNDON RIVE: "If you look at our growth curve, our own growth curve, our own manufacturing won't be able to keep up with our initial growth curve, so our relationship with our existing partners will actually expand."

Rive says the company is focused on the future, which is exactly what you'd expect from a company owned by techy billionaire Elon Musk — who's actually Rive's cousin and says SolarCity fits into his vision of a sustainable future.

ELON MUSK VIA BIG THINK: "SolarCity, of course, is on the energy-production side of things. ... It doesn't help if we have sustainable consumption of energy, but then that energy isn't produced in a sustainable way." 

Meanwhile, it's not just SolarCity's user base expanding — demand for residential solar power is increasing rapidly across the country. 

Forbes reports"By the first half of this year, 2,700 megawatts of solar systems graced the home roofs of the country, compared with 1,144 megawatts by the end of June last year," thanks to help from government tax credits.

The growth in solar is also helped by decreasing costs as the technology develops. The International Renewable Energy Agency reports the cost of solar power has decreased by some 80 percent since 2008. 

SolarCity will offer the loans in eight of the 15 states it currently operates in but didn't announce any specific plans about rolling them out in the remaining seven. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.