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On Watchdog.org and solar city

2015-05-02 13:43:56.065665+00 by Dan Lyke 3 comments

Got an email from someone who may or may not want to out theirself. The entry was about my link a few days ago to that Watchdog.org article on Solar City and other big solar lease companies use of "fixture filings".

The correspondent had two points:

Both are valid points, and I'm liberally copying and pasting from my email back.

I think it's totally reasonable for Solar City to have some sort of protection, it's just that...

Solar leases are the payday loans of the middle-class homeowner. They attach a liability to the house that won't come back in the sale price, they're a bad investment, and....

If you look at the Solar City advertising, they over and over again say "doesn't attach a lien", but if you use Google to drill down into their residential PPA, they attach a fixture filing. Exactly what the watchdog.org article says.

So have some protection? Sure. Call it a lien. Or at least don't, in the front of all of your advertising materials and press releases, say that there's no lien when there clearly is.

And, yeah: The economics of residential solar only make sense given the very distorted regulatory environment. If solar made sense without the huge subsidies, SolarCity would be leasing commercial roof space where it could do installs at about half the cost per kilowatt.

The various tax breaks and subsidies for solar are basically a way for the big investment banks to get more mortgage-structured debt on to consumers. SolarCity is the primary broker in that space.

I'm trying to keep an open mind on residential solar as we look for a system, but basically the current regulatory environment is a way to push the load of an inefficient generation system on to taxpayers. I might take advantage of that; nobody should let one of these big solar scammers double dip by taking advantage of both them and the tax breaks.

On the second point, the Daily Kos: Rightward-Facing Dog: Who is Watchdog.org?, good call, and it's worth me thinking twice about linking to them, as I do with links to the Wall Street Journal or New York Times. Thanks!

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comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: On Watchdog.org and solar city made: 2015-05-03 01:37:50.782625+00 by: meuon

Commenting here is like preaching to the choir.. but it's worth saying: If you want to do solar, do it for your reasons. For most normal average people, your local electric utility provides an incredible value. Want to pay them less or "be green", there are better choices to make than installing solar.

And that being said, after I see the real-world results of the Tesla home battery for a while, I might solar our house for no reason other than, I love the idea and want to play with the toys. They are reaching a point where solar for a geek that understands what's going on makes a lot of sense. For the average person? Probably not.

#Comment Re: On Watchdog.org and solar city made: 2015-05-04 17:49:55.865274+00 by: Dan Lyke

We're running the numbers on whether solar may actually make sense for us, and future billing structure is a big part of this. Power companies can't pay retail rates for electricity forever, and with devices that have to amortize over more than a decade, looking at how they're going to have to break charges out into the price of the connection vs the price of the electricity is a calculation we have to consider.

Especially since the hidden cost in those panels is that it's going to make it more expensive to re-roof, and our south-facing roof is also the side with all the vents and penetrations. Which brings up the big point in the economics of solar: that there just isn't that much room left in residential photovoltaics for cheaper pricing; much of the cost right now is in the fixtures, not the electronics, and there's only so much room for efficiency gains.

I am intrigued by the possibility of going completely off-grid, but I have a long history of... well... batteries: Our electric bills are running $40-80/month. Call it $60. So the cost of that battery is about my electric bill for 5 years (less if you account for the time value of the money). Add in enough solar to charge it, and take into account lifespan of every rechargeable battery I've owned, from the 2 years or so of cell phone batteries to the 5-7 years of lead-acid car batteries, and grid intertie is still the cheapest source of electricity.

#Comment Re: On Watchdog.org and solar city made: 2015-05-04 20:40:44.444917+00 by: Larry Burton

My biggest concerns in living off grid would be water and waste. The only thing I would need power for would be refrigeration and charging cellphone batteries. Everything else is simple enough to deal with. Of course I would only consider being off grid in some remote area with no available utilities.