The thought of never having to pay an electric bill again is what convinces many Americans to put up solar panels on their homes, but the high initial costs are what drive many others away. But what if the power company actually paid you to let it put up panels?
San Antonio municipal power utility CPS Energy, the largest municipally owned utility in the U.S., just began a program where it basically rents space on residents' roofs for solar panels, knocking about $30 a month off of a participant's electric bill. Because solar installation is such a costly investment for homeowners, CPS did a sort of reverse engineering on the problem of how to get more solar energy.
The way it works is CPS gets third-party solar installers buy panels and put them on roofs spread across the city, and the installers get tax credits. Also, CPS agrees to buy the power that these panels are generating. The homeowner hosting the panels agrees to a 20-year lease, and CPS credits them 3 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated from the panels. It's a good deal for all parties, and puts more renewable energy on San Antonio's grid.
CPS is starting with about 2,000 homes (in the first three days after the program was announced, more than 2,000 people applied, so they've got plenty to choose from). If this model is successful, hopefully it will spread to other cities. Slate notes that Arizona utility APS is trying something similar but smaller. Would you let a utility install solar panels on your home for a discount on your electric bill? Let us know what you think about this pilot project in the comments below.