The Foxborough Patch, one of a network of cheap-looking online news outlets, carried an edited version of Norfolk County Registrar of Deeds “alert” regarding solar panels. One can ask if Registrar William O’Donnell might have had other motivations for issuing this alert now, since the Massachusetts legislature is about to announce a draft of omnibus energy legislature and because the Registrar’s announcement only highlighted one narrow paragraph of the Attorney General’s page on solar panel installations. In addition, as Deming said, “In God we trust. All others must bring data.” It would be helpful to know how many constitutes the “some” in the Registrar’s statement “… some people are having difficulty obtaining equity loans or reverse mortgages if they have leased solar panels and equipment.” Moreover, the headline and initial explanation fails to distinguish where the problems may occur, in Power Purchasing Agreements (“PPA”), and outright purchase of panels, the latter being the more popular, albeit more expensive option.
Nevertheless, the Registrar’s statement links to a pertinent page at the Attorney General’s site, containing fine advice and explanations for people considering power purchasing agreements or other acquisitions of solar panels. That includes a nice overview, reproduced below. And the AG’s site has more.
(Click on image to see a larger version. Use browser Back Button to return to blog.)
But any Web-savvy consumer also knows there are other ways to find out about situations pertaining to purchasing things, such as solar panels. For instance, The Solar Energy Industries Association (“SEIA”) not only has a wealth of information about panels and your home, but they link to a separate site giving reviews of installers in Massachusetts, not all good. In fact, you can estimate the number of bad situations from those reviews, which is more than Mr O’Donnell will do for you.
Claire and I own a hefty set of panels, installed by RevoluSun, who we highly recommend. Whether buying or signing a PPA, prospects need to understand this is a long term commitment, in the sense that the company doing the installation needs to be around for the 20-30 year life of the panels. Accordingly, it isn’t the best idea to go with small companies, even if they are cheaper. And size does not always determine financial viability, as solar company SunEdison recently found out. (They’ll be back, but reorganized or bought by someone.) It is a lot like buying a car, except that you can’t trade it in for a new one. (That’s not strictly true: You can often upgrade.) There are other risks, too, the biggest being that the Massachusetts legislature might change the rules of the game, seemingly as and when they feel like it, depending upon the influence of people like the Associated Industries of Massachusetts.
Still, solar energy is, almost any way you look at it, a huge win. It’s highly efficient, it gets you off wild swings in price because of what fossil fuels invariably do, and long term you get free energy. This is especially true if your house is moved completely off fossil fuels. And there is evidence amassing that panels increase the resale value of your home.
Now, as far as the Patch goes, I wrote a comment on their page, using their Disqus commenting interface. I took some care, trying to convey a broken link they had from the article to the Attorney General’s site, and including the guidelines from the AG in the comment. I also provided the link above to the SEIA site and page, and to solarreviews.com. The comment was submitted, as they often are, “for moderation.”
The Patch deleted it.
That’s too bad. After all, we do have direct experience.
And I’m getting the word out there anyway, by this post, and via Google+.
I’m also happy to talk to anyone interested in panels about our experience. You can contact me in the comments below.
Update, 6th May 2016, 21:02 EDT
Two quick updates.
First, some manufacturers of solar panels, such as SunPower, have affiliate programs where employees of companies who join get rebates for installing the manufacturer’s panels, depending upon number. Claire and I have SunPower panels, and received a $1,500 rebate through my employer.
Second, for those who (rightly) worry about the toxic chemicals that are used in solar panel manufacturing, their effects upon people and the environment, and about labor practices where the panels are made, I recommend the annual review of panel manufacturers by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. They summarize:
The Scorecard is a resource for consumers, institutional purchasers, investors, installers, and anyone who wants to purchase PV modules from responsible product stewards. The Scorecard reveals how companies perform on SVTC’s sustainability and social justice benchmarks
to ensure that the PV manufacturers protect workers, communities, and the environment. The PV industry’s continued growth makes it critical to take action now to reduce the use of toxic chemicals, develop responsible recycling systems, and protect workers throughout global PV supply chains. Many PV companies want to produce truly clean and green energy systems and are taking steps to implement more sustainable practices. SVTC is committed to helping these companies achieve that goal. At the same time, we need to create and enforce policies that ensure the safety and improve environmental performance of the entire sector.
Update, 7th May 2016, 08:56 EDT
The Westwood Patch, sister of Foxborough, this morning printed the same article, without correcting it, even without fixing their broken link!
Moreover, I put in a link to this blog post, and they deleted it again.