Puerto Rico consumers unable to invest in costly solar energy technology for the home have a new option: leasing.
That’s what Solaris Energy Solutions is offering consumers as part of an expansion of its activities on the island.
“We sell a service, not a product. Our service is to sell energy at a lower cost than the [Puerto Rico] Electric Power Authority,” said Linette Ventura, general manager Caribbean.
When it entered the market in 2013, this new company focused on supplying solar energy systems to businesses on the island. Now it is turning to the residential market with an alternative that gives consumers an option to turn their homes solar without incurring a major investment.
“Solaris decided to enter the residential solar market to provide a competitive power alternative that requires no investment on the part of the consumer,” she said.
Under the lease agreement, the company installs a solar energy system on a client’s roof and commits to providing maintenance and repair services for the term of the contract, which runs for 25 years.
The equipment remains the property of Solaris. In the event of early termination, the contract holder is required to pay a cancellation fee.
Asked about people’s willingness to enter such a lengthy contract, Ventura replied that it’s no different than signing up with PREPA.
“Any consumer would be happy to lock in a competitive (energy) price for the long term,” she said.
According to Ventura, Solaris is able to provide energy at a cost of 19 cents per kWh compared with PREPA’s charge of 27 cents per kWh.
Already Solaris has met with competition. Another company recently stepped in to provide a similar service but Ventura said its contracts have an escalator clause while Solaris charges a fixed monthly rate.
Not entirely off the grid
Leasing solar equipment does not completely disconnect a home from the power grid. Solaris covers 85 percent of a home’s energy output and PREPA handles the rest.
“A client’s electric bill will be reduced by approximately 30 percent,” she said.
In describing the local solar energy market, Ventura said it has a big potential but is growing slowly. Solaris will be promoting its new service through advertising, booths in commercial centers, a webpage (solarispr.com) and social media.
Since kicking off the service, Solaris has signed up a number of residential contracts and is now in the process of getting permits, which takes about 45 days. The equipment installed by the company is manufactured in the U.S., Italy and Korea.