October 20, 2011
| by Steven Castle
Security, home control and energy management service company Vivint is now taking the dive into solar, and is offering solar electric systems—with no upfront fees—in four states. The company hopes to offer the service nationwide soon.
Vivint is offering customers solar photovoltaic (PV) electric systems in New York, New Jersey, Utah and Hawaii through Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), which are structured similar to leases. Vivint’s solar customers need to pay no money down for the systems, but pay Vivint a monthly fee based on how much power the solar panels produce.
Vivint says it will size the system to produce about 80 percent of a home’s electricity, then sell its customers the electricity the solar panels produce at a 20 percent discount, so users with a typical electric bill of about $100 would pay Vivint about $60 a month ($80 discounted) and their regular electric utility about $20, resulting in about a 20 percent savings. Users can see the solar system’s production via a web-based interface.
The PPAs have 20-year terms, and customers can purchase the system after that. Customers can also buy the solar panels if they move, or transfer the PPA agreement to the home’s new owners. The agreements are subject to rate increases, but Tanguy Serra, president of Vivint Solar, says the company will cap increases at 3.9 percent.
The 235-watt solar panels are from Canadian Solar, and each panel is wired to a separate Enphase microinverter for better efficiencies, as systems that are wired from panel-to-panel in series are affected by loss of output by one or more panels. Vivint says its smallest systems would be about 10 panels producing 2 kilowatts (kw).
Vivint looks to leverage its solar sales into selling more of its energy management and home control solutions, and sees solar electricity as one part of a home’s energy efficiency system. It will look to tie in housewide energy monitoring capabilities next year with partner company Tendril.
Vivint Solar began marketing its consumer solution in New Jersey in the summer of 2011. The expansion into other states is made possible by a commitment of renewable energy tax equity from a subsidiary of U.S. Bancorp, which will support the financing of $75 million in residential solar energy systems in the United States. The fund will finance a projected pipeline of 2,400 residential solar installations in New Jersey, Utah, Hawaii and New York.
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates