In an ongoing effort to make residential solar power a reality, Tesla is launching a new “Rent Solar” program.
For as little as $50 per month, you get all needed panels and hardware, in addition to installation, support, and ongoing maintenance. No upfront installation costs or long-term contracts are involved.
The catch is that if you cancel your commitment and have the solar panels and hardware removed, you will pay Tesla $1,500 to do so—the same price will be charged if you elect to downsize.
Tesla’s FAQ on the program says that the company makes no profit on these fees. The FAQ does not indicate the consequences if you cancel your monthly service and keep the panels and related hardware. You may be required to purchase the equipment installed.
Rent Solar is being tested in the United States, in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Mexico. Pricing begins at $50 per month for the small system, rated at 3.8 kW. The other two choices are medium, rated at 7.6 kW, and large, rated at 11.4 kW; the monthly cost of those choices is not indicated.
The new program is conceived a little more than two years following Tesla’s $2.6 acquisition of SolarCity. The residential and commercial solar installer developed its business with a leasing approach like Tesla’s new program, with customers charged no upfront fees for installation and setup. It was a popular choice but not cost-efficient, contributing to SolarCity’s debt level of more than $3 billion in 2016.
Since the Tesla acquisition in 2016, SolarCity’s new owner has attempted to dominate the residential solar space. The technology remains highly expensive, and Tesla’s plans to revolutionise the market — including enhanced panels that double as roof tiles — have not come to fruition.
The wise consumer may wish to weigh the value of the long-term rental system against that of purchasing a solar system outright. Yet if the rental program does indeed prove successful, then it just may catch on across the pond, in sustainably minded Australia.