Solar panels might be cheaper than Americans think

San Francisco, April 24, 2012 — As many as 97 percent of Americans overestimate the costs of installing a home solar system, according to a study released by Sunrun and conducted by Harris Interactive.

Among the results is data indicating going solar, while nearly 8 out of 10 of those who do not already have solar panels say they would install solar if cost were not a factor.

Harris Interactive conducted the study online in February 2012 among 2,211 U.S. adults, of whom 1,475 were identified as homeowners.

While only 3 percent accurately understand that installing solar can cost less than $1,000 upfront, 4 out of 10 U.S. Adults (40 percent) think it requires $20,000 or more in upfront costs, grossly overestimating the true cost of installing home solar.

In reality, installing solar can cost as little as zero dollars upfront because of an option known as solar power service. In this financing plan, the solar company owns, insures, monitors and maintains solar panels on a homeowner's roof and families pay a low rate for clean energy and ensure predictable electric costs for 20 years.

The vast majority of Americans are concerned about rising home energy costs from utility companies — 95 percent of U.S. adults who do pay and/or are aware of their utility costs cited their rising utility rates as a concern — yet homeowners remain paralyzed by misconceptions about what it costs to install solar.

The survey indicates nearly 8 out of 10 (78 percent) U.S. homeowners who do not already have solar panels would install solar if cost were not a factor, and 44 percent would go solar within the next year if they knew cost were not a factor.

Although many Americans don't realize there is a way to go solar without the high upfront costs, solar power service — also known as third-party-owned solar — has become the preferred way for consumers to go solar in the nation's leading solar markets. In California for example, according to data from the California Solar Initiative about three-quarters of those going solar choose solar power service.

Over the past 12 months, market share for solar power service climbed steadily in California and reached about 75 percent of the home solar market in February 2012. Similarly, to date in 2012 solar power service share of the Massachusetts market is over 80 percent.

As solar provides less than 1 percent of electricity in the U.S., according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), there remains room for growth.

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