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California Startup Brings Solar Rooftops And Jobs To Rhode Island

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Homeowners interested in switching to solar energy will soon have the option to do so with no upfront costs. The nation’s largest rooftop solar...

Homeowners interested in switching to solar energy will soon have the option to do so with no upfront costs. The nation’s largest rooftop solar installer is coming to Rhode Island. Starting this week, California-based SolarCity will offer Rhode Islanders loans to buy home solar systems.

SolarCity will offer homeowners in 10 Rhode Island cities and towns loans to buy solar panels for their homes with no money down. Homeowners would pay for the loan in monthly installments, said Lee Keshishian, the company’s vice president for its East Coast operations.

“Our model is offering a system that we would install for free,” said Keshishian, “and then you pay over time for the system with the power savings that you are getting off of it.” 

That means monthly payments will be based on how much electricity the solar panels produce.

“Say for example, we have a system installed in your home that offsets maybe 50 percent of your consumption and you have a $200 electric bill—just making easy numbers here—you 'd still have a bill from the utility of $100 a month,” said Keshishian, “but you have now a payment to us that’s may be $70 a month.” 

Customers may pay off their loans faster if the panels produce more energy than projected.

SolarCity started its business by leasing solar panel systems to its customers, but now offers this option to buy the solar panels after receiving feedback from its customers.

The company recently opened a warehouse in Fall River, Massachusetts.

“We like to be within 35 to 40 minutes of the majority of our customers that are serviced by a warehouse,” said Keshishian. “So as we’ve expanded, that’s necessitated going further and opening up facilities to cover more geographic areas.”

The Fall River, Massachusetts warehouse will service the communities of Coventry, Cranston, Cumberland, East Providence, Johnston, North Providence, South Kingstown, Warwick, West Warwick and Woonsocket.

Keshishian said the company will soon open a warehouse in Rhode Island. The company expects to hire between 70 and 100 workers.

Keshishian attributes the wide reach of SolarCity to at least a couple of factors: low upfront costs and the fast speed of installing solar panel systems. (Listen to NPR's PlanetMoney story on why solar energy has gotten cheap.)

Rhode Island is the 18th state where SolarCity is offering service, and the fourth in New England.

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California Startup Brings Solar Rooftops And Jobs To Rhode Island
California Startup Brings Solar Rooftops And Jobs To Rhode Island