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58.7 F
San Diego
Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Firm Hopes to Sell Homeowners on Its Solar Leasing Option

A San Diego solar panel business is offering the systems to residential customers through partnerships with roofers and at no upfront costs.

The catch is the solar systems OneRoof Energy installs belong to the company not the homeowner, and they are leased back at a monthly fee, said the company.

“Everybody wants to be green, but only if you can save money doing so,” said David Field, chief executive of OneRoof. “This is a way that homeowners can not only save money, but have a better looking product on their roof.”

Besides the leasing arrangement, another major difference in OneRoof’s business model is its partnerships with roofers and builders. Instead of having solar panels installed by contractors separately, roofers contacted by owners both sell and install the solar panel roofs, usually at the time when the roof is first built or needs replacing.

Through a partnership with CertainTeed, a maker of roofing and solar products and a subsidiary of France’s Saint-Gobain, OneRoof has identified the largest roof installing firms in most marketplaces and is in the process of training them on how to sell homeowners on the solar systems.

Although an average roofing job may cost $10,000 to $15,000, by adding solar panels to the project it may run the cost up an additional $30,000, Field said.

Money-Saving Proposal

At the time they are seeking a roof replacement, homeowners are presented with the option of getting a regular roofing job or one that incorporates solar panels, thus saving 5 percent to 20 percent on their monthly energy bills. It’s a proposition that most owners will jump at, but because the company is so new, revenue as of early October was negligible, Field said.

During the first year, he anticipates revenue of about $50 million, which is the same amount of investment OneRoof Energy announced it received last month from three sources: Hanwha International, part of Hanwha Group, a major South Korean conglomerate; Black Coral Capital, a Boston private equity firm specializing in clean-tech; and a subsidiary of Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp.

“We’re going to sell whatever financing that we raise, and we expect next year to raise another $100 million,” Field said.

The revenue OneRoof generates comes from the monthly lease payments on the roofs; federal tax credits of 30 percent on the solar systems; and state rebates. Field said an average monthly lease payment for a typical homeowner would be about $125.

While OneRoof’s arrangement may sound like a win-win, Ben Airth, a program manager at the California Center for Sustainable Energy, said homeowners should be aware of potential downsides.

For one, because the systems belong to OneRoof, it could present problems when the home is being sold, Airth said.

Another concern is what happens when the lease expires. While some solar companies engaged in similar leasing plans offer to sell the systems at fair market value, Airth said after 15-20 years (a typical lease), the value is negligible.

Options When Selling a Home

Field said if a home is sold, homeowners can transfer the lease to the buyer, purchase the system, or prepay the lease and incorporate that cost into the sale price.

At the end of a lease, the owner can extend the lease, purchase the system, or have it removed at no cost, Field said.

The move toward installing solar panels on roofs is gaining traction in California and San Diego, which some say has the highest number of solar powered homes in the nation.

There’s a race to capture this growing market as well. According to CleanTech San Diego, a nonprofit group promoting various green industries here, of the approximately 800 companies involved in some aspect of alternative energy, 150 are engaged in solar power.

Field said he put together the company in about a year’s time with his partner and Chief Financial Officer Alan Whiting. Both men have long-term banking backgrounds and worked together at Citibank.

OneRoof has lofty aspirations beyond simply helping to accelerate the adoption of solar energy systems. The leasing plan that the company is using can be scaled and securitized much the same way that car loans are bundled together and sold to investors, Field said.

Enthusiastic Supporter

While sales of the solar system packages have been sporadic in the few weeks the program has been rolled out, one roofing business said it’s enthusiastic about the arrangement helping generate new income.

Jason Moran, vice president of Moran Roofing in Livermore, said the partnership with OneRoof should generate an additional 30 percent to 40 percent per re-roofing job, and definitely increase customers.

“We tried to do what they were doing, but the paperwork involved in the process made it too hard,” said the fifth generation roofer. “They’re bringing everything to the table, and making it easy for us.”


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