House Solar: SolarCity vs. RealSolar

House Solar: SolarCity vs. RealSolar

I signed up with SolarCity for a 20 year prepaid lease system. On the last day to cancel, I was contacted by RealSolar. A "comparable" system was 40% cheaper. I haven't examined exactly what is provided in detail, but from a cursory reading it appears that the systems ARE the same. RealSolar indicated that they had special "micro-inverters" that SC didn't. Who knows? I know that several folks have experience with both companies. It is not unusal that the SC prices are a bit high. I am very fond of my Tesla and since SC and Tesla are linked, I'm comfortable to help Tesla in any way I can, but 40% more is beyond my comfort zone. Any ideas? Experience? Tips? or anything else to help me make a decision. As an aside, I didn't really have to worry about this because I could charge at work due to the fact that there was an outlet right next to my parking spot. (Not exactly a coincidence--I have a friend who is an electricial who wired it on a Sunday.) The problem is that the only available electricity was the security gate. After six weeks of intermittent problems it was discovered that the security gate doesn't work when the Tesla is charging.
I'm very popular in my building now.

Tâm | March 31, 2013

It's the same as Real Goods Solar right?

A micro-inverter from 1980's is attached to each solar module while others are stringed together to a centralized inverter on the ground such as side of a garage.

Individualized, so 1 bad module will not impact other good ones (they are not stringed together to a central inverter for both good and bad modules).

Extreme heat on the rood is not a friend to electronic parts of micro-inverters living up there!

Good luck to you if you want to climb up, tear apart an arrary to fix 1 bad inverter on a module on the roof. Much easier to replace 1 inverter on ground!

There's no real life data proving it's better than conventional centralized inverter.

info | March 31, 2013

Where are you when I need you Brian? Thanks for the info Tam. Since it's a lease and the companies take care of the maintenance, I'm not not going up on the roof to do it. I'm just concerned about the difference in price. Am I missing something, or is this just an inflation based on Tesla. If you've paid $250 for the package shelf you might understand product inflation.

Electron | March 31, 2013

That's a surprising differential, and based on my quoted price for our soon to be installed PPA from SC, it's actually hard to imagine it being 40% less. There must be some other difference, if not, then go with the cheaper option of course!

JDster | March 31, 2013

I'd strongly suggest you provide SC the proposal from Real Solar. Your salesman will look it over to see the difference between the two. And I'm sure he will lower the price for your panels. I went through 3 price reductions with SC because their competitor kept giving me a lower price. I'd highly recommend you getting your panels from SC as they are the best in the business. Very professional service and I strongly believe they will still be around in 20 years to service your system. Good luck!

info | March 31, 2013

That's what I was thinking. I'm going to sit down with representatives from both companies next week and see if there is a difference other than price. If not, $10,000 seems a lot better than $15,500.

lov2krz | March 31, 2013

I have found SC to be way over priced for their solar PV systems. I always suggest getting competing bids just to make sure you're getting the correct sized system.

Does SC consider washing your panels as maintenance, I doubt it so you might end up on the roof to clean the panels at least twice a year.

One other point is that if they want to lease you the system it's a better deal for them than it is for you, otherwise they wouldn't offer a lease. A few questions, if you sell your home and the buyer doesn't want to continue your lease how do you get out of it? What happens to the equipment at the end of the lease? What's your buy back compared to the monthly lease payment and end of lease buy out. There may not be solar rebates (in California) but there still is a federal tax credit if you buy the system.

Just my two cents.

I've had two home with PV which I've purchased, the only maintenance is washing the panels (some day in another 7-9 years I'll replace the inverter), my pay back on my current system is 7.25 years now that I've added the Tesla. My original system was ROI in 9 years.

Brant | March 31, 2013

In the Bay Area ?
Check out Pro Voltz or Cobalt for a quote

Brian H | March 31, 2013

@info, nothing to note, other than calling an electrician an electrical.
But @Tam, there's no such word as 'stringed'. It's an irregular verb, and 'strung' is the past tense.

lov2krz | April 1, 2013

If you are in the bay area get a quote from Freedom Solar, Brian Whitten at 408-600-8521. He's a Sun Power installer, made in USA. Tell him Steven sent you.

andex23 | April 1, 2013

CAll solar city and ask them to match the lower quote. They dropped me from 12.5c/kwh for the prepaid version to 8.6c/kwh when I gave them the real goods solar quote.