ASSET VS. LIABILITY
You own the system! This means it is an asset and not a liability. Depending on the size of a system you purchase, it will pay for itself in as little as three years. The tax credits, incentives, and immediate reduction in your electric utility bill make this possible. Since purchasing a system makes it an asset, after the system is paid for, you get 100% of the returns from that investment. This is unlike a lease where you are locked into a long-term contract (15-20 years) with a lease fee that increases each year. If you choose to lease a system in Oregon, you will likely be getting your electricity for $0.02 cheaper than the utility company. When you own a solar system, you are prepaying for the electricity you will be using in the future, and will likely lock your savings of $0.06-$0.09 cheaper than the utility company. As utility rates increase so do your savings!
TAX CREDITS AND INCENTIVES
You get to take advantage of all the tax credits and any utility incentives because you own the system. When the solar leasing companies lease you a solar system, they maintain ownership of the system and therefore get to claim the federal tax credit and any utility incentives for your system.
SELLING YOUR HOME
When you sell your home, the solar remains on the home and all the warranties stay with the system. The solar is part of the home's assets. It is similar to selling a home with an a/c unit or a refrigerator. If you lease a system and sell your home, the new homeowners must agree to the terms of the lease. If they do not agree to take over the lease, the leasing company will have to remove the system from your roof. Chances are they will not repair any damage that was caused from the removal of the system.
Do not be fooled by the scare tactics used by leasing companies. For example, they may say that when you lease a solar system, they maintain ownership of the system and therefore they assume responsibility for all the equipment and repairs. They will go on to tell you that there is a lot of maintenance involved with a solar system and the equipment costs thousands to repair if it fails. Do not be fooled by this line! There are few moving parts to solar modules and therefore few things could go wrong. The solar modules carry 25-30 year manufacturer warranties for a reason, inverters 10-12 years (extendable 20-25 years). They are built to last and statistically do not fail.
It has never been more affordable to install a solar electric system. However, leasing solar is not the answer nor the best choice for the majority of homeowners. In the unique high incentive environment that exists in Oregon, choosing to own a solar system means that you are choosing solar as an investment option that can help you reach retirement goals. Do not be fooled by the promise of no upfront costs and low financing. The only people who benefit from leasing solar are the solar leasing companies. In order to truly benefit from a solar electric system, the homeowner needs to make a one-time affordable investment that will produce savings for the long-term and also help our environment!