Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Look At CitizenRE

In these times of rapidly rising energy costs, and increased environmental awareness, many people are looking into alternatives. When considering solar photovoltaic systems as an alternative to utility-provided electricity, homeowners sometimes balk at the purchase price, often exceeding $30,000 for an average home. To provide an alternative to this up-front expense, CitizenRE plans to rent solar PV systems to the public. After an initial $500 security deposit, the homeowner pays only for the electricity generated by the system at about the same rate that they currently pay for electricity from the utility company. Additionally, the rate per unit of electricity does not increase for the entire term of the contract, which is usually 25 years.
Critics of the plan have a variety of concerns, but the bottom line is this; the homeowner pays nothing until the equipment is installed and functioning. Therefore, if CitizenRE were to fail before the installation, the homeowner loses nothing.

CitizenRE is perhaps the first to offer a PV system rental plan, but others are not far behind. Information about another innovative plan can be found here:

While CitizenRE plans to manufacture solar panels and inverters, others offering similar plans will no doubt use off-the-shelf equipment with a good track record for performance and reliability. Manufacturing quality panels and inverters is a daunting task, and no one really knows if CitizenRE is up to the challenge. A rush to get equipment built and installed might result in system reliability problems.

It’s interesting to contemplate what would happen if CitizenRE were to fail after the equipment is installed. The homeowner will have over $20,000 worth of electricity-producing equipment that may stop functioning. If the homeowner could take legal ownership of the equipment, it might be possible to replace the CitizenRE-supplied inverter and control equipment with off-the-shelf components, restoring system functionality. That modest investment would allow the homeowner to use power from the already installed solar panels, while paying nothing for the electricity that the system generates. To some, however, the thought of maintaining this high-tech equipment would not be appealing.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about CitizenRE in the future, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out. The reputation of the solar energy industry can be hurt by an influx of poor quality equipment and by poor performance by a major player. Let’s hope that CitizenRE is up to the challenge.

Here is the link to the CitizenRE website:

You’ll find a podcast and interesting comments here:;jsessionid=BFE8544505085AFEBE7235397D0949A9?id=47452

Solar John

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