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What’s up with the Berkeley FIRST solar financing program?

Avatar for Dave Llorens
Published on 11/06/2008 in
Updated 11/06/2008

By Guest Author Sheldon Norberg

Berkeley’s long awaited solar program hit the ground yesterday, with the 40 initial financing spots being lotteried off at 9 AM. From the turnout at their public information meetings, it could be as many as five entries for each spot. However, most folks in Berkeley are sharp enough to take a pass on B FIRST and invest in solar for themselves.  Here’s why.

Originally touted as a low cost financing option (with rumors of 2% fixed loans) B FIRST’s novel approach of placing the financial burden on parcel taxes seemed like a smart move. As well intended as it may be, the B FIRST program took over a year from inception to delivery, and in that time, the interest rate has gone up considerably.

More importantly, with congress finally passing the 30% tax credit extension, the program actually costs more than buying yourself. As we read it, the federal prohibition from receiving tax credits on purchases funded by bond measures means that Berkeley FIRST candidates pay $5,000-15,000 more for their system than they ordinarily would. Put that on a 20-year loan with no pre-payment option, fix it to your property tax bill,  and see who wants to buy your house in a few years.

The additional factor left unconsidered by the city of Berkeley is that the financing doesn’t come through for a month or more  after the job is done. I can’t think of any quality solar installer that’s going to want to loan anyone $20-50,000 for that amount of time, so you may need to get a loan for the job, and then pay it off with the B FIRST loan. Or perhaps not.

You can find out all about solar and your (bay area local) financial breakdown by attending our free online webinars.

Sheldon Norberg
Sun’s Free Solar
510 496-6008

Last modified: November 6, 2008

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