The Dark Side of Rooftop Solar: Neglected Maintenance and Broken Promises
Rooftop solar energy has gained widespread attention in the push for clean and renewable energy sources. Yet, amidst the enthusiasm for solar power, there’s a troubling reality: many homeowners with solar panels on their roofs are facing significant issues. This article tells the story of one homeowner’s frustrating experience with a leased solar system in upstate New York, shedding light on a darker side of the rooftop solar industry.
The homeowner, who bought a house with a leased solar system, discovered that the system had not been producing energy for months after paying $6,000 to prepay the 20-year lease. The problems were attributed to squirrels damaging wires and complications arising from previous owners falling behind on lease payments. Unfortunately, this homeowner’s experience is not unique.
Many early adopters of rooftop solar systems are now grappling with unreliable systems. During the initial wave of solar adoption, homeowners often entered into leases with solar companies to offset the upfront costs. However, as some of these solar companies went out of business, the leases were sold to private equity firms and other investors who weren’t motivated to maintain the systems. This has left homeowners with non-functional solar panels and few options for recourse.
The situation has escalated to the point where consumer complaints related to solar panels have surged. In 2023 alone, there were 5,331 complaints containing the words “solar panels,” marking a 746% increase since 2018, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
The as-a-service model has exacerbated the problem, where homeowners do not own the solar panels but instead pay a monthly fee for their use. Companies often prioritize cost-cutting to appease investors, neglecting critical maintenance and support. Homeowners who want to resolve issues with their leased systems often find themselves trapped in arbitration clauses that limit their recourse. This situation can lead to disputes, late fees, and even threats to homeowners’ credit profiles.
In light of these challenges, homeowners are urged to be vigilant and educate themselves about solar leases and rooftop solar. While the promise of rooftop solar can be appealing, the industry needs to address issues related to maintenance, transparency, and customer service. The dream of producing clean energy from rooftop solar panels should not turn into a nightmare of frustration, unresolved problems, and broken promises. It’s time for the rooftop solar industry to step up and ensure that solar energy benefits everyone, not just the companies profiting from it.