N.J. homeowners are being disincentivized to switch to solar power — there ought to be a law!

I live in Montclair and started interviewing solar installation companies around 2012 but didn’t qualify because we have a 100-year-old ceramic tile roof and it would be damaged in the process. Recently we decided we could add solar panels to our uppermost roof by harvesting the tiles (to use them for repairs) and replacing them with a “panel conducive” surface. We got an estimate for 20 panels to purchase over 25 years. We would end up paying a little less than what we are currently paying for electricity and get a green conscience!

But I had to ask about what would happen if we decided to sell the house. The agreement is to have the company maintain the panels for the 25-year term. The panels don’t come down until you finish paying for them. It’s not an issue if your buyer is committed to living sustainably – they just take over the payments and get the credits. But if it is 10 years from now, they are assuming payment on 10-year-old technology. It would give me pause.

In the case of buyers who don’t want to take over the agreement – I asked if we could just continue to get energy credits from our panels on our utility bill at our new residence (sort of like mineral rights). But was told, "The solar panels can only be interconnected with one meter/address. All electricity produced, even overproduction will be credited to that meter/address.” So in this case we would have to finish paying for the panels when we leave – a big hit.

Note that a 25-year purchasing time frame is the only term this company offered. Maybe other companies are different. But a shorter term would mean you would probably end up paying more for solar than your current electricity bill. Take a look at an aerial shot of Montclair – with all the rooftops poking through the tree canopy, there is tremendous solar power potential. Our state needs to get involved to tweak the process so more homeowners are incentivized to convert to solar.

Debbie Villarreal-Hadley