Homeowners have many options when it comes to going green, but one Ahwatukee Foothills family discovered with the right company they could install solar panels on their home for no up-front cost and see immediate savings.

Vicki Sandler knows about green energy. She is the president of Wearthy Ideas, LLC, a green energy consulting company. She has a history of working in legal and leadership roles for Arizona Public Service (APS) and her company, APS Energy Services, which helped complete more than $100 million in energy efficiencies at Arizona State University, among many other high profile projects. But only recently Sandler purchased solar panels to run her own home.

The up-front cost was the first obstacle. Until two years ago a broad law in the state of Arizona did not allow companies to lease solar systems. Individuals had to pay for a system in full when they purchased it. The Arizona Corporation Commission went through a year of hearings before it decided a solar system could be leased to homeowners. Now when a homeowner chooses to lease a system they pay no up-front cost.

The next problem was finding the right company. With a lease Sandler and her husband, Jeff, wanted to be sure the company they were choosing was reputable and would stand the test of time to hold up the lease.

Sandler met the chief executive officer of Solar City at an Arizona Corporation Commission hearing and really liked what she heard. They signed up for a system in April of 2012. After months of work between the city, their homeowners association and Salt River Project (SRP), the system was finally installed in February.

The Sandlers had 56 panels put on their roof, a 13.4 kilowatt system. They expect their energy bill to be $17 a month, just the basic service charge to SRP. Their system will produce enough energy to cover all of their needs and have some to sell back to SRP at a predetermined cost.

Solar City promises a savings through going solar. They monitor their systems wirelessly and if the production falls beyond a certain point they return and fix the problem. Even with an added monthly lease cost, Sandler said they’ll be paying less for their energy than they were previously.

“I don’t know why everybody doesn’t do it,” she said. “I think they just don’t get it. It’s human nature.”

Sandler said most rebates that were given previously for solar systems are gone now, but the option to lease made the system affordable for them. If they move, the lease is transferable to a new homeowner or can be mortgaged into the price of the home.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) announced recently that Arizona ranks second nationally in terms of solar installation, trailing only behind California, according to its 2012 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report. Nationally, solar installation grew by 76 percent over the last year. There are now more than 300,000 operational photovoltaic systems throughout the country, and the SEIA forecasts continued growth in 2013.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

(1) comment


Thanks for the article. Just installed solar in our Tucson home. It made a little more sense to buy than lease. We could do anything we want with a purchased system, like add a generator later, expand the number of panels. By the way, we used micro-inverters in our system, one behind each panel; it's more easy to expand that way, I understand.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.