A Quick Review of the Top Solar PPA Providers

Are you interested in installing solar panels, but not sure how to go about paying for them?

A solar Power Purchase Agreement, or PPA, is one option to use when installing solar panels on your home, and one of two third-party financing options available from solar PPA providers.

If you’re reading this and looking for a PPA provider, hopefully you have already read our primer on what a solar PPA is and explored the benefits and disadvantages of using a PPA. You should also take a look at DSIRE’s map of states that allow PPAs and familiarize yourself with your local utility and municipality policies.

In short, a PPA is similar to a solar lease in that you pay little up front and don’t own the system itself. The distinction is that when using a PPA, you purchase the solar electricity directly from the PPA company monthly; when using a lease, your money goes to the company for a monthly lease payment, and to the utility to cover any remaining electricity consumption.

SolarCity describes this difference as: “…with a lease you pay by the month, and with a PPA you pay per kWh.” PPAs and leases will typically show very similar outcomes for the homeowner.

If you think a PPA sounds right for you, read on to find out about solar PPA providers. We pulled as much information on each company as we could find publicly posted online, and grouped it into several categories. (Note: these providers often offer both leases and PPAs. When doing your own research, make sure you are reading the information about PPAs!)

#1 – SolarCitysolarcity-logo

SolarCity is perhaps the best known solar PPA provider, benefiting from its origins in the head of Elon Musk and acquisition by his electric car company, Tesla. The company has a fascinating vision in which its technology can be used to generate solar from your rooftop, store that solar energy so it can be used anytime, and to use that renewable electricity to charge your electric car. Whew!

You don’t need to make that much of a commitment to benefit from SolarCity, though. They offer an option called SolarPPA in several states, and you can take a look at a sample contract on their website.

SolarCity is also unique in that they handle both the financing and installation of the panels, so there is only one company that works with you throughout the process.

Their PPA terms and features are:

  • System Monitoring, Maintenance, and Insurance – Ongoing monitoring that can automatically dispatch crews to make fixes; repairs made at no cost; insurance coverage for damage to and theft of system.
  • End of Agreement Options – Ability to purchase the system for full ownership after the first 5 years; ability to upgrade the system to new technology; ability to remove the system; ability to transfer the PPA to new residents if the home is sold.
  • Payment Structure – As little as $0 upfront, and options for prepayment on the PPA.
  • Duration of PPA – 20 years.
  • Locations – SolarCity operates in these states, but not all states allow PPAs.

#2 – SunRunsunrun-logo

SunRun has been providing solar installations for almost 20 years and has a robust customer base for its PPA program. One benefit of SunRun (and other companies, too!) is that they take care of everything related to panel installation that might stress you out – figuring out the legalese, talking to the municipality, and gaining the right permits. SunRun does not do the installation themselves; they work in partnership with local solar installers in your area.

  • System Monitoring, Maintenance, and Insurance – SunRun owns the equipment and takes care of all maintenance and repair; they carry multiple levels of insurance and maintenance coverage.
  • End of Agreement Options – You can transfer the PPA when you sell your home.
  • Payment Structure – As little as $0 upfront and SunRun will give you credits if your panels generate more energy than you use.
  • Duration of PPA – 20 years.
  • Locations – SunRun operates in these states, but not all states allow PPAs.

#3 – Sungevityend-for-sungevity

Sungevity recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. How that is going to affect their ability to offer PPAs is unclear at the moment. Their PPA program in its current form is similar to Sunrun, where they handle all of the logistics and work with trusted installers in your local area to place solar panels on your roof. These ‘finance partners’ are the owners and maintainers of your solar system. Beyond the information below, more FAQs can be found on their website.

  • System Monitoring, Maintenance, and Insurance – Sungevity guarantees a system’s energy production.
  • End of Agreement Options – You can renew a lease or agreement, have the panels removed from your home, or transfer the PPA if you sell your home.
  • Payment Structure – You should try out their solar quote feature to figure out what structure you might qualify for.
  • Duration of PPA – 20 years.
  • Locations – Sungevity operates in these states, but not all states allow PPAs.

#4 – RGS Energyrgs-energy-logo

Real Goods Solar, Inc. does residential solar business as RGS Energy and offers PPAs and leases (which it collectively describes as “solar power as a service” – a term you may hear elsewhere).

  • System Monitoring, Maintenance, and Insurance – RGS pledges to take complete care of any solar system it installs with free 20-year maintenance.
  • End of Agreement Options – You can renew the agreement for another 20-year term or shorter 5-year terms and upgrade the technology, have the panels removed from your home, or transfer the PPA if you sell your home (more information here).
  • Payment Structure – Potential to quality for $0 upfront, and a commitment to lock in your rate for all 20 years of the PPA; commitment to transfer the federal rebate to you in the form of a 30% reduced monthly fee.
  • Duration of PPA – 20 years.
  • Locations – RGS Energy operates in these states, but not all states allow PPAs.

#5 – Vivintvivint-solar

Vivint got its start as a home automation and security company and has since moved into the world of solar, including the provision of PPAs. They have received awards and recognition as a highly innovative company, and can offer an array of other ‘smart home’ types of systems in addition to solar!

  • System Monitoring, Maintenance, and Insurance – Handles all maintenance and warranties on the solar system.
  • End of Agreement Options – You can transfer the PPA if you sell your home, re-up the PPA on a year-to-year basis or another 20-year term, purchase the system, or remove it (more information here).
  • Payment Structure – Vivint works to save their customers 10-30% on electric bills over the course of their PPA, and requires no upfront costs; they provide credits back for any extra power produced by your panels.
  • Duration of PPA – 20 years.
  • Locations – Vivint operates solar PPA programs in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Pennsylvania.

#6 – Sprucespruce-logo

Formerly Clean Power Finance,  Spruce offers PPAs to homeowners and has a more prominent focus on engaging with solar contractors and installers to help drive their business by offering PPAs to their customers. We couldn’t find as many details about Spruce’s program because the switch from Clean Power Finance is relatively recent, but it is still certainly a provider worth looking at!

  • System Monitoring, Maintenance, and Insurance – Spruce handles all monitoring, maintenance, and insurance on the system.
  • End of Agreement Options – Offers “multiple end-of-term and home transfer options”.
  • Payment Structure – $0 upfront, offer both a monthly PPA (the standard structure) and a prepay PPA, which allows homeowners to pay the total contract amount up front.
  • Duration of PPA – 20 years.
  • Locations – Spruce offers PPAs in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.

Thinking about contacting solar PPA providers?

We hope this post helped you learn more about PPAs, and perhaps even introduced you to a company that can soon provide you with a solar system! These companies are some of the largest providers offering solar PPAs, but there may be other companies in your state that offer solar financing options.

If you like the idea of PPAs but live in a state that doesn’t allow them, or just want to learn more about leases, check out this explanation of SolarCity leases.

We hope you enjoyed this list! If you have any questions, or successfully secure a solar PPA, please let us know in the comments!

Image Credits under CC License via Pixabay – 1, Wikimedia – 3 & Flickr – 4, 6. Other images courtesy of SolarCityRGS Energy & Spruce.

  • by Brenna Thorpe
  • |
  • April 8, 2017