Does Free Solar Exist in Maryland?

free solar for homeowners

If you’ve been looking into going solar online, you’ve likely seen advertisements promoting “Free Solar”, “No Cost Solar, “Free Solar Panel Installation”, or a combination of something similar. Oftentimes, these ads imply there are state or federal incentives that will completely pay for your system. If this sounds too good to be true, we’re here to tell you that you're right to be suspicious. 

The core message of the advertisement is this: ditch your regular electric bill and pay less with solar instead. Here is an example: let’s assume you pay $250 per month for electricity. Going solar eliminates that electric bill and then you only have a $150 solar payment, meaning you are net positive $100 each month. This is what the ad means by “no cost”; however, we believe calling it free is misleading. It suggests no cost at all, which just isn’t the case for most systems. This can leave potential solar customers with an unrealistic picture of how solar works and lead to disappointment when they realize that they will still have a payment, albeit smaller.

While there are state and federal incentives for going solar, there are no instances of completely free solar for residents in Maryland (with one exception, which will be discussed later on). Below are some common scenarios of where the term “Free Solar” may be used.

 

Scenario 1 - Solar Loan

When you go solar, you replace your electric bill cost with a loan that pays for the solar system. The cost of that loan is cheaper than your electric bill. This is one of the most common examples of “no-cost” solar. The logic is that you take one expense (your monthly electricity bill) and replace it with a new one- your solar loan, paid monthly. Most customers do tend to finance their solar projects and given the high (and rapidly rising) cost of electricity, it usually makes sense to produce your own power rather than buy it from the utility. That is the reason why most of our customers go solar- their monthly payments are between 30%-50% cheaper than their monthly electricity, especially when paired with other incentives for going solar.

 

Scenario 2 - Solar Lease

Another instance of “free” solar is a lease. Similar to a solar loan, there is no initial cost of solar, but you do pay a monthly amount for using the solar system that is installed at your home. It is similar to renting a car or house except you’re renting solar equipment. One key difference between a lease and a loan is that after the loan term expires, the system is yours but with a lease, the original company gets to take that equipment back. 

 

Scenario 3 - Power Purchase Agreement

Again similar to a lease and loan, there are no upfront payments with a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement). The key difference between a Lease and a PPA is that with a PPA, you pay for the electricity that the solar system creates, similar to how you purchase from your electric company (with a Lease, you just pay a fixed payment each month to use the solar equipment). Again, most people go because the cost of the electricity (measured in $/kWh) is cheaper than what you buy it for from your local utility company. 

 

Scenario 4 - Free Quote, Not Free Solar

The wording is intentionally vague and it is promising a free quote, not a free solar project. Most solar companies offer free quotes (we do) and using the word free may help encourage people to look into it. 

 

Scenario 5 - Scam          

The simplest explanation is often reality- it could just be a straight-up scam. There are many instances of people promising free solar in the hopes of collecting personal data, especially online. When looking into solar, seek companies with a strong Google Business Profile, a functioning website, good online reviews, and referrals from existing customers. Any solar company worth their salt should have past customers you could reach out to and ask their opinion on the product! 


One Caveat

In Maryland, there is one government program, the Solar Energy Equity Grant Program, but this program is only available to low-income households who also have completed the appropriate energy efficiency upgrades. This program is designed to boost solar energy for households that could normally not take advantage of solar energy. If you think you may qualify for this, please reach out, as we partnered with Garrett County MD Community Action Committee, a local non-profit organization that allows us to run the program in both our Western and Southern locations!

 

Conclusion

While "free solar" may entice, authentic solar energy solutions rely on transparent communication and informed decision-making. While there are costs associated with solar, the potential for significantly reduced electric bills and environmental impact remains powerful. Navigate beyond misleading claims and engage with a reputable provider to explore your personalized solar options. Invest in owning your own power and secure a brighter, more sustainable future. Reach out today to see if solar would work for you!