Solar Energy -- To Rent or Buy?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Renting solar panels is becoming popular across the U.S. as consumers are leaning toward harnessing cleaner energy and slashing their energy costs.

The home solar market is poised for additional growth as the costs of solar technology have dropped and many companies offer consumers the option to lease the panels inexpensively.

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In 2013, 6.2% of the total U.S. electricity was generated from nonhydro renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal, an increase of 5.4% from 2012 and solar capacity has risen "significantly" during the past four years, according to the Energy Information Administration.

In 2010, "the total amount of solar capacity was 2,326 MW, which accounted for only 0.22% of the total U.S. electric generating capacity. By February 2014, the capacity skyrocketed by 418% to 12,057 MW and now accounts for 1.13% of total U.S. capacity.

Leasing solar panels for your house can now be a relatively painless and inexpensive experience, averaging $100 each month for a 2,000 square foot home, while buying the panels outright is an average of $20,000, said Andrew Birch, CEO of Sungevity, an Oakland, Calif. technology company focused on home energy.

Sungevity's software allows consumers to receive a quote and sign up online to have solar panels installed at their home and the company negotiates all the details of obtaining permits and other paperwork for the owner. The panels can be installed as soon as 60 days, depending on the location of the home. The company's technology is available in California, Colorado, Arizona, Connecticut, N.Y., N.J., Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

"Solar allows customers to generate their own energy and they are more aware of how much energy they consume," he said. "Solar is clean and at a lower cost - it's everything you could possibly want in an energy source. People like going solar. It adds value to their home."