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Builders install solar systems, homeowners can lease them27 Sep

ore home builders are putting solar panels on new homes and have come up with a novel way of making solar more affordable for buyers.

Builders Lennar and Toll Bros. recently opened new home developments in California in which solar panels are included at no upfront cost to buyers. Solar companies own the systems, and the new homeowners lease them from the company.

Solar companies have offered solar lease programs for owners of existing homes for several years. Now, the option is spreading to new homes.

It makes the most sense for new home buyers who are unable to wrap the solar system cost — often $10,000 to $20,000 — into their mortgages.

Builders are considering the lease arrangements as a way to make solar affordable and distinguish their new homes in a tough economy.

“Most of the major builders have nosed around it,” says Robert Hammon of energy consulting firm ConSol. He expects new home solar — and the lease option — to spread slowly in the next year.

Most of the solar-system-buying action has been in California, where state incentives and a 30% federal tax credit can halve the cost, says Lynn Jurich, president of solar company SunRun.

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