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One Block Off the Grid expands with solar leasing

May 26, 2011 |  9:39 am

SolarpanelsIrfanKhan The group solar buying program, One Block Off the Grid, announced this week that it will begin offering leases for solar panel installations in addition to outright purchases.

Targeting homeowners who want to go solar to generate their own, renewable electricity but who don't want to bear the entire cost burden up front, One Block Off the Grid's solar lease lets consumers get a  price estimate online without a salesman coming to their homes.

One Block Off the Grid is a San Francisco-based company that, since 2008, has been gathering homeowners in L.A. and other cities into buying groups that allow the company to negotiate a reduced solar-installation rate from a single contractor. The rate is typically 15% below market average.

In the Southern California Edison service area, an average 5.2-kilowatt installation purchased outright through the company costs $5.25 per watt, or $13,800 after rebates and incentives. The same installation financed with a 20-year lease would cost about $125 per month with zero money down. 

Funded with referral fees from solar contractors, One Block Off the Grid has helped homeowners install 1,400 photovoltaic systems nationwide.

"The question was, 'How do we get solar to mass adoption?'" asked One Block Off the Grid founder Dave Llorens.

Llorens thought the best strategy was to allow the individual players in a solar power installation to each do what they do best. One Block Off the Grid gives the price estimate. California Green Designs installs the panels and handles the paperwork for applicable rebates from L.A.-area utilities. And the firm Sun Edison provides financing when needed.

With its entry into the solar lease market, One Block Off the Grid joins Sungevity, Sun Run and five other companies offering solar leases to homeowners.

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Rooftop solar panels. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times