SUNation Solar Systems, the largest seller of rooftop solar-energy systems on Long Island, is criticizing the solar leasing industry, saying it will end its own small leasing program because it “wasn’t in the best interest of customers.”
At the ribbon cutting of their new 22,000-square-foot Ronkonkoma headquarters last Friday, co-founders Scott Maskin and Mike Bailis said leased systems, which have come to dominate the Long Island home solar market, were characterized by “shoddy workmanship” and “lackluster” equipment.
Under typical solar leasing programs, customers pay little or no upfront costs and receive discounts on their energy bills but don’t own their systems. Leasing companies get significant tax credits and other tax benefits, rebates and ultimately own the systems.
Leasing is “not in the best interests of Long Island or our customers,” Maskin said. About 50 of the 900 systems SUNation has installed in the past two years were leased.
Leasing companies defended their marketing approaches. Jonathan Bass a spokesman for SolarCity, which leases and sells systems nationwide, said SolarCity has strong incentives to install the best systems possible.
“We are motivated to do high-quality work because if the system fails we repair it at no cost to the customer and we compensate the customer for lost production,” Bass said.
PSEG Long Island announced recently that there are about 30,000 solar rooftops on Long Island.
SUNation’s move to a 20,000-square-foot headquarters comes at a critical juncture for the company, and the Long Island solar market.
Even as PSEG marked record solar growth, the state last week ended a popular rebate program that gave local customers thousands of dollars toward the price of systems, which can cost more than $40,000.
The state also is seeking to change a compensation program for solar systems called net-metering that gives customers the same value for the power they send back to the grid as they draw from LIPA when the sun isn’t shining.
SUNation, which has 80 employees and has installed more than 2,000 systems over 15 years, expects to accelerate its growth this year to more than $30 million in sales, from some $22 million last year. Bailis said the company ultimately plans to increase its commercial solar business, currently around 20 percent of sales, to about half its business.