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Is the Sun Finally Rising on Solar Power?


Affordable Photovoltaics interviews Rob Styler, the president of Citizenre's marketing division.

Citizenre has a bold plan to remove all of the traditional barriers to solar power. We offer: No system purchase, no installation cost, no maintenance, no permit hassles, no performance worries and no rate increases. In 1931, Thomas Edison had a conversation with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. He said, "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that."

76 years later an innovative company, Citizenre, may have finally found a solution. According to Styler, "Citizenre has a bold plan to remove all of the traditional barriers to solar power. We offer: No system purchase, no installation cost, no maintenance, no permit hassles, no performance worries and no rate increases."

When Affordable Photovoltaics first heard about this, they were so intrigued that they contacted the Citizenre. It seemed almost too good to be true. Like most innovations, their model is so simple it makes you wonder why no one thought of it before.

Home owners simply pay Citizenre the same rate per kilowatt for power that they used to pay their utility company. Citizenre will guarantee that their rate per kilowatt will not go up for 25 years.

In the past, "going green" usually implied sacrifice. One gets to feel good about saving the planet but most "green" products are more expensive than their "dirty" counterparts. With Citizenre, going green can actually save you money.

Affordable Photovoltaics asked Rob Styler some hard questions:

Q. How can Citizenre afford to install this complete solar system with no upfront cost to the consumer?
A. Because we handle everything ourselves from the solar grade silicon to the final installation, we create savings at each stage of the production. Plus we are building the largest plant for solar power in the world. When you combine our vertical integration with our economies of scale, we are able to produce the final product at half the cost of our competitors.

Q. This sounds like Citizenre required a large amount of money to make all this happen?
A. $650 million.

Q. So the customer does not have to give any money to have this complete solar system installed on their house?
A. We require a security deposit, typically only $500, at the time of installation. They get this deposit back, with interest, at the end of the contract. If they don't pay their bill and walk away from the contract, they lose their deposit and we take the system off their roof. They are also required to pay a monthly rental for the solar energy system.

Q. And how is that rent calculated?
A. By the amount of energy that the system produces.

Q. But they are paying the same rate they were paying before, right?
A. Often it is actually less. We base our rates on the yearly average for their utility. So we have to base our rates on the prior year. Since rates tend to go up each year, many customers will save money on their first bill, and this will only increase as the years pass.

Q. I like that. How long of a contract do they have to sign?
A. One year, five years, or 25 years. Over 70% of our customers sign the 25-year contract because that locks in their rate for the entire term of the contract. If they sign a shorter contract, their rate is recalculated according to current energy rates at the end of their term.

Q. What happens if I sign a 25-year contract and I want to sell my house in 10 years?
A. You have three options. First, you can ask us to move the system to your new house. We do that one time for free. Second, you can transfer the contract to the new owner. The final option is that you can contact us, tell us that you just want to end the contract and we will remove the unit. With this third option you do lose your security deposit.

Q. Say I want a system on my house. How does it work? What is the process?
A. One of our Independent Ecopreneurs will help you each step of the way. After you sign the contract, a solar engineer will come to the house to design your system.

Q. What if I don't like the design? Am I still obligated to the contract?
A. No. You can back out of the contract with no penalty. You don't even pay the deposit until after you approve the design.

Q. Okay. I like the design. I want the system. What's next?
A. The installation usually takes about half a day. The permit process can take as much as 90 days depending on how cooperative the local utility is, but we handle everything.

Q. What happens if something breaks or goes wrong?
A. We have a complete worry free performance guarantee. If the unit ever stops working, one of our franchisees will rush out to fix it for free. The customer has no rental charges until the system is working again so we are motivated to get it fixed fast.

Q. I understand that your manufacturing plant is not completed yet?
A. Correct. The first systems will be ready to install in September of 2007.

Q. So why would someone sign up now?
A. First because they lock in their rate as soon as they sign up. Second, they get in line so they can get their system sooner once the plant is producing. Third, it also helps us show the market how many people will go green if we provide an offer that makes sense on every level, including economically.

Q. So how does someone sign up?
A. They just go to http://www.affordablephotovoltaics.com and they can sign up for free right now.






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