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Owners Of Solar Panels & EVs Get Solar 1st, 85.5% Buy Their Solar Panels (CT Survey Results)

With our two recent surveys, I was a bit surprised at how many responses we got from people who have both an electric car and solar panels. I know that about 40% of California EV owners have solar panels, but I didn’t expect nearly 100 readers with both would chime in (always a much smaller number of commenters and survey respondents than readers, of course). I’m going to leave the surveys open and may share them again in the future, but I figured it’s high time to report on the results we have.

Oddly, despite the fact that one survey required the respondent to have an electric vehicle and solar panels while the other survey only required the respondent to have solar panels, we ended up with 97 responses for each of the surveys.

Here are the simple results:

  • 85.57% of our respondents bought their solar panels rather than getting them through a lease or PPA
  • 67% of respondents with both an electric car and solar panels got attracted to solar power first, while 15.5% got attracted to electric cars first and 17.5% “enjoy them too much to remember.”
  • Similarly, 68% of respondents with both an electric car and solar panels got their solar panels first, while 23.7% got their electric cars first, 5.15% got them at essentially the same time, and about 3.1% really need more gingko because they can’t remember which they got first.

buy lease ppa solar

solar vs EVs awareness

solar panels vs evs time

Before jumping to conclusions about which is the gateway technology (seemingly solar by this survey), an important thing to note is that solar panels have been on the market for much longer than modern electric vehicles (which more or less started with the introduction of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt). That is actually why I asked respondents to indicate in which year they got their solar panels.

However, solar power does benefit from much broader awareness and seems to automatically garner public support. In surveys, solar power routinely gets 80–95% support from respondents. It is a genuine possibility that solar is a critical gateway technology that then funnels people into electric vehicles (and energy conservation, as well). A recent EV survey found that only 22% of respondents were aware of the Tesla Model S and only 31% were aware of the Nissan Leaf. That’s quite a shock to many of us who read and write about these cars pretty much every day.

Similarly, regarding buying solar panels vs getting them through a lease or PPA, it’s worth noting that the latter options were only available for a fraction of our respondents. The majority either live in places where leasing or getting a PPA isn’t an option or they bought they’re solar panels before such options came along. Nonetheless, many respondents who purchased noted a financial benefit to purchasing rather than leasing. However, overall, there were a lot of interesting answers on both sides.

Regarding the year in which respondents got their solar panels, where they live, and why respondents decided to buy their solar panels or get them through a lease or PPA, I’ll just go ahead and post the 97 responses here for your perusal:


  • Virginia, USA. 2013.
    I got solar panels this year because I had saved up the money to buy them, prices had dropped significantly, and I wanted to stop using fossil fuel based power as much as possible. I would install more panels but in my state if you go over 10KW you have to pay a ‘standby fee’ to the power company and no one seems to know how much that would be per month. Solar incentives in Virginia are terrible, my SRECs are only worth about $15 or so and there are no state incentives, only the federal 30% tax credit. 10KW array.
  • Maryland, USA. Winter 2012.
    Bought solar panel system in Winter 2010. System is for home in Maryland, USA. At the time, the lease market was not as strong as now; and, my preference is to own in the long term rather than lease. Due to incentives, SREC’s, and saved electricity, 63% of the cost has been paid back so far.
  • Maryland, USA. 2010, 2013.
    We live in Maryland and acquired our first set of panels in 2010. At that time, leasing wasn’t an option in my area. With price drops and a new local incentive program we added more solar in 2013. If you can afford the upfront costs, buying should provide the best long term payback.
  • Texas, USA. 2010.
    They were the only way available to me at the time given city and HOA rules.
  • Texas, USA.
    Reduce carbon footprint. Will generate free electricity after 10 years.
  • Florida, USA.
    I obtained solar panels to save money on my electric bill, self sufficient of power, and independent from the grid.
  • Florida, USA. 2012.
    I wanted the independence of PV on/in my self built motor home. My power needs for full time living now only need to be augmented by $62 per year of grid power, which I can also easily forgo if needs be.
  • Ocala, Florida, USA. 2007, 2008.
    Bought 1st solar system in 2007 & went 100% solar with 2nd system in 2008. Converted 2009 Prius to plug in in 2010. Now drive 2102 Ford C-Max Energi plug in hybrid.
  • Orange County, California. 2012.
    I sourced the cheapest place to buy the panels online and then found a local installer to install them.
  • LA, California. 2005.
    When I got them, 2005, leases were rare. Also seems like a better long term investment to buy them outright.
  • Madera County, CA. 2102. (i think that is actually 2012, or Marty/Doc is a CleanTechnica reader. 😀 )
    Cheaper to produce my own power than buy from utility. Buy PG&E 15 cent kwh $130 month. Solar utility disguised as lease 13 cent Kw. DIY 5 Kw 3 cent Kwh $110 a month in my pocket. solar Co. install 6 cent kwh. I figure 30 year production and 6.7% rate increase yearly. make electric fuel for my EV equal to or less $1.00 gallon. Cost solar generator $8000 will produce $110,000 of power in 30 yr. $100.000 profit retail value if had to buy. have converted S-10 but main is EVmc
    Solar way beyond grid parity for consumer who becomes a producer. 2002 EV. I did have a 2 kw hokey battery system replaced now.
  • California. 2010, 2013.
    2010 in California for our first PV system. Cash purchase, since there weren’t other options at the time. Additional PV system in 2013 on same house in CA to cover our routine car charging 100%. Again, cash purchase from original installer. Adding value to home over a lease understanding the maintenance issues would be ours.
  • California. 2011.
    Buying is a no brainer and the best choice for anyone able to do so. Nothing tricky, just math.
  • California. July 2013.
    I’m a cleantech venture capital investor and therefore know that solar ownership, in particular when paired with an EV, offers an incredible IRR. Without the EV, I’m earning more than a 10% return on investment, which is 10X more than I can earn in a bank account. I didn’t need the financing, and was not concerned about the responsibility of maintaining the panels, so it wouldn’t make sense to give some of these great returns to a third party owner.
  • Alameda, California. 1.7 kW/ 7 panels.
    Wanted to minimize ROI so only bout enough panels to eliminate top tier of electrical costs.
  • California.
    Leasing is a rip-off. If you shop around, you can buy the system and have it installed for a lot cheaper.
  • California.
    Leasing was not around back then. This set of panels are actually ‘pre-owned’. Someone bought them in case the world shut down due to Y2K and never installed them. I bought them still in their sealed boxes.
  • California.
    I abhor monthly payments, the reliability of solar panels is well established, and now after seven years my system is close to being amortized.
  • California. 2010.
    [No details on why bought.]
  • Indiana, USA.
    I did it for the money! The ROI of solar panels can be realized in a timely fashion. Leasing does not offer such incentive.
  • Illinois, USA. November 2010, September 2012.
    Buying them was about the only option in Illinois in 2010. We powered up my 5.64 kWh system in Nov. of 2010. In anticipation of leasing a Leaf I had another 1.92 kWh installed in Sept. of 2012. They are on a shared ground mount with separate SMA inverters and share the same feed to the house. I received both the 30% Fed. tax credit and 30% state rebate on the first install and 30% Fed. tax credit and 25% state rebate on the second. The first system has Sharp monocrystalline panels and the second Sharp polycrystalline panels. The system works very well, 60+ kWh tops in the spring and 40 kWh on a sunny day in December.
  • Illinois, USA.
    [No details on why bought.]
  • Joliet, Illinois, USA. Sep 20, 2010.
    Payed my electric bill for my lifetime. My calculations on this machine — the panels payed for them selves in 3 yrs. Yes, I said 3 yrs and I have an extra 1K$’s in my pocket.
  • Wichita, Kansas, USA. 2010.
    Bought sunpower array 3 years ago. Have produced 100mwh of power, half of my office needs.
  • Kansas, USA. November 2012.
    We installed a 4.4kW system on our home Nov. 2012. I would have gone larger but that was all the room we had on the house. We live in Kansas and I believe purchase was the only option we had. As the rate of return is greater when purchasing we would have gone that way also. We have only the second solar system on our utilities grid and the first in our town of 13,000. Our electric rates are very low, 5.6 cents per kwhr. We had just purchased our home last year and this was the first improvement we made. We have a west facing garage roof that could hold a little over 5kW system. We plan on installing this next year along with leasing an EV. Thanks for all the work you do to bring us this site and information.
  • North Carolina. 2003.
    We bought our solar panels in 2003! We had no other options for how to obtain them.
  • New York City. January 2004.
    Did it for environmental reasons. Also, the bank gave very little interest at the time, now they pay nothing, so i am glad that i cut fossil fuel consumption instead, and supported the solar energy industry.
  • Massachusetts, USA.
    It’s the future! Massachusetts has the potential for generating 799,344 million kWh/year from 184,076 MW of offshore wind farms and 82,205 million kWh from 51,568 MW of photovoltaic solar farms, and 11,723 million kWh from 10,316 MW of rooftop photovoltaics.
  • New Jersey, USA. 2010.
    Why not have solar panels they pay for them self. 35 MWh so far that’s $6300 savings plus SRECs.
  • Union County, Oregon. 2010.
    I had the $ and needed the tax credit.
  • Union County, Oregon. 2010.
    I had the $ and needed the tax credit.
  • Seattle, Washington, USA. 5/1/2013.
    Installed 5.76 kW of ‘made in washington’ solar panels and inverters to take advantage of 54 cent/kW hr produced plus net metering, plus 30% federal tax credit. We figure the system will pay for itself in under 7 years. Why did we install the system? Because the federal/state government is giving us $33K worth of solar panels and future electricity for free.
  • Washington, USA. December 2012.
    I bought them cuz Washington State has an irresistible production incentive of .54kWh and no sales tax (if your panels and inverter are made in Washington). The incentive is good thru 2020 so I did it as soon as possible to get max return before it expires. Payoff will be in 6-7 years.
  • Methow, Washington. 1998.
    The year was 1998 in Methow, WA (Okanogan County) when we moved onto an off grid property located in the foothills of the North Cascades Mountains constructed of Coordwood that incorporated a number of passive energy attributes. Necessity was the reason we bought our entire solar/wind system. Our desire was to see if we could live in a more mindful or respectful manner… along side of nature. We wanted to see how energy independent and self sufficient we could become without becoming uncomfortable… or feeling as if we had to compromise something of ourselves too much to do so. Our investment in alternative energy applications has enabled us to become our own power company. It has also engrained in us an awareness of our human nature to waste or resist being conservative in our behaviors… at the chagrin of our environments. Both locally and globally. Energy independence… or the pursuit of attaining it… is extremely empowering. More people should try it… rather than continue to insist… it can’t be done. Or that they could never do something like that… for whatever reasons. You can’t measure the profit level of renewable energy… in mere conventional terms. Eventually it appears to profit you in ways you didn’t even imagine… originally.
  • Washington, USA.
    Wanted a lower cost house in retirement. Washington State has good incentives for “Made in Washington” components. Although expensive it makes the payback period around 9 years, not bad.
  • Montana, USA.
    I live in an off-grid community. When I purchased the house, 100% of power was provided by a small gasoline generator. That was not a sustainable solution, so renewables were always in the back of our minds. Over the years we upgraded to LPG generator, battery bank, and solar panels. Now we get about 60% of our power from the sun!
  • Bozeman, Montana. 2010.
    I teach classes about solar cells and PV systems, so I decided to put my money where my mouth is. I got my 6.75 kW system from a former student in 2010. My class designed the system to be slightly oversized for my needs, since I planned to get an ev. I got a LEAF in 2011. It was one of the first ones in Bozeman Montana.
  • Denver, Colorado, USA. 4.8kW purchased 2009.
    Wanted to do the right thing environmentally. The incentives were fabulous so couldn’t pass it up. Electric bill was zero, then we got the Volt. Now we are going to expand the system as much as allowed by the utility (1000watts).
  • Colorado, USA. 2011.
    Did it because it’s cool, and to reduce my carbon footprint.
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA.
    I had difficulty finding any solar lease options in Colorado Springs. Purchasing the panels was our only option.
  • Eastern Colorado east of Colorado Springs, USA. 2005.
    In 2005 the local REA said prices will be going up on electricity. I was using 700 kwh/mo. In 2008 internet searching yielded $2./watt. Bought 20 panels @120 watts each, total 2000 watts and grid tied inverter. I use half the 300 kwh produced. The REA will not pay me for energy to them (150 kwh/mo) because I don’t have personal property insurance.??? I buy 150 kwh/mo from REA. The normal bill every month is now $45. including the facilities charge of $30/mo. The facilities charge has tripled. The energy charges have increased 40%. I am a retired Electrical Engineer.
  • Rural Missouri. 2010, 2012.
    I wanted to live off-grid in a way that made minimal negative impacts on the earth. As a bonus it was cheaper than running a 1 mile power line. 4 kw Uni-solar laminates with Outback equipment and Deka batteries. Installed some in 2010, the rest in 2012. Got federal tax breaks.
  • Minnesota. November 2013.
    We bought our system because we had the means to do so and it gives us the best control over our system. I’ve always wanted a PV system for environmental reasons, now the economics of it made it possible. Our 3.24 kw system (Minnesota) was installed this past November (2013) and began making ‘juice’ for us 11/21!
  • Minnesota, USA. 2013.
    Financial decision. With utility rebates and fed tax credit covering half the cost, I’m going to make a very nice return on my investment.
  • Wisconsin, USA. December 2013.
    The cost of solar panels (2013 — being “commissioned” next week!) is such that buying them outright will provide a decent payback. Leasing them gives short term savings but not as big in the longer term.
  • Tennessee, USA.
    I have a 3.84 kilowatt system, ground-mounted because my roof is shaded, which was turned on exactly one year ago tomorrow. I live in Tennessee, US and at the time, and perhaps still today, a purchase was the only available option. In my incentive contract with TVA and my local public utility, I get paid a $.12 cent premium over the retail price of electricity. In order to stay connected to the grid, I had to agree to a system in which the electricity made by my system goes directly onto the grid, not into my house, and I still purchase TVA electricity at the retail rate. My system has generated a little more than 5500 kWhs this year.
  • Wilmington, Delaware (New Castle County). 4 kilowatt system. July 20, 2009.
    I inherited money to pay for the solar system. Also, Delaware at that time had a 50% grant on the cost of the system.
  • Tucson, Arizona, USA. 2012.
    To save money, to increase the resale value of my home, and because it’s the right thing to do.
  • The Netherlands
    I bought them this year. I also installed a heatpump and made my house from 1958 energy neutral.
  • The Netherlands
    I bought my solar 4000 kWh last year may 2012. I imported a heat pump air to water also 2012 from China. and a storage tank 300 liters. the gas was disconnected.. I replaced the gas cooker for induction cooking and replaced the washing machine and dryer and cool freezer by triple AAA machines. the lighting is all led bulbs, last month my payment went down from 200 euros to 5 euros a month. fossil free and no more energy bill. saves a year 2500 Euros. It is easy, not expensive, and co2 free. next year an EV with solar on the garage, and no more gas. saves again 2500 euros. very easy to do. saves me 5000 euros a year every year. The problem is nobody believes it. My house is more than 100 years old and I did not change a thing, and it works perfectly. fossil free in two years and paid for. I keep going getting people interested. unbelievable petrol heads and gas heads. cleantechnica is my every day reading, and some comments I make some times. you are my led light shining in this dark fossil tunnel. thank you
  • The Netherlands. 10 years ago.
    About 4 years ago we also bought a heatpump. The aim was to produce all the energy we need over a year. The total result is better than expected. We are a net producer. A new goal is set now: we also want to be energy neutral including the use of an electric car. This will be obtained by further reduction of heatloss of the house. The electric car has already been ordered (BMW i3). For details see my website (it’s in Dutch, but Google translate can help):
  • Belgium.
    I financed the solar panels with a bank “green” loan at “negative” intrest, due to incentives (interest – 1,5% and less taxes paid). These incentives are now history.
  • Queensland, Australia. 2012.
    I prefer to own stuff outright from day one.
  • Queensland Australia. 2010 4.3kW peak + 2012 4.2kW peak.
    Bought outright because I like to pay once only. Just started doing an EV conversion on a 2010 Proton Jumbuck.
  • Queensland, Australia. 2012.
    Economic reason: cost of solar energy is +/- 0.10 AUD versus 0.25 AUD for power from the grid. Other drive: Sustainability.
  • Queensland, Australia. 2011.
    I bought my solar panels in 2011 when Queensland (Australia) had a very attractive net feed-in tariff (44c/kWh guaranteed for 20 years).
  • Sydney, NSW, Australia. Solar panels 3.5kw system installed 2013.
    To help stop climate change and to save money in the long run.
  • NSW, Australia. November, 2010.
    There was a federal government subsidy ( at the time ) which reduced the purchasing price ( of our 1.48 kilowatt solar PV system ) from about $9500 to about $3900, and a state feed in tariff program which meant for 6 years we would get 60 cents for every kWh our system generated compared to an average retail cost per kWh of about 22 cents per kWh.
  • NSW, Australia.
    Reduce my electricity cost.
  • NSW, Australia. 2010.
    Feed in tariff was good.
  • Rural Victoria, Australia. 2006.
    2000W off grid PV system. Paid $8 per watt in 2006. Off grid by choice not necessity as power lines were 300 yards away. Power company arrogantly quoted anywhere from $8,000 to $50,000 for 1 mile full, new set of poles etc, and a huge yearly network charge. Now we are very happy that $/w is way down and are upgrading to 5kW for whole house aircon.
  • Dorset, England. July 2012 (Just before the FiT dropped in value).
    I added the cost on to my existing house mortgage – simple with all the arrangements/approvals already in place.
  • West Yorkshire, UK – east facing and in a cloudy part of the country! 2011.
    Save money on bills, contribute to clean energy. Thanks to (at the time) a generous FIT i receive $1600 per annum in payments.
  • Northampton, UK.
    The government Feed In Tariff seemed pretty generous, at the same time as energy prices were going up, so buying a solar array for our south roof seemed logical. I have since bought a second array for our north roof, and an electric car (Renault ZOE).
  • Scotland. April 2012.
    I am in Scotland, yes occasionally we have some sun, but might have been better to install a pico-hydro system as well! Panels bought and installed in April 2012. Why I got them? As an environmentalist I have been promoting conservation methods for decades now and finally the government here at the time, made the home-ownership come supply to grid, possible by changing regulations. Which coupled with the drop in hard costs made the equation of pay-back a more favourable towards outright ownership as opposed to any other method. I also because I study energy production and management knew that we were going towards higher energy costs in the UK, so 1 + 1 makes 2, unless your thick, blindly believe what politicians say, believe all energy companies are fair and honest or all three together…I have had to make alterations to the way I do things in the house, but after nearly two years I’ve only consumed 700kw hours, mostly during the winter months which equates to 16 months here. I could talk about the lack of cognitive plasticity in my fellow citizens, but they wouldn’t know what I am talking about..!
  • Delhi, India.
    Because of rising prices of electricity.
  • Uttar Pradesh, India. 2012, 2013.
    I am from Uttar Pradesh, India, and i bought solar panels to replace the electricity from diesel generator at my place during load shedding (15 hours a day). I bought in 2012 & 2013.
  • Ontario, Canada.
    16% return over a 20 contract.
  • Jaco, Costa Rica.
    Hi, bought the panels because electricity here cost up to .32/kilowatt .my system is with enphase inverter ,had it for almost 2 years
  • Unknown. 2009.
    I always wanted to, I got mine in 2009 — I thought due to the impact of the recession it would be a chance to get a good price, and as a side benefit add my dollars towards economic stimulus.
  • Unknown. 2007.
    We purchased solar panels in 2007 before creative financing was the norm. No regrets!
  • Unknown
    Leasing or lending is slavery. I always buy the things from money that I saved first (with the exception of my house)
  • Unknown
    Leasing companies are a ripoff to customers and fleeces American taxpayers.
  • Unknown
    My solar panels need to be mobile until a tree is severely topped. Finally attempted but bees spooked the tree surgeon. They are on my trailer and street legal solar motorcycle, totaling 1,300 watts.
  • Unknown
    To help keep the CO2 down and NO ELECTRIC BILL
  • Unknown
    Would rather own outright than lease.
  • Unknown
    I wanted my free fuel for my commute and be free from the clutches of oil companies and electric utilities. I dont want these companies to fleece me out.
  • Unknown
    We wanted to reduce our carbon footprint/reliance on fossil fuels and try to move our house toward a net-zero house. The electric company was also offering a $2/watt rebate at the time of installation, which, along, with the federal tax credit of 30%, made it a very good deal financially.
  • Unknown
    Tra record of charging EB(ike).
  • Unknown
    Why give the leasing company the financial benefits of ownership, with leasing you pay rent for 20 years and at the end of it you own nothing.
  • Unknown
    I got a deal about .69 cents a watt
  • Unknown
    It cost three times less to buy than it would have to lease.
  • Unknown
    I self installed my system (with the help of friends and family). No other way to finance the system.


  • Los Angeles, California. 2013.
    I did so mostly for economics, but also to contribute to clean air in Los Angeles.
  • Los Angeles, California.
    Great lease plan which allows us to ‘drive on sunshine’.
  • California.
    I obtained my solar panels because I always liked the idea of producing my own electricity and I alike the assurance of knowing that my electric rates would be locked in for years to come. However prior to having an electric car my electric bill was not high enough to qualify for solar, but after my electric car I finally was able to qualify.
  • California. 2012.
    We leased them because they were affordable that way, we live in California and many of our neighbors went solar too.
  • Arizona, USA.
    Paid 20 yr lease upfront, I wanted the maintenance warranty of the lease.
  • Tucson, Arizona, USA.
    I have 2.8kW of solar. I got it as an investment. I like it very much. Should have gotten a bigger system.
  • North Central Pennsylvania, USA.
    Had the money for a 20 year Astrum Solar lease of 12000 watts and a south facing barn roof . Have always been interested in photovoltaics as was my father. Also have solar hot water. Bought a Chevy Volt a year later once we had some base production figures.
  • Pennsylvania, USA.
    Solar lease through Solar City in PA, USA. It was the most economical (low upfront cost) way to transition to solar power


  • Maryland, USA. January 2013.
    I decided to go forward with a Solar City PrePay PPA due to a lower total cost of ownership than outright ownership (presumably because they can take advantage of capital depreciation where I cannot). I also like the fact that any failed equipment is their liability (inverters and even hail damaged panels).
  • Denver, Colorado, USA. 2013.
    To lock in power rates for the foreseeable future. Went with solar city Denver Colorado. 2013
  • California. 2012.
    Solar is the future, just want to be on the right side of history.
  • California.
    Had hoped to purchase but the PACE program was on hold and I wanted solar sooner than later. PPA was the best option at the time financially since the lease options weren’t so great. PACE is making a comeback in CA but I’ve had solar almost a year now.
  • Unknown
    Immediate and long-term cost savings and no need to finance or layout significant case for purchase.
  • Unknown
    Price was the driving force. Much cheaper than the purchase option (and I wanted to pay upfront.) In addition, I did not have to handle any of the rebates or credits, since SolarCity received those. The last factor was that in 20 years, I am sure there will be a better technology out there.

Thank to everyone who chimed in! Again, if you didn’t chime in but have solar panels and maybe even an electric car or two, you can add your voice in one or both of the surveys here.

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