Time magazine warns that "The Rooftop Solar Industry Could Be on the Verge of Collapse". It's a long and very detailed article, but worth reading if you have (or are considering putting) solar panels on your home. Here's an excerpt.
A decade ago, someone knocking on your door to sell you solar panels would have been selling you solar panels. Now, they are probably selling you a financial product—likely a lease or a loan ... Solar customers across the country say that salespeople obscure the specific terms of the financial agreements and cloud the value of the products they peddle. Related court cases are starting to pile up. “I have been practicing consumer law for over a decade, and I’ve never seen anything like what we are seeing in the solar industry right now,” says Kristin Kemnitzer, who represents Jones and says her firm gets “multiple” calls every week from potential clients with similar stories.
Angry customers aren’t the only reason the solar industry is in trouble. Some of the nation’s biggest public solar companies are struggling to stay afloat as questions arise over the viability of the financial products they sold to both consumers and investors to fund their growing operations.
These looming financial problems could topple the residential solar industry at a time when solar is supposed to be saving the world.
. . .
At the root of these struggles is the complicated financial engineering that helped companies raise money but that some investors and analysts say was built on a framework of lies—or at least exaggerations.
Since at least 2016, big solar companies have used Wall Street money to fund their growth. This financialization raised the consumer cost of the panels and led companies to aggressively pursue sales to make the cost of borrowing Wall Street money worth it. National solar companies essentially became finance companies that happened to sell solar, engaging in calculations that may have been overly optimistic about how much money the solar leases and loans actually bring in.
“I’ve often heard solar finance and sales compared to the Wild West due to the creativity involved,” says Jamie Johnson, the founder of Energy Sense Finance, who has been studying the residential solar industry for a decade. “It’s the Silicon Valley mantra of ‘break things and let the regulators figure it out.’”
. . .
Meanwhile, the pressure for fast sales may have led some companies to look the other way when salespeople obscured the terms of the solar panel leases and loans they were selling in order to close a deal. Consumer lawyers have made allegations about salespeople fudging consumer incomes on loan applications so they could qualify; telling them they’d get a tax refund for solar panels even if their income wasn’t high enough; and sending important documents to fake email addresses so consumers wouldn’t see them and protest ... Consumers don’t catch these extra costs in part because salespeople often present documents to potential customers on tablets or phones, making it easy to skip over the fine print.
There's much more at the link.
Shady business practices - which, in my opinion, amount to outright fraud if they're as described - appear to abound in the industry. Certainly, the sales pressure from solar vendors is unending. Over the past year I must have had at least a dozen visits from contractors working in the area, wanting to know if we'd like to sign up too. My invariable answer is "No" - but that doesn't stop them parroting their sales spiel, trying to change my mind, refusing to take "No" for an answer. Unfortunately for them, I did the math years ago, and that decided me not to bother with rooftop solar as a permanent electricity solution. I have solar panels, sure, but only as a backup recharging tool for use with portable power packs in emergencies.
Basically, I guess it's a case of caveat emptor - let the buyer beware. (Or, as P. T. Barnum was alleged to have said - and fast-talking salespeople appear to have adopted as a mantra - "There's one born every minute"!)