On behalf of Sayer Regan & Thayer of Sayer Regan & Thayer, LLP posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2019.

As a resident of Rhode Island, you may have considered at one time or another putting solar panels on your roof. No wonder: in 2018, Rhode Island was the 8th most expensive state for electricity in the nation, according to Energy.gov. In that one year alone, natural gas fueled more than half of the electric power sector and almost all in-state electricity generation. Solar is known to reduce reliance on natural gas and make the cost of electricity much more affordable.


However, once those solar panels are on your roof, to whom do they belong: the solar panel company or you, the homeowner? The answer will depend on whether you buy or lease your solar panels. If you lease the panels, the solar panel company ultimately has ownership. If you buy your solar panels outright, you own them.

Just keep in mind, if you ever move, you have to leave the solar panels behind, as they are now part of the roof. Not everyone wants solar panels, which could make it more difficult for you to sell your home.

A solar photovoltaic (PV) module comprises an array of cells containing semiconductor materials with the sole purpose of converting solar radiation into direct current electricity. When a solar PV system is connected to a power grid, the excess electricity it makes will feed the grid. On a cloudy day, a PV system can’t produce electricity but the grid will provide backup electricity as needed.

Buy vs. Lease

The main difference between buying and leasing a solar PV system lies in ownership. If you buy a solar panel system, you own it: either outright if you pay cash, or upon repayment of a solar loan. If you decide to lease the panel system or sign a power purchase agreement (PPA), a third party will be the owner of the solar panel system.
Solar leases or PPAs are billing arrangements under which a third party solar company will install the panels on a home, selling the homeowner the electricity that has been produced by the panels – typically at a lower rate than the power company would. With a PPA, homeowners don’t put any money down, but they also can’t earn tax credits and grants that would otherwise offset the up-front system cost.


In 2019, the cost for a 5 kW system translates as follows:

  • Out of pocket cost: $12,000 to $17,000
  • Net 20-year savings: $32,000 to $43,000
  • Payback period: 7 to 9 years
  • Electricity bill offset: 77 to 105 percent

These materials have been prepared by SRT for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.