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  • Solar Companies Swindle Customers, Get Upset When They Complain

    Solar companies in Arizona claim they are victims of “slanderous campaigns” by electrical utilities spreading unsupported allegations, but letters from consumers tell a different story.

    The Arizona Corporations Commission launched an inquiry last December “to study business models related to solar distributed generation,” inviting interested parties— including consumers, solar panel manufacturers, power companies and interest groups—to submit comments, which are posted on the commission’s website.

    Among the earliest respondents was The Alliance for Solar Choice, a coalition of the nation’s largest rooftop solar companies, which filed its response to the inquiry in mid-February. (RELATED: SOLAR SCAMS: Arizona Moves to Protect Homeowners)

    Adopting a somewhat defensive posture, TASC asserted that Arizona has “the most hostile environment in the country for those in the otherwise blossoming distributed solar industry,” a condition it attributes to “dishonest campaigns” by utilities like Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric utility.

    TASC accused APS of “running slanderous campaigns against the solar industry,” saying the utility has “presented nothing but unsupported claims of alleged malfeasance.”

    However, the latest batch of consumer letters, made available last week, reveals numerous frustrations over misleading and deceptive promises from solar panel manufacturers. This suggests that allegations of malfeasance have more support than the group initially believed. (RELATED: Rampant Fraud Pervades Rooftop Solar Industry)

    The most common complaints involve promises made by solar companies that installing solar panels would result in significant monthly savings on electricity, and that customers would receive hundreds of dollars per year in rebates and tax credits. In reality, the letters allege, the cost savings and rebates are a fraction of what customers were told to expect, leading many to believe, in the words of one correspondent, that they “will likely never recoup the money spent for the panels.”

    The concerns go beyond mere financial considerations. One writer claims that, “shortly after getting the system, there were many birds and pigeons around our home which led to many bird droppings,” and says they cannot afford the $800 that SolarCity charges to bird-proof the system.

    “SolarCity should have told us that this would become a problem before they put the system on our house,” the writer argues. “Or they should have included the bird proofing in the cost of installing the system.” (RELATED: Report: Louisiana Solar Subsidies Are Welfare for the Wealthy)

    The ACC says that in the course of its proceedings, it has “heard arguments and anecdotal evidence regarding the advantages and disadvantages of business models relating to both the leasing of and purchase of distributed solar electric generation equipment,” and hopes to shed further light on the competing claims through the ongoing inquiry.

    Follow Peter Fricke on Twitter

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