Solar’s bright future seen in financing options

Whether it’s mounting rooftop solar panels or buying a high-efficiency heating and cooling system, one paradox of eco-conscious home improvement is that it’s usually only available to those who can afford hefty investments.

But that’s starting to change.

In some communities around St. Louis, as well as in select states around the country, creative financing mechanisms based on property value are now making upgrades accessible to those for whom traditional upfront payments of cash or credit aren’t an option.

In September, Jackson County, in the Kansas City metro area, became the first place in Missouri to offer Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs to residents, and since November, communities in St. Charles County, St. Louis County, Franklin County and Jefferson County have been among those to follow suit.

Besides collecting higher property taxes, PACE proponents say benefits to local communities include an economic boost for area contractors, as well as the increased spending power that households free up through energy savings.

The programs enable property owners in participating communities to pay for certain improvements through a bump in property taxes, typically spread over a five- or 20-year period. Instead of shouldering the upfront cost, homeowners under the HERO program, for instance, are eligible for lending of up to 20 percent of their assessed property value. That often provides more than enough for energy efficiency investments or even solar arrays, which can commonly cost $26,000 to $28,000, depending on the size of the home. PACE programs can also cover household projects that promote water efficiency and even hurricane preparedness in places such as Florida.

Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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