Solar Electricity Service Option

What kind of contract is used for OnSwitch Electricity Services?

OnSwitch uses an Electricity Services Agreement (ESA). The ESA is a multi-year agreement to buy the electricity produced by a solar system on your building’s rooftop. Someone else owns the system, and you pay a monthly power fee. Instead of making an upfront investment in solar panels, you can get started with a $0 down payment. You'll be able to start saving money from the first day the solar panels are installed. The ESA is sometimes called a Power Purchase Agreement.

With an OnSwitch solar system on my roof, do I need to increase my insurance?

The installation of a solar system rarely increases the building owner's insurance premium. However, you should consult your insurance company to confirm this.

Will my property taxes increase?

In California, like most other states, your property tax cannot be increased due to a solar system installed and operating.

What happens at the end of the ESA?

When the ESA term is over you’ll have a few options: Buy the solar system at the higher of fair market value or a price pre-defined in the ESA. Extend your ESA. Request the owner of the solar system to remove it for use at another site.

What if I sell the building and move before the ESA is over?

When the ESA term is over you’ll have a few options:

  • Buy the solar system at the higher of fair market value or a price pre-defined in the ESA
  • Extend your ESA
  • Request the owner of the solar system to remove it for use at another site

Can I buy the solar system sometime during the ESA?

Yes, you can buy the solar system at various times starting the sixth year of the ESA.

When the Solar system is generating more electricity than my building is consuming, do I still have to buy the electricity?

No because most states including California require the utilities to do Net Metering with solar systems. Under Net Metering, that over-generated electricity will be stored in the utility grid for use and purchase by you later in the day (as solar electricity), when you are consuming more than your solar system is generating.

How do I pay for the solar electricity?

The owner will invoice you monthly, or can set up automatic monthly invoicing and payments. The amount of each payment will be calculated from the previous month’s electricity generated by the solar system and read by the utility-grade meter that will be installed with the solar system.

Solar System Ownership Option

What happens when the utility has a power outage?

For safety reasons, your solar system will automatically shut off if the utility power goes out. Grid tied systems are required to have built-in shut down mechanisms in the event of to a power outage. Although a power outage may seem like the perfect time to be self-generating your own power, you must understand that if you are generating power you could be sending power back to the grid and risking the lives of anyone working on the lines trying to restore power. It is also vital that in the event of a fire and power loss, the fireman can be assured that the solar array is not producing power as they are doing their job.

As the solar system owner, can I sell my solar electricity to my utility?

Your solar system will be connected to the utility as a "net metered" solar system, meaning any solar electricity that cannot be used by your building will spin your utility meter backwards – in effect, selling your excess power to the utility at the full utility retail rate. On a monthly basis, you pay only the "net" of the power you used. If you generate more power than you used in a month your utility company will forward your excess solar electricity credits to be used during the next month. This allows any excess energy generated in the summer to be used during the winter when there is less solar energy and usually higher energy usage. However, your solar system should be sized to generate no more electricity than your building can consume during a 1-year period since the utility won’t pay a retail rate for any excess solar electricity you provide to the utility during a 1 year period.

How do I maintain my solar system?

Solar system maintenance is truly minimal. Even cleaning of solar panels is not necessary except in the dusty environments. For maintenance budget planning, OnSwitch recommends budgeting of inverter replacements every 12 years.

How long will the solar system last?

The solar panels and racking have 25-year warranties, but are expected to continue to produce electricity for 40 or more years. For maintenance budget planning, OnSwitch recommends budgeting of inverter replacements every 12 years.

Will I notice any difference in the performance of my facilities equipment?

OnSwitch solar systems are fully coordinated with your electric utility connection, such that you will notice no difference in your electricity service – except that your total electric bill will be lower.

The solar system is synchronized with the existing utility feed into your building. You use the power generated by the solar system first and then if additional electricity is needed the utility electricity will seamlessly flow through your meter to your facility and equipment, ensuring a full supply of uninterrupted power. Your equipment will not know where the electricity is coming from so there will be no difference in its operation.

How does a solar system work?

The solar panel contains several individual cells that are made largely of two layers of silicon. By design there is an electronic imbalance between the two layers and when the sun’s photons bombard the cell it knocks the electrons loose and they “bounce” from the top layer to the bottom layer creating energy. These bouncing electrons are captured as electricity by metal contacts in the panel.

Since the electricity created inside the panel is direct current or DC, it is necessary to push the current through an inverter that creates alternating current or AC. Once converted this electricity is then routed to your electrical outlets for your use.


What are the specifications of the OnSwitch solar system?

Your OnSwitch solar system has a design life of 30 years. It will generate 123456 during the first year, then 0.5% less annually. Some technical features of the solar system proposed are:

  • Polycrystalline solar modules
  • Racking is non-penetrating, ballasted, and tilted 10-degrees
  • Inverters are mounted on the roof
  • Online monitoring provided for real time and historical solar electricity generation data

Is there anything I am required to do with my building or premises to enable the solar system to be installed?

The following items may need to be done, though optionally you can have them carried out by the solar system installation team and included in your ESA price rather than having to do them yourself: Patching of sections of roof where solar system will be installed. Repairing any roof sections now rather than later minimizes the need to move the solar system to access the roof. OnSwitch will do this inspection.

These repairs will not be expensive unless the roof is very old to begin with. Strengthening the roof structure under the solar system.To enable a larger solar system to be installed unshaded, sometimes OnSwitch will recommend that trees be trimmed or movable roof structures like antennae or signs be moved to another part of the roof. Upgrading of electrical switch gear. Typically this is required only for old switch gear which could benefit from an upgrade anyway.

What does my Head of Facilities need to know about this solar system on our roof and in our electrical room?

Because the solar system generates electricity, for safety reasons do not handle any of the solar system components without supervision of a certified solar technician Keep the roof clear of any obstructions that could potentially shade the solar system.

What if my roof needs to be repaired under the solar system?

No problem, you accrue 48 daylight hours annually during which time the solar system can be offline, including for ordinary repairs and maintenance of your roof.

How often do I need to let the solar system owner's maintenance people on my roof or in my electrical room?

Preventative maintenance will be performed generally annually, and can include inspection on the solar system, meter checks, system performance monitoring, cleaning (remove dust, debris, power washing), and minor repairs. You will be given advance notice of a solar system maintenance visit.

If I buy the solar system, whom will my installation contract be with?

That depends on whether you purchase the solar system, or sign-up for a solar electricity service agreement. If you purchase the solar system, your contract will be with a top-tier, experienced, solar system installer qualified by OnSwitch. If you sign a solar Electricity Services Agreement, your agreement will be with a top-tier, experienced, solar system financing company qualified by OnSwitch. If you are not happy with our recommended installer or financing company for any reason, OnSwitch will propose another well-qualified alternative company for you.

If I sign up for solar electricity service rather than buy the solar system, whom will my service contract be with

Through their large network of financing partners, OnSwitch provides customers the most competitive solar electricity service prices. When you sign up for solar electricity service, the solar system owner (an OnSwitch financing partner) has all the responsibilities and costs for installation, operations and maintenance of the solar system. Our partner companies who install and own the solar system and sell you your solar electricity are large, financially strong companies who demand from their installers solar systems that generate reliably the expected solar electricity for years and years. Only with reliable solar electricity generation can these companies sell enough solar electricity to you to be profitable.

Utility Electricity Prices

Why is the cost of the utility electricity you are comparing to the solar electricity cost higher than what I thought I paid for utility electricity

Most utility electricity rates are higher during peak daytime periods and the spring-summer period, than at other times. One huge benefit of a solar system is that it generates most if it’s annual electricity during these expensive utility electricity periods. Therefore, the cost of the utility electricity that you won’t need to buy when the solar system is generating electricity is more expensive than your average cost of utility electricity.

Are California utility prices forecasted to increase?

The problems confronting the electricity system are the result of a wide range of forces that point to increasing utility electricity prices:

Decrease in nuclear power electricity: Nuclear provided 18% of California electricity in 2011, but decreased to 9% in 2012. With the closing of the San Onofre nuclear plant in 2013 there remains only one nuclear power plant and supply of electricity to Californians is less then ever.

Declining hydropower electricity: Hydropower provided 18% of California electricity in 2011, but decreased to 9% in 2012. With the even more frequent drought conditions, hydropower electricity for California has decreased even more.

Increasing costs of fossil fuel plants that provide the majority of California's electricity, due to:

  • New federal regulations on toxic emissions
  • New rules on greenhouse gases

Impending closures of fossil fuel power plants using once-through cooling due to their enormous water use and discharge

The cost of natural gas used by fossil fuel plants in California is forecasted to increase by 5.8% annually for next three decades, see below. (Reference: Page C-20, "California Net Energy Meeting Evaluation", California Public Utilities Commission, September 26, 2013) 5.8% annual increase (ignoring inflation) in natural gas prices forecasted for period 2014 to 2034

I have heard that solar prices have been declining for many years, so why wouldn’t I wait until they decline further?

The time to buy is now. Although solar panel prices have been declining for many years, that decline has been less every year. Then starting last year, solar panel pricing bottomed out and then started increasing. The recent trade tariff imposed by the U.S. on most solar panel imports has further caused prices for all solar panels to go up. Beyond that, in just over two years the 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit is being reduced every year for the next 5 years.

About OnSwitch

Who is OnSwitch?

OnSwitch is a solar electricity provider who brings together commercial organizations across the U.S., installers, and financing to offer solar electricity at the lowest price available and the simplest way to buy it.

OnSwitch was formed by a leadership team who worked side by side over the past 14 years at commercial solar pioneer PowerLight, SunPower, and Hanwha Q Cells, developing and building well over a billion dollars of commercial solar projects for over 300 businesses and public agencies. They formed OnSwitch to focus that experience on providing customers with the easiest and most economical solar power units available for rooftop applications, without sacrificing quality.