As I noted in previous entries, getting a solar system for my condo complex will be a long process. I’ve had representatives from four solar companies assess our site, and they all said we have enough roof space for a system that would provide energy for the common electricity—on which we spend about $2000 a month. Three of the companies have submitted preliminary proposals for systems that would cost between $74,000 and $450,000, before incentives and rebates. We’ll have to decide how big we want our system to be and what we can afford.
The remaining challenges are a) determining which incentives we qualify for, as a condo, and b) determining how to finance the system. The HOA just doesn’t have the money to put into such improvements. Our answer to that may be a program sponsored by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office, GreenFinanceSF. They’re providing a way to finance sustainable building improvements with 20-year loans that are paid back as part of property taxes, which are tax-deductible. That makes payments affordable.
The Mayor’s Office has not yet applied this program to condominiums, and they’re eager to work with us to help encourage others to follow suit. There’s still a lot to work out. We can’t force all residents to opt in to the program, so the HOA board is researching our options. Are we allowed to lower HOA dues for those who do opt in and raise them for those who don’t? That would be necessary for this program to be financially feasible. The good thing is that this would cover more than solar panels; we’re also looking into electric-car plug-ins, tankless water heaters, LED lights, and energy-efficient windows.
But a recent development puts a wrinkle in this plan: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the lenders they work with have said that they will not support loans under the GreenFinanceSF or PACE programs. Because of that, GreenFinanceSF and many similar programs have been suspended. The Mayor’s Office and other local governments around the country are working with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to encourage them to reconsider their position. In the meantime, we’re faced with more waiting, during which we have time to ponder the benefits of patience. At least the sun isn’t going anywhere!