Julie’s story: Lending Center helps homeowner go solar and save money with ease
Since 1980, the Center for Energy and Environment’s Lending Center has provided financing to help residential property owners with energy efficiency projects and rehabilitation. CEE emphasizes efficiency because we believe that making improvements inside your home is generally the quickest and easiest route to greater comfort and savings. But after you’ve made your home as efficient as possible, you can also benefit from CEE financing to conserve energy in other ways, like going solar.
Solar energy isn’t just good for the planet; it’s good for your wallet. A typical Minnesota home should expect 12 years or more before a solar project can pay for itself through electricity savings — but long-term savings over 20 years can range from about $12,000 to $25,000. In response to the growing number of Minnesota households looking to invest in solar projects, the Lending Center recognized an opportunity to help Minnesotans finance energy-focused investments. In 2015, CEE increased its maximum loan amount for residential solar projects to $50,000 per project. CEE’s residential solar loans also offer a low-interest rate with a 10-year term and no maximum income limit, providing Minnesotans with unusually powerful residential solar financing.
South Minneapolis homeowner Julie Noren took advantage of CEE financing in 2017, when she made the decision to invest in solar panels. When Julie bought her home several years ago, she knew it needed a lot of work. At the top of the list was improving her home’s insulation. The house was built in 1900 and had absolutely no insulation in the walls, decreasing Julie’s comfort; particularly during Minnesota’s cold winters. And since she qualified for Minnesota’s Weatherization Assistance Program, the decision to start there was even easier.
Upgrading her home’s insulation piqued Julie’s interest in a potential solar project — she saw solar as an important step toward a more efficient home. She started researching local solar companies and potential rebate and financing options. “I see solar as a financial investment in my house, so I really wanted to understand the long-term savings with solar,” explained Julie.
She settled on All Energy Solar, a full-service solar installer located in St. Paul. “They made the whole process so incredibly easy,” said Julie, “All Energy clearly laid out the cost and what I would get out of the completed project, so that was really helpful.”
While solar projects do result in savings over time, there are significant upfront costs. Luckily, because Julie qualified for Minnesota’s weatherization program, she had extra savings to invest in her solar panels, rebates and financing also helped. All Energy recommended CEE as a lender, based on Julie’s non-traditional credit history. As the only Minnesota-based, nonprofit home solar loan option that doesn’t require home refinancing, CEE’s program was a perfect fit.
“I used CEE’s online application process, which was so convenient and so easy. They were great to work with — the whole thing was so simple.”
For Julie, investing in solar for her home was about more than just the financial benefit. “It’s really satisfying to be able to do something to help the environment. If you’re fortunate to have enough money for the upfront cost, it’s a worthwhile investment that will eventually pay for itself.”