From Green Cambridge, June 22: Buying solar panels can be intimidating and mysterious. The recent flood of solar installers offering various choices and tradeoffs, unfortunately, makes the situation worse. Local nonprofit Green Cambridge has partnered with Neighborhood Solar, a local solar group-buy program, to make buying solar panels easier and more transparent. The program is using local Arlington-based SunBug Solar as the installer. By bringing together customers from Cambridge and surrounding communities, Neighborhood Solar II is able to offer participating residents and businesses a 20 percent discount until July 31.

LetterLess than a quarter of most roofs are suitable for solar, and determining if yours is a good fit can be mystifying. SunBug Solar, because it is familiar with the Cambridge area, serves many customers who would otherwise be turned away by installers only interested in quick and easy jobs. Through Neighborhood Solar II, Cambridge and surrounding communities can benefit from SunBug’s expertise in multifamily, condominium and unconventional roof situations.

For many people, solar may seem too expensive. But state and federal tax incentives are substantial, and installing a solar system is typically far less expensive than buying a car. More importantly, over the lifetime of the panels, solar systems in Massachusetts can earn their owners three to five times their investment through avoided electricity costs and solar renewable energy certificates. A typical solar system will pay for itself in less than five years.

A “no money down” solar lease may seem more attractive than paying for or financing a solar array. Companies are eager to offer solar leases precisely because doing so is highly profitable for the panel owners. A solar lease can save 15 percent to 20 percent on a monthly electric bill, which is still better than not having solar at all, but the lifetime payback is much less than owning the panels outright. Plus, if you have a solar lease and decide to sell your home, you’ll need to pay off or transfer the lease, which can be a challenge. By contrast, there is evidence that panels you own outright will add to the value of your home.

The full pricing details for Neighborhood Solar II are available on the Neighborhood Solar website. The program is designed to be local and transparent. Embracing renewable energy should be easy. Through its partnership with Neighborhood Solar, Green Cambridge hopes to take away many of the difficulties by providing an excellent option for going solar.

Neighborhood Solar and Green Cambridge do not receive any referral fees or other compensation from this program. Instead, by reducing the cost of sale for the installer, SunBug, and by aggregating multiple customers together in a group buy, creating economy of scale benefits, we are able to pass the resulting savings on to customers as a 20 percent discount compared with last year’s average installed cost for solar in Massachusetts.