I see from a late news release that Elon Musk, head man at Tesla, is now in the solar roof panel business. Scouring the article closely indicates the solar tiles for a 2400 square foot home will run about $69,000, but a little more investigation reveals that to then match those tiles with the rest of the house’s roof will add a good bit more.

I suspect there won’t be a lot of takers, which possibly explains why none of Mr. Musk’s projects have been profitable over the past years. Perhaps a view of one of his competitors will give you a better picture of this business. The ad is enticing: “Say goodbye to your utility bills forever – heat your home with the rays from the sun.” Best of all: “It will cost you nothing to set it up.”

How is it done? The solar lease is the answer. As usual, the devil is in the details, as one hapless soul in Maricopa, Arizona, found out. Thirty rooftop solar panels installed under a 20-year lease reduces his power cost by about $50 per month. However, the $160 leasing fee plus another $32 to cover the utility’s minimum monthly charge leaves the homeowner $142 behind.

Add as a negative that the panels remain the property of the solar leasing company, with the unpaid balance of the $38,400 lease attached as a lien on the property. To add insult to injury, during the full term of the lease the homeowner is personally liable for payment.

As an added detriment, owners of homes encumbered with these leases find many prospective buyers unwilling to assume the obligations. The result: a substantial drop in the home’s sales value.

Solar and wind energy is being aggressively promoted by government and, as expected, commercial interests are climbing on board. Hopefully the economics will eventually shake out in the public’s favor, but for now few promotions being offered are in the customer’s best interest. My warning to you: Before entering into any agreement, read the documents thoroughly, verify the accuracy of the numbers, and offer a prayer that all goes well.