Biden Administration Gives $3B for Rooftop Solar Accessibility

If you've got a low credit score, Sunnova could still green-light a solar panel loan for you.

Corinne Reichert Senior Writer
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently oversees the CNET breaking news desk for the West Coast. Corinne covers everything from phones, social media and security to movies, politics, 5G and pop culture. In her spare time, she watches soccer games, F1 races and Disney movies.
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Corinne Reichert
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Renewable energy is getting further attention from US President Joe Biden, with his administration committing to make rooftop solar panels accessible to more people, including those with a low credit score.

The Department of Energy's $52 million funding boost for solar projects was unveiled in April, in addition to $30 million for research and development across new solar technologies.

It's also providing a $3 billion partial loan guarantee for solar panel company Sunnova's project to help target disadvantaged communities, so that people with lower credit scores can still access rooftop solar panels. The $3 billion would be used by Sunnova to "provide loans for clean energy systems for approximately 75,000 to 115,000 homeowners" across the US and Puerto Rico, the Energy Department said. 

All Puerto Rico installations will include rooftop solar panels and battery storage to help people get through the frequent severe weather systems that take down power there. Other Sunnova installations could also include not only rooftop solar panels and batteries but also virtual power plant software.

"Over the next 25 years, the approximately 568MW project, comprised of solar installations, battery systems and smart software to reduce energy waste, is expected to avoid an estimated 7.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the 25-year life of the project," the Energy Department said.

People with low credit scores have typically been barred from accessing rooftop solar panels, as they've been unable to secure a loan to install the renewable energy tech on their homes.

The funding will also help achieve Biden's goal of a 100% clean electricity grid by 2035, and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the department said. The loan guarantee is conditional while Sunnova reaches various milestones, so it's not yet available for applications.

CNET's review of Sunnova found the company to be a strong contender in the solar space. Available in all 50 US states and Puerto Rico, Sunnova's 25-year system guarantee offers an easy bundle approach to adding solar to your house, and a variety of financing options with no upfront costs. 

Sunnova is also designed to be a simpler way to handle solar, with a single phone number to call with any questions or concerns during the quarter-century guarantee of solar power. "Whether it's a lease, a loan or a power purchase agreement, we are ensuring that customer's power flows for 25 years," said Kelsey Hultberg, Sunnova's executive vice president for corporate communications and sustainability.

It's important to compare all your solar options, though. Just because Sunnova receives this government funding to help grant loans to those with less-than-stellar credit scores doesn't necessarily make this installer the best option for your solar loan.

Before signing up for any solar panel provider, be sure to get multiple quotes and compare the terms and fees to make sure you're getting the best deal possible. To help you shop around, here are the best solar companies of 2023 and information on how solar panels can earn you a big tax credit.

Also part of the Biden administration announcement was more funding for community solar -- which allows you to purchase power from a nearby solar array when you don't have the roof space to install panels, or you're a renter. You can usually save between 5% and 10% on your energy bills by using community solar, depending on your community solar plan and utility, with savings credited against each month's bill. You'll also be helping the environment.