March 18 (Reuters) - Sunnova Energy Corp on Wednesday became the latest U.S. solar company to unveil a financing product that will allow customers to claim a lucrative federal tax credit for solar power.
The move follows the introduction of a similar product last year by the largest residential solar company, Elon Musk-backed SolarCity Corp, and many others in the industry have followed suit as solar systems become more popular.
Sunnova, which has raised more than $500 million, is putting up the funds for its product, dubbed EZ Own, rather than partnering with a financial institution. It calls EZ Own a retail installment sale, not a loan. The company will provide a warranty, system maintenance, repairs and monitoring.
Ownership of solar systems has increased as their average price has fallen to around $30,000 from $50,000 to $60,000 just a few years ago. Homeowners are able to claim a tax credit worth 30 percent of the system's value. That credit drops to 10 percent in 2017, and industry watchers expect to see a flurry of installation activity ahead of that change.
Sunnova's announcement leaves Vivint Solar Inc as the only remaining major residential solar financing provider without a loan product, according to Shayle Kann, senior vice president of research for solar research firm GTM Research.
EZ Own deals could account for about 20 to 30 percent of the company's business in some markets, Jordan Fruge, the company's chief marketing officer, said in an interview.
The Houston-based company has grown rapidly since its start in 2012 by partnering with local installers to lease solar systems to homeowners. Under that model, however, Sunnova retains ownership of the panels and homeowners cannot claim the federal tax credit.
The company will begin offering EZ Own in California in the first quarter of this year.
Sunnova's investors include Blackstone Group LP unit GSO Capital Partners and Houston private equity firm Triangle Peak Partners.
(Reporting By Nichola Groom; editing by Andrew Hay)