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Nevada agency creates board dedicated to investigating solar panel scams

The new investigatory board comes after legislation was passed in 2023 creating more consumer protections in the rooftop solar industry.
Kelsea Frobes
Kelsea Frobes
EnergyState Government
Electrician Mario Rojas with 1 Sun Solar inspects solar panels in Las Vegas

Door-to-door solar scams are a problem that the Nevada State Contractors Board (NSCB) hears about every day.

About 20 percent of the complaints filed to the board that licenses and regulates contractors deal with solar scams, leading the board to create a “Solar Investigations Unit” to specialize in this type of scam, give out resources to inform the public, and to try and increase consumer outreach, including providing information on how to apply for a board-run program that can offer financial aid to victims of scammers.

Purchasing a rooftop solar system can help people save on their power bills by allowing them to generate solar energy at home and then sell excess electricity to the utility company at market rate in a process called net metering. But Dave Behar, the board’s deputy executive officer, said solar scammers will promise homeowners rebates and discounts or will even tell them their entire energy bill will go away if they purchase a solar panel system — promises that often go unfulfilled and leave buyers in the lurch. 

The contractors board holds meetings with companies named in complaints that have harmed homeowners, and has pursued criminal investigations in partnership with law enforcement. In April 2024, a manager at a Las Vegas solar company was arrested and charged on allegations that he had stolen nearly $250,000 over the last two years from elderly homeowners , and never performed any work on their homes. 

Behar encourages those approached by potential scammers to “take their time and not to rush into making a decision,” whether it's solar-related or any other type of contractor work.

By choosing a contractor that’s not reputable or licensed, he said homeowners end up hiring contractors who are “doing [work] that they're not skilled enough to do.”

Behar said consumers can verify if someone is a licensed contractor by going to the NCSB’s website.

In the 2023 legislative session, Sen. Fabian Doñate (D-Las Vegas) sponsored a bill (SB293) that added more consumer protections for people buying rooftop solar systems. In an interview, he said the bill came after discovering that not only had a member of his family fallen victim to a solar scam, but so had several other members of the community he represents. 

“As I started peeling back the layers, [solar scams] turned out to be probably one of the biggest problems that our state is facing,” Doñate said.

SB293 created protections for consumers such as a three-day grace period for dropping a contract and requiring more information on a cover page for the contract. It also requires anyone selling a solar panel to be an employee of the solar company — Doñate said during his research, he discovered that many solar companies used 1099 independent contractors, which led to “a lot of finger pointing between the solar company that contracted these 1099 workers and the 1099 workers that weren't even in the state anymore.”

Stephen Hamile, chief operating officer at rooftop solar provider Sol-Up, said that although it’s impossible to give an exact price for how much solar panels and installation should cost, buyers should expect an estimated range for a 10 kilowatt system should be somewhere between $25,000 to $30,000, and an 8 kilowatt system could be somewhere between $20,000 and $25,000, although “it really depends on the quality of the equipment and the installation process.”

These actions meant to curb solar scams came too late for Mario Danilo Cordoba, a 72-year-old retiree from Las Vegas. He said that in March 2023, a company called Flex Energy Solar offered him a solar panel installation that seemed “very attractive.” Flex Energy told Cordoba that he would need to pay $116 per month to a separate financing company called "Good Leaf.” 

According to Cordoba, NV Energy sent Flex Energy Solar an email requesting to make some adjustments, but now Flex Energy won’t respond to Good Leaf, NV Energy, or Cordoba. Cordoba says that although he has been making payments to Good Leaf since June 2023, Flex Energy “never completed their work to connect the service.”

Cordoba says that apparently the company was “shut down” and that he feels scammed.

The Nevada Independent also attempted to contact the company, but its website is down and a phone number sends callers to voicemail.

This story was updated at 5:05 p.m. on 6/10/24 to correct the spelling of Stephen Hamile's name.


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