‘Legal…not forthright’: Solar power company gives misleading information to customers – WPSD Local 6

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PADUCAH — With pushes from Washington to promote the use of solar power, including the Community Solar Consumers Choice Act of 2023 and the tax credit for rooftop solar, companies that sell solar power have begun pushing to install more systems, including in Kentucky and Illinois.

Solar panels

This photo shows solar panels at Fresh Start Village in Paducah. 

Following reports of salespeople in Kentucky and Illinois telling residents they are in partnership with local power companies, Paducah Power System and Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association in Murphysboro, Illinois, have issued statements saying they do not have any partnerships with solar power providers.

Paducah Power System issued a statement Monday on Facebook to try to inform customers about what was going on.

“We are NOT in partnership with any solar company and are not a part of any effort to sell products, door-to-door,” the statement read. “We have not endorsed this company in any way.”

A similar statement was issued by Egyptian Electric on Thursday.

Brad Austin is the engineering and operations manager for the Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association in southern Illinois. He said there are several deceptive practices that groups of recent salespeople have engaged in.

“We do not partner with any solar companies,” Austin said. “We work with solar companies for getting solar installed, but that is between the member and the solar company, and then they come to us.”

Brad Austin

Brad Austin is the engineering and operations manager at the Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association. He said their company does not have any partnerships with solar companies and the only way to get your electric bill to zero is to go off the grid.

They are also telling people they will get rid of their electricity bills, which is not true.

“They’re going to a member’s house and saying, ‘We’ll eliminate your electric bill,’” Austin said. “The only way to eliminate your bill using solar is to completely go off grid with a battery backup system.”

“Their tactics are legal; they are just not forthright,” Austin said.

Austin mentioned two instances where he had spoken to people approached by the salespeople. One politely asked them to leave, but the other got a quote.

According to Austin, the salespeople told the customer the cost of electricity would go up 4% to 6% annually, which Austin said is not the trend.

“Going back over the last 10 years, we have averaged 1.65% rate increases,” Austin said. “Actually, a few years ago, for two years, we had a rate decrease. Whatever we can purchase power for, we’re going to pass that along to our membership.”

The customer who received a quote, which was reviewed by Austin, showed a monthly payment of $171 on a 20-year loan; their electric bill runs about $180 per month.  Their projected “savings” was based on a 6% annual increase in their electricity bill, which the power company said is not historically accurate.

Austin said he believes the salespeople are from out of town, and he hopes they don’t give local installers a bad name.

Paula Coleman is a paralegal and private investigator who works for the Sullenger Law Office in Paducah, which is building a case against a different solar power company accused of installing panels, never hooking them up, but continuing to bill their client.

One of the door-to-door solar salesmen approached her house, and the conversation was caught on her Ring Video Doorbell.

“My name’s Chris. I’m with Genesis Power Solutions. We’re just going around the neighborhood here today because folks in Paducah, they’ve been looking to go solar, but there wasn’t a good program to fit their needs,” the salesman said. “What we’re doing is, if your roof qualifies, we take care of all the up-front cost…We take that Paducah Power bill that you’re already paying and eliminate it. That same money would go towards a flat-rate solar payment.”

Coleman politely asked the man to leave, and she said she doesn’t believe he would have knocked on her door had he known what she does.


Paula Coleman is a paralegal and private investigator at the Sullenger Law Office in Paducah. She was approached by a man identifying himself as Chris, working for a company called Genesis Power Solutions. He told her installing solar panels would eliminate their power bill, something Paducah Power System said is not true. Photo taken May 3, 2024.

“I had a gentleman who showed up to my house twice,” Coleman said. “The first time he showed up, he rang the Ring Doorbell, and I didn’t really know what he wanted. He didn’t leave a message on the Ring.”

The second time, the doorbell caught the interaction with the salesman.

“It felt fishy,” Coleman said. “Given what I do for a living, I kind of knew it was a scam. So I said, you know, no thank you.”

Wes Sullenger is the attorney Coleman works for, and he’s building a case for what he describes as the victim of a solar panel scam. 


Wes Sullenger is an attorney in Paducah representing someone he describes as the victim of a solar panel scam. He said his client was charged for the installation of solar panels, but the panels were never connected and the company is still attempting to collect every month. Photo taken May 3, 2024.

“These things can hit anybody,” Sullenger said. “Do a quick Google search and you’ll find plenty of smart, accomplished, competent people who have fallen into bad situations because they believed in something because it looked good on the front end.”

Sullenger said in an age where door-to-door sales is no longer a common practice, people should be skeptical when someone approaches their home with an almost “too good to believe” proposition.

“Be skeptical when they show up, ask questions, make sure they give you something in writing, and don’t do anything quickly,” Sullenger said. “Once you’ve gotten that information, tell them you’re going to talk to your lawyer… If just saying you’re going to talk to your lawyer causes them to get more aggressive or they start insisting things have to be done faster than that, it’s a scam.”

In the case Sullenger is currently building, he said the company was good about the building, but suffered in keeping deadlines and hooking the system up. His client has panels on their roof currently, which are not connected to the grid or their home.

He said the best thing to do before getting involved with a solar company contract, which can sometimes cost tens of thousands of dollars, is to consult with a lawyer or accountant first.

“Just because someone has a company… doesn’t make them a legitimate business, or someone who’s going to do what they promise,” Sullenger said.

Michelle Knox is the owner of Wind Solar USA in Springfield, Illinois. Knox said there are several ways to pay for home solar panels, including a lease structure, a power-purchase agreement structure, and a cash structure.

In a lease structure, the solar company owns the panels installed on the consumer’s roof. The consumer just pays for their use, similar to a vehicle lease.

In a power-purchase agreement, the solar company owns the panels, and the consumer pays a fixed amount of money for the electricity provided by the company.

In the cash option, a consumer purchases the solar panels from a company, with either cash or by financing through their local bank.

“This girl is an advocate of cash is king,” Knox said. “It can still be financed, but it’s financed through a local bank in a traditional way, just like if you were going to go buy a car and then you pay your loan off.”

People who purchase their panels get a 30% federal tax credit, as well as renewable energy credits within the state of Illinois.

Knox said it is possible to get credits to pay for up to 60% of the installation, but only after the installation has been paid for in full.

In lease and power-purchase agreements, the customer pays a monthly fee, but the company keeps the incentives provided for the installation of the system.

“The customer doesn’t pay any up-front cost — they’re just paying a monthly payment, which we’re all conditioned to do — and they keep the incentives,” Knox said. “Because they own the system, they keep the tax credits.”

Knox said if you take the monthly payment and multiply it over the course of 20 years, most customers pay more than they would if they just bought the system.

While rates depend on people’s credit and terms, most of Knox’s customers are seeing local bank loan rates between 5% and 7%. That keeps Knox out of the loan business, and keeps the money in the local economy.

“There are solar finance programs that others may market that aren’t that kind of structure,” Knox said, talking about how she looked into a solar finance program for her business. “There’s a fee that they have, like a dealer fee… no matter how I did that, it ended up working out that the interest worked out to be around 20%.”

She decided after seeing the high interest rates that the best situation for her customers was to keep recommending people use their local banks to finance solar panels.

Paducah Power System’s spokesperson was not available for an interview for this story, but sent a list of things people should consider when thinking about converting to solar energy.

The statement offered the following suggestions:

  • Do your homework and gain an understanding of how the panels work and what kind of performance you can expect in your part of the country.
  • Seek out a company licensed to do business in the county or state you live in.
  • Look for others in the area who have used the same company to see about their experience.
  • Check the BBB and state attorney general’s office for complaints filed against the company.
  • Get quotes from more than one company.
  • Have a good understanding of the financing you are considering.
  • Talk with your local utility company about how the panels will affect your bill.

According to the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, no complaints have been filed against Genesis Power Solutions, the company that told a Paducah resident they could eliminate their power bill.

Reporters contacted the CEO of Genesis Power Solutions by phone and text message. They have not responded to a request for comment.

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