This is a cursory overview. More to come.
There several ways to get solar power for your home.
The most popular systems as of 2014 were third party owned. They install the system for free.
In Q1 2014, more than 50 percent of New York's distributed generation systems were third-party owned (Lease or PPA, see below), and in California, Arizona and Colorado, 69 to 81 percent of installed distributed generation systems were third-party owned.
These options are still evolving and differ from state to state. I'm currently looking for a good web page which explains them all.
Source: Solar Panels from Wholesale Solar
Net metering, which is available in 44 states. Net metering allows solar-system owners to offset on a one-for-one basis the energy they receive from the electric grid with the solar power they generate on their roof.
At The Hole in the Rooftop Solar-Panel Craze - WSJ May 2015* Brian H Potts says,
"Most people buy rooftop solar panels because they think it will save them money or make them green, or both. But the truth is that rooftop solar shouldn't be saving them money (though it often does), and it almost certainly isn't green."
"According to a recent Energy Department-backed study at North Carolina State University, installing a fully financed, average-size rooftop solar system will reduce energy costs for 93% of the single-family households in the 50 largest American cities today.
The primary reason these small solar systems are cost-effective, however, is that they're heavily subsidized."
On May 5, 2015 however, an interdisciplinary group of researchers and professors at MIT released a study about the future of solar energy and concluded that net metering is inefficient and should be redesigned.
Large scale solar systems are more efficient than the rooftop systems.
* Google Search for the WSJ article and you won't have to pay.
Terms: GTPV - Grid Tied Photovoltaic Solar Power System Net metering -offset on a one-for-one basis the energy you receive from the electric grid with the solar power you generate on your roof. PPA - Solar power purchase agreement RPS - Renewable Portfolio Standard SREC - Solar Renewable Energy Certificate Carbon credits generated from your solar panel installation .Links:
Solar Panels Cost - Residential Solar Panels Cost for Home | SolarCity
Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency® - DSIRE
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost? - Solar Energy Cost | SolarCity
Cost of a Home Solar Power System
SRECTrade | SREC Markets
The Hole in the Rooftop Solar-Panel Craze - WSJ