For years, solar power was too cost-prohibitive for the average consumer. However, utilities and communities around the country are experimenting with unconventional and more affordable ways to deliver solar power to consumers and businesses, according to Energybiz.

The pioneering renewable energy hubs of Berkeley, Calif., and Boulder Colo., are promoting initiatives that provide loans underwritten by the cities to property owners to install solar panels on their rooftops. The loans are paid back over 20 years through special property-tax assessments.

Power companies are also employing alternative funding models. Duke Energy and Southern California Edison are paying homeowners and businesses to install solar panels on their rooftops and using the power generated by the panels to feed electricity back through their grid systems. The $100 million pilot plan for Duke's leasing program will encompass 850 sites and generate 16 MW of power, while Southern California Edison's plan is expected to produce enough electricity for 160,000 homes.

Renewable energy advocates say such models are removing the sticker shock of solar technology and reflect the public's growing acceptance of alternative energy.

"The up-front cost is the biggest single barrier for customers who want to invest in solar technology," said Neal Lurie, marketing director for the American Solar Energy Society.