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How much can you save with Oregon’s solar and storage incentive program?

How much can you save with Oregon’s solar and storage incentive program?

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A residential solar panel system being installed in Aloha, Oregon. Image source: Oregon Live

Oregon homeowners can receive hefty rebates for installing solar panels and energy storage systems. The Solar +Storage Rebate program also provides additional incentives for low and middle-income households, so solar is accessible to everyone!

Let’s take a closer look at how much you can save on a solar installation with Oregon’s solar incentive program.

What led to the new Oregon solar incentive program?

Until 2017, Oregon homeowners could apply for the Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC) when they installed a solar system on their home. Residents would receive a tax credit of $1.30 per watt of installed solar capacity, up to $6,000.

This was one of the best solar incentives in Oregon; when combined with the federal solar tax credit, homeowners could potentially cover half of the cost of their solar electric system. 

Homeowners were scrambling to get their solar projects done before the April 1, 2017, deadline in order to qualify for the RETC. This led to a short-lived burst in the number of solar projects in Oregon.

Residential solar panel installation on an Oregon home

Residential solar panel installations used to qualify for an Oregon state tax credit. Without it, solar became more expensive. Image source: Bend Magazine

However, that boost in the Oregon solar industry didn’t last long. Without the RETC, which was the main solar incentive in Oregon, the payback period of a solar system in the state nearly doubled and left many homeowners unable to afford solar systems for their homes. 

In order for Oregon to meet their goal of becoming 50% renewable by 2040, it was important to make solar affordable. It was especially important to make solar power accessible to low-income homeowners, as these consumers benefit the most from the electric bill savings solar panel systems provide. Plus, making solar accessible to more people leads to more installations, which, in turn, can help Oregon reach its renewable energy goal. 

With these intentions in mind, the Oregon legislature passed House Bill 2618 (HB 2618) in June 2019, which established the Solar + Storage Rebate Program.

This Oregon solar incentive program provides rebates to homeowners, both low-income and non-low income, and to service providers in low-income areas who install solar panel systems. 

How to qualify for Oregon's Solar + Storage Rebate Program

This solar incentive program is available for solar and storage installations installed on homes in Oregon, so long as the installation is completed by a contractor who has been approved by the Oregon Department of Energy. A list of approved contractors can be found here. Your contractor will be the one who submits the application for the project. 

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Residential solar installations 

The residential incentives are divided into two categories: 

  • Low and moderate-income (LMI) household rebates; and 

  • Non-income restricted residential rebates. 

Oregon low and moderate income incentive - how to qualify and how much it’s worth 

To be considered for the low and middle income incentive, the total household income must be at or below 60% of Oregon’s median income.

The following table displays the state’s median income amount per household size and outlines the maximum income you can have to be considered for the low income incentive:

Oregon state median income

Image source: Oregon.gov

If you qualify as a low income household, you will receive a rebate of $1.80 per watt of solar installed. The rebate amount cannot exceed 60% of the net cost of the system and it cannot go over $5,000. 

If battery storage is also installed, you will receive an additional incentive equal to $300 per kilowatt hour (kWh) of storage installed. The storage rebate amount cannot exceed 60% of the net cost of the storage system and it cannot go over $2,500. 

Oregon non-income restricted incentive - how to qualify and how much it’s worth 

If you do not qualify as a low income household, you can apply for the non-income restricted residential rebate instead. If you qualify for a solar rebate from your utility, you will get a rebate equal to $0.20 per watt of solar installed. 

For example, customers of Ashland Municipal Electric Utility can take advantage of the utility’s Solar Electric Rebate Program. This rebate program pays you $0.50 per watt of solar installed. If you chose to get the rebate from Ashland Municipal Electric, you will get $0.20 per watt of solar installed through the Oregon Solar + Storage Rebate Program plus the $0.50 per watt installed from Ashland Municipal electric. 

If you do not qualify for a solar rebate from your utility, you will get a rebate equal to $0.50 per watt of solar installed from the Oregon Solar + Storage Rebate Program. The rebate cannot equal more than 40% of the net cost of the solar system and it cannot exceed $5,000.

When you include solar energy storage with your solar system, you can receive an additional incentive. The storage incentive for a non-income restricted household is equal to $300 per kWh of storage installed. The storage rebate cannot exceed 40% of the net cost of the storage system and it cannot go over $2,500.

How much will you save with Oregon’s Solar + Storage Rebate Program?

For example, let’s say there are three homes and each one belongs to one of the residential incentive categories. Each of these houses installs an 8 kilowatt (kW) Tesla solar panel system on their roof.

The solar rebate received by each household would be as follows: 

Customer type

Incentive rate (per watt installed)

Total solar rebate amount

LMI

$1.80 / watt

$5,000

Non-income restricted with utility incentive

$0.20 / watt

$1,600

Non-income restricted, no utility incentive

$0.50 / watt

$4,000

If a battery storage system that includes one 10 kWh battery was installed with each of those solar panel systems, the storage incentives received would be as follows:

Customer type

Incentive rate (per watt installed)

Total solar rebate amount

LMI

$300/kWh

$2,500

Non-income restricted with utility incentive

$300/kWh

$2,500

Non-income restricted, no utility incentive

$300/kWh

$2,500

So, for an 8 kW solar panel system with a 10 kWh battery storage system, each of the residential categories would receive the following Oregon Solar + Storage rebate amounts:

Customer type

Total solar + storage rebate amount

LMI

$7,500

Non-income restricted with utility incentive

$4,100

Non-income restricted with no utility incentive

$6,500

The Oregon Solar + Storage Rebate combined with the federal solar tax credit would provide each of these three homeowners with significant savings and cut back the payback period for the solar-plus-storage system by up to 10 years in some cases!

Low-income service providers 

Non-residential incentives are available to organizations that are considered low-income service providers. Low-income service providers include:

  • Owners and developers of affordable multifamily housing that are also eligible for public assistance through the Oregon Housing and Community Services;

  • Community service organizations that have the primary purpose of offering health, dental, social, financial, or other services to households below 100% of the state median income by household size; or

  • Tribal or local government entities that use public buildings to provide services to LMI individuals or that provide emergency shelter during emergency and disaster situations.

Solar panels on the roof of a school

Some schools may qualify for a solar rebate as low-income service providers. Image source: Environment America


Low-income service providers will get a rebate equal to $0.75 per watt of solar installed. The solar rebate cannot exceed 50% of the net cost of the solar energy system and it cannot go over $30,000. For example, if a school installs a 25 kW system that costs $50,000, it would receive an incentive of $18,750. 

If that school decides to install battery storage as well, it will get an additional incentive. The low-income service provider battery storage incentive is equal to $300 per kWh installed. The rebate cannot equal more than 60% of the net costs of the battery system and it cannot exceed $15,000. 

How is the Oregon Solar + Storage Rebate Program funded?

Oregon’s solar incentive program is funded by The Rooftop Solar Incentive Fund. The money in this fund comes from many sources, including:

  • Money transferred into the fund through a Legislative Act, 

  • Money donated to the fund, and

  • Money deposited from public or private sources. 

The money in this fund is used exclusively for the Oregon Solar + Storage Rebate Program, which is administered by the Oregon Department of Energy.

Solar panels on an oregon home

Sunbridge Solar, one of the Oregon Department of Energy’s approved solar contractors, installed this system in Portland, Oregon. Image source: Sunbridge Solar

HB 2618 mandates that at least 25% of the total funds must go to LMI households and low-income service providers. So, low income applications will be prioritized over applications that are considered non-low income. 

Also, no more than 50% of all funds can go towards non-residential projects. This is to prevent the whole budget being taken up by non-residential projects, which can receive incentives as high as $45,000. If there was no cap, these installations could end up using a substantial portion of the budget. 

The application is submitted by a certified solar contractor. From there, the rebate will be given directly to the solar installer, who will then decrease the cost of your installation accordingly.

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New incentive could boost Oregon’s solar and storage industry

When the RETC ended back in 2017, the Oregon solar industry took a hit. With less people able to afford solar, there were less home solar installations. This led to job losses within Oregon’s solar industry.

Between 2017 and 2018, the number of solar jobs in Oregon dropped by over 300. There was a 21% decrease in the number of solar manufacturing jobs and an 11% decrease in the trade and distribution of solar. 

For Oregon to meet their renewable portfolio standard goals, the state needs their solar industry to grow, not shrink. The Solar + Storage Rebate Program could do just that. The incentive has the potential to encourage more Oregon residents to switch to solar, and the potential to encourage more battery storage deployment.

Oregon’s location also plays a factor.

Oregon’s neighbor, California, has been experiencing an energy crisis like we’ve never seen before. Utilities are starting to implement planned safety power shutoffs, where they turn off the electricity of both their commercial and residential customers in order to help prevent wildfires.

Wildfire off Route I-5 south near Canyonville, Oregon

Wildfire off Route I-5 south near Canyonville, Oregon. Image source: Oregon Department of Transportation

With these power shutoffs happening more frequently and so close to home, the people of Oregon might start feeling concerned that their access to power could be at risk soon, too. Plus, Oregon is a coastal state, so they’re feeling the impacts of climate change harder than some other states located in the middle of the country. 

With increased flood, wildfire, and storm risks, Oregon homeowners may start making the production of their own energy a priority. This would allow them to have power even in the event of a grid power outage. Again, the introduction of the new incentive could be what pushes people who are feeling concerned about their power supply to switch over to solar-plus-storage.

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Written by Catherine Lane Solar Industry Expert

Catherine is the Written Content Manager at SolarReviews, where she has been at the forefront of researching and reporting on the solar industry for five years. She leads a dynamic team in producing informative and engaging content on residential solar to help homeowners make informed decisions about investing in solar panels. Catherine’s expertise has garnered attention from leading industry publications, with her work being featured in Sola...

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