The top solar incentive programs in the US in 2020 and how to find solar incentives available in your area?
Renewable energy is sweeping the nation and 78% of homeowners agree that they would install solar systems if the cost wasn’t a factor. The good news is that there are multiple solar incentive programs to help offset the cost, and for most people, it’s just a matter of finding the right one.
Can I afford to go solar?
A survey of 2,200 homeowners showed 97% still believe installing a solar energy system requires an investment of at least $20,000, making it too expensive to consider.
However, in 2020 the solar scenario has changed completely, and solar is a lot cheaper and more profitable than people think:
- Solar panel costs have come down due to technological improvements and increased competition between solar companies. In states like Arizona, you can now get a 5 kW solar system for under $10,000 after incentives.
- Homeowners will instantly see lower monthly electric bills, and in the 30+ states with net metering you can make excellent returns by export their power for lots of money.
- Most solar installations can be leased or purchased with no down payment, and lower monthly installments than their current utility costs.
- Savings begin from month #1, not some distant point in the future.
So, the question should rather be “can you afford NOT to go solar?”
Are there incentives, rebates, and discounts to lower the cost of a solar installation?
Yes! A range of cost-saving options are available from the different levels of government:
- At the federal level, under the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit taxpayers can claim up to 26% of qualified expenses for investing in a solar system for a home you own and live in. Eligible costs include labor on site, assembling and installing the system, and the cost of all related piping and wiring. Some of the tax credit can be carried forward to the next year if the full amount exceeds the homeowner’s tax liability.
- Some states also offer tax credits or other incentives for installing solar energy systems, which work in a similar way to the federal credit.
- Some utilities or cities also offer up front rebates for people that buy solar systems. However, these are becoming increasingly rare because solar is now so much cheaper than it was. Lawmakers are now aware that solar can provide consumers an excellent return on investment without the need for such rebates.
- Certain states require utilities to get a portion of their electrical power from solar. Some even require a portion of this to be from rooftop solar rather than utility-scale solar projects. This legislation has created value and market for solar renewable energy credits (SRECs). SRECs are certificate given to owners of solar systems that represent 1 megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity production. These certificates can be sold to utilities that have a legal obligation to source a specific amount of power from renewable or solar generation. The utility then surrenders these SREC’s to meet their obligations to source clean power.
- Some utilities offer performance-based incentives (PBIs). PBI’s mean that a customer is paid a specific amount for all kwh’s of solar generation regardless of whether it is consumed in the household or exported to the utility. It is similar to net metering in that it is a legislative way to give value to solar production and sometimes PBI’s and net metering exist simultaneously.
Claiming all the credits and incentives you qualify for may sound daunting, but if you contact Solar Reviews we can help you navigate the various programs and reduce the cost of your installation significantly.
What are some of the top programs in the United States that help people go solar?
In addition to the federal solar tax credit program available to all Americans, many states have very good incentive programs available. Vermont, for example, has an Investment Tax Credit option that also offers up to 30% of eligible costs. In New Jersey, electricity consumers can enjoy up to $936 per year in cost savings as a result of the various programs, while in Arizona and Alabama you receive a $1,000 installation incentive and ongoing benefits for the next 10-20 years.
What solar programs help the US workforce?
The shift to solar isn’t only affecting residential and commercial installations, but it’s also opening up thousands of jobs. The National Solar Jobs Census shows 250,000 Americans were employed in solar in 2019. To support this growth, some solar programs exist to help train and deploy workers in the field. Some of these include:
- Solar Ready Vets, which is a program created by the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative. It enables service members on active duty a 5- to 6-week course teaching them about all aspects of the solar industry, ahead of their return to civilian life.
- The Solar Training Network coordinates and promotes a number of training programs aimed at helping Americans gear up for the industry and find work.
- A Women in Solar installation training program supported by Grid Alternatives gives women workers the chance to develop their leadership abilities and gain access to solar job opportunities.
There are also a number of other programs funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Labor and the Department of Energy, which offer workforce and training opportunities.
Is community solar an option for me?
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a homeowner to enjoy the benefits of solar energy. Various programs enable non-owners to install systems, and community solar initiatives make it possible for groups of residences to combine their investments and create a “garden” of solar panels that feed participants’ households. The solar array is jointly owned by all participants, who pay a fixed price for their share. The payment can be made with cash or financed through a solar loan. Once the system is operational, participants get net metering credits proportional to their share, which are applied to reduce their power bills.
This is an excellent option for anyone who doesn’t own their residence, or who can’t accommodate solar panels for some reason.
What are the benefits of going solar?
Before you make any investment, it’s important to quantify exactly what your return is going to be. With a solar electric installation, you can be 100% certain of realizing the following benefits:
- Reduction of energy bills. Whether you merely reduce your costs, eliminate your energy bills completely or even make a profit depends on variables such as the system you install, the programs in your area and the degree to which you implement it. If you live in a sunnier region, you probably get an average of 5.5 hours of sunlight each day, which will contribute to higher energy production.
- Earning of tax credits and incentives. The value of these options is significant. The federal tax credit of 26% means a $5,200 saving on a $20,000 system. If you live in a state like Washington where you can save over $900 a year, you could add a further $18,000 ($900 x 20 years) to your savings over the system’s lifetime.
- Kickstart your savings immediately. There’s no waiting period to start saving. The average annual energy cost per person is over $3,000, and a solar system begins reducing costs from the day it’s installed. If you’re planning to resell your home, statistics show the installation will push up the value by almost $6,000 per installed kilowatt. So, if you install a 3.1-kilowatt system, your resale value could go up by $18,000. What’s more, solar panels help make your home more energy-efficient by absorbing the sun on the roof and protecting the roof surface from debris and weather.
Overall, solar enables you to reduce your environmental footprint. Systems use clean energy from the sun, so they reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use of fossil fuels. They eliminate much of the air and water pollution caused by generating power, which improves mortality rates and lowers healthcare costs.
How long does it take to repay the investment in a solar system?
Solar systems typically have a useful life of at least 25 years, and carry a warranty for 25 years. With all the incentives available, customers can typically recover their investment within 5-8 years, which means you get free electricity and extra credits for the remainder of the 25-year period. It’s hard to beat that kind of return.
Since it’s so easy to offset the costs, why isn’t everyone installing a solar energy system? If that’s the question you’re asking yourself, why not let us help you determine the best answer for your home and family?
Author: Andrew Sendy | Home Solar Journalist
Andy is deeply concerned about climate change but is also concerned about cost of living pressures on American families. He advocates for solar energy and solar battery storage only to the extent that they make financial sense for homeowners. He is not affiliated with any particular solar company in the United States.