* Cost data based on quotes for fully-installed solar panel systems submitted on our platform. Prices are shown after applying the 26% federal tax credit.
Washington state has long been a place that supports renewable energy. In fact, Governor Jay Inslee signed a 100% clean energy bill in 2019. For a long time, that support for renewables extended to home solar, with a very good solar incentive program that allowed homeowners to install solar panels and get thousands of dollars back in payments.
Sadly, that incentive program has ended, and now adding solar panels to your home in Washington has become far less financially advantageous. We know it doesn’t rain all the time here, but Washington is the lower 48’s least sunny state. That lack of sun, combined with ultra-low electricity prices because of the state’s huge installed base of hydro power means solar isn’t really a good financial decision in the Evergreen State.
If you’re committed to home solar energy for the environmental benefits, you should know that there are still incentives that can help make the green choice more affordable. Specifically, the 26% federal solar tax credit and Washington’s net metering law.
The average cost for an installed residential solar system in Washington is currently $12,312 after claiming the 26% federal solar tax credit. This is $2.77 per watt. However, there is some variance in solar prices in different parts of the state. The graph below shows the average cost of installed solar systems in your part of the state.
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Prices based on a 5.4kW system, after 26% federal tax credit
Solar panels have fallen in price by more than 80% in the last ten years. In 2020 they also remain subsidized by the 26% federal tax credit and the net metering law, making them an excellent investment. They offer a return well above the long term average return from both the share market and also property investment.
Another way to look at this question is the levelized amount you will pay for each kWh of power you will use over the next 25 years with and without solar panels. As you can see below the savings are significant.
(forecast avg Washington electric rates over the next 25 years)
The most significant incentive to install solar panels for homes and businesses is the federal solar tax credit. At the end of 2020, the amount of the credit will decrease from 26% to 22% of the cost of the solar installation. Because home and business owners want to get the largest incentive amount possible, solar panel installation companies will likely be flooded with new projects before year’s end. In order to maximize your savings potential, the best time to go solar in Washington is now.
Washington’s net metering policy requires utilities to compensate customers when their solar system produces more electricity than they use. Customers will be reimbursed through on-bill credits that are equal to 1 kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy.
Let’s say your system produces 10 excess kWhs of electricity. You will then receive 10 kWh credits on your bill that will be used to offset the cost of the energy you use in the future.
(After tax credit)
(After tax credit)
You will save most money by buying your solar system rather than leasing it. Read more about the pros and cons of leasing vs buying solar.
Minimum of 25 years but generally 30 or more
Solar panels power your house when they can but your home uses the utility company for power at other times. In 2021 "solar systems with battery storage" are becoming more popular. These are known as hybrid systems.
A grid-tied system is the most common type of solar system. It has no solar battery for backup power and utilizes net metering to maximize savings. Solar panels are mounted on your roof then wired together, and the power generated flows into an inverter where direct current (DC) electricity is converted into alternating current (AC) electricity. This electricity is either used by your home or is exported to the utility grid.
In hybrid solar systems, rooftop solar panels are connected to both a solar battery and the electric grid. The solar electricity generated by your panels that your home does not use is stored in the battery instead of being sent to the grid, which reduces your reliance on the utility while also providing backup power when needed. Battery storage is still expensive but you may be able to reduce costs by using state incentives.
Off-grid solar systems are not connected to the grid at all, so all of your energy needs must be met by the sun. There is no utility to fall back on. The solar installation needs to power your home not only during the day, but after dark as well, so many solar panels and a large battery system are required. These systems are often expensive and don’t make sense for homes that have access to the grid.
Read more about types of home solar systems.
No, but cleaning them can improve power generation if they are dirty.
Given this environment, and the effect of import tariffs placed on solar panels by the Trump administration during 2018, it is hard to see that solar power system prices in Washington will fall during 2021.
Depending on the location, solar panels will generate different amounts of electricity.
A solar system that is installed on a south-facing 34-degree pitch roof Washington will generate 1,330kWh of peak DC (direct current) capacity per year per 1kW in the Seattle area.
Enter your details into the solar panel calculator to see how your location, roof tilt, and roof direction impacts solar panel production.
The advantage of installing solar panels in Washington is the state-mandated net metering law, which is key to making solar a worthwhile investment. Couple that with the federal tax credit and you have the potential for great savings.
The main disadvantage of installing solar panels for your home in Washington is that there is less overall sunshine in the state per year, on average. This means a solar system produces less here than it would in sunnier states, such as Arizona. Also, the cost of grid power is cheap in Washington so you get less money back for excess generation than you might in a state with higher electricity prices.
Despite these, there are still ways to save on a solar system that make going solar in Washington an excellent choice.
This solar calculator requires you to input your address, utility company, your average monthly power spend - it tells you:
If you want to see all of the above but also see live pricing, the three best solar deals available in your city and get binding quotes from each of these solar companies then use this Washington solar panels calculator. This calculator requires you to also input your name and contact details because most of our 200+ installer partners will only authorize the sharing of their live solar pricing where we have validated that you are a real homeowner with a home in their service area. We respect the privacy of your data and only share your contact details with the solar companies you ask us to get binding quotes from.
Note: Please keep in mind that the best source of up-to-date information on incentives are the solar installers who specialize in your area.
Some solar installers use inflated estimates of utility price growth to make it seem like savings will be higher than they likely will. It’s time to stop.