U.S. officials are blocking the import of solar panels from China they believe may have been produced using forced labor. Experts warn the move may slow President Biden's push for more renewable energy projects.
Industry executives and analysts said solar panels from at least three Chinese companies have been targeted in recent weeks and several product detentions were confirmed by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), The Washington Post reported.
According to CNN, China's Xinjiang region has evolved over the last two decades into a major production hub for solar panel parts supplying the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the report In Broad Daylight: Uyghur Forced Labour and Global Solar Supply Chains published in May of this year by Sheffield Hallam University suggested that much of the work to put together those parts might rely on forced labor. The companies have been exploiting the region's Uyghur population and other ethnic and religious minorities to produce goods for the global supply chain of solar panels, the report said.
In June, CBP banned imports of silica-based products made by Hoshine Silicon Industry Company as well as goods made using those products. The company is the world's largest producer of metallurgical-grade silicon, a key raw material used in solar panels, the news report said. At the time, The Washington Post reported that the ban could have "widespread impact" on the entire solar energy industry, which is dominated by Chinese suppliers who source materials from Hoshine.
"Almost the complete solar industry is affected by Hoshine," Johannes Bernreuter, a research analyst with expertise in the solar supply chain, told The Post.
When it announced the protective measure, CBP said it had information "reasonably indicating" that Hoshine's plants in China's Xinjiang region use forced labor, The New York Times reported. This finding triggered a ban under a U.S. law prohibiting the import of goods made by coerced workers.
CBP officials estimated that the United States has imported at least $150 million in products made with Hoshine materials over the last 2½ years, as well as more than $6 million of direct imports from the company.
Solar is currently the fastest-growing source of new electricity generation in the United States. The Biden administration hopes to boost the alternative energy from 3% of electricity generation to more than 40% by 2035. The administration has also set a goal of 100% of the U.S. electricity to come from carbon-free sources by 2035, The Times reported. This can include alternative energy sources such as solar, wind or nuclear. Prior to this ban, Biden had hoped to meet this lofty goal by more than doubling the annual pace of solar installations nationwide and cutting the price of solar panels by more than half, the news report said.
Chinese companies currently dominate the global production of solar panels, so cutting off that supply could make it harder and/or more costly to grow the solar industry domestically. Some industry leaders have voiced concern that further implementation of the ban could slow the construction of new solar-energy projects throughout the country.
The ban also "brings to the fore the tension between the [Biden] administration's human rights agenda and its efforts to address the climate crisis," The Washington Post reported.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who oversees CBP, has said the administration remains committed to renewable energy but that it will not tolerate human rights abuses. He said, "Our environmental goals will not be achieved on the backs of human beings in a forced-labor environment," The Times reported.
Mark Widmar, chief executive of First Solar, told The Post that CBP enforcement actions have "had a real significant disruption to a lot of planned projects and their ability to complete them this year. It's going to be very challenging, very difficult." First Solar is a U.S.-based panel manufacturer that doesn't use Chinese materials.
When addressing the ban's impacts, Mayorkas concluded, "But, and this is very important, we're going to root out forced labor wherever it exists, and we'll look for alternative products to achieve the environmental impacts that are a critical goal of this administration."
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Residential solar energy systems provide homeowners with a way to minimize their environmental impact and reduce their dependence on electric utilities. One of the biggest obstacles to going solar is the cost of installation, but thankfully, there are a number of solar financing options that homeowners can choose from.
In this article, we'll break down avenues for solar financing including paying in cash, taking out a loan and solar panel leasing. Read on to learn which option might be the best choice for you.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on for and is not intended to provide accounting, legal or tax advice.
Most Common Solar Financing Options to Choose From
When buying solar panels, there are generally three ways for homeowners to pay for their systems: cash, loan or lease. Here's a brief overview of these financing options:
- Pay in cash: The simplest way to purchase solar equipment is in cash. This way, you own the system outright and do not have to pay any kind of interest on it.
- Solar loan: A solar loan is similar to a home improvement loan — it's money you can borrow to cover the cost of solar panels, then pay back over an extended period of time (usually with interest).
- Solar lease: With a solar lease or power purchase agreement, you don't actually own the solar panels on your roof. Instead, you lease them from a solar installer and pay a fixed monthly amount to get electricity that is generated by your home's solar system.
Paying for Solar Panels in Cash
For homeowners who wish to maximize their savings, paying in cash is the optimal way to go. After all, by buying a residential solar system outright, you're essentially paying in advance for 25 to 30 years of electricity to use in your home. This means your energy rates are locked in for decades, and you don't have to worry about inflation or rising utility costs.
The big problem with paying in cash is that the upfront cost of solar equipment tends to be fairly high. Even when you take into account tax incentives and rebates, you're looking at an investment of at least $10,000 to $15,000. This isn't going to be feasible for every homeowner.
Solar Financing Through Loans
Another option is to borrow money from a solar lender, using it to finance your solar installation, then paying it back over time. The most common types of solar loans include unsecured personal loans, home equity loans or lines of credit, and in-house financing through your solar panel installation company.
If you choose a loan as your solar financing route, pay special attention to interest rates and loan terms. How much you pay in interest and your repayment period will often increase the overall cost of your renewable energy system. However, rest assured that homeowners who finance their systems with a loan are still eligible for the federal solar investment tax credit, which may make it a bit easier to pay off that loan.
Some states and local governments have low-interest loan programs for clean energy systems that homeowners can take advantage of. If you're interested in paying for a solar installation via a loan, make sure you research state or municipal programs that are available to you.
Leasing Solar Panels
Homeowners may also choose to either lease their solar panels or participate in a power purchase agreement (PPA), through which you buy the electricity the panels on your roof are producing.
Solar leases and PPAs are pretty similar, but with one significant difference: A solar lease means you're making fixed monthly payments to use solar panels and other solar equipment, whereas a PPA means you're making monthly payments simply for the electricity produced by solar panels. Naturally, the amount of electricity may fluctuate quite a bit from month to month.
Solar leases can seem attractive at first, but for most homeowners, they don't make much financial sense. One reason for this is that homeowners in PPAs or leases are not eligible for the federal solar tax credit. Another thing to note is that solar leases don't enhance your property values, which can be one of the big financial incentives of a residential solar system. Other financing options will allow you to save a lot more money in the long run.
Saving Money on Solar Power
While the initial solar investment can be steep, there are options available to homeowners who wish to save money on their solar installation.
- Federal solar tax credit: Currently, installing a solar system qualifies you for a tax credit that's worth 26% of the total equipment and installation cost. (This number is set to decline in the coming years, so to take full advantage of it, act soon.)
- Local utility rebates: Many municipal utility companies offer rebates to homeowners who go solar. Research your local utility providers to learn more.
- Net metering: Also see if there is a net metering program available in your area. Net metering gives you the opportunity to funnel any surplus energy you generate back into the electrical grid, in exchange for a credit from your utility company.
- Shopping around: Finally, remember that not all solar installers are created equal. Shop around and compare quotes to ensure you're getting the best value.
To start with a free, no-obligation quote from a top solar company near you, fill out our 30-second form below.
Which Solar Financing Option is Right for You?
Ultimately, the way you choose to pay for your solar panel system will depend on a number of factors, including your expendable income, your credit score and ability to get a good loan rate, and more.
Here's a breakdown of which type of solar panel financing may be right for which homeowners:
|Solar Financing Option||Who it May Be Right For|
|Solar lease or PPA||
Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Financing
What is the best way to finance solar?
If you have the funds, paying in cash is the most advantageous way to finance solar. For those without the funds, a solar loan is usually the best way to go. For most homeowners, leasing doesn't make as much financial sense.
Is financing available for solar?
Yes, there are plenty of ways to finance solar panels. Banks, credit unions and even some solar installers offer their own lines of credit, specifically to be used for installing solar equipment.
Is it smart to finance solar panels?
For those without the funds to buy solar equipment outright, financing solar panels can be a flexible and affordable way to lower monthly utility bills and reduce environmental impact.
Are solar loans worth it?
Taking out a solar loan delays your break-even point, but it still lets you cut your electric bills and enhance your property value. For many homeowners, solar loans are well worth it.
Can you rent solar panels?
Yes, leasing solar panels is an option. However, for most homeowners, it is not financially prudent to do so.
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For nearly as long as solar panels have been gracing rooftops and barren land, creative people have been searching out additional surfaces that can be tiled with energy-generating photovoltaic (PV) panels. The idea has been pretty straightforward: if solar panels generate energy simply by facing the sun, then humans could collectively reduce our reliance on coal, oil, gas and other polluting fuels by maximizing our aggregate solar surface area.
So, what kind of unobstructed surfaces are built in every community and in between every major city across the globe? Highways and streets. With this in mind, the futuristic vision of laying thousands, or even millions, of solar panels on top of the asphalt of interstates and main streets was born.
While the concept art looked like a still from a sci-fi film, many inventors, businesses and investors saw these panels as a golden path toward clean energy and profit. Ultimately, though, the technology and economics ended up letting down those working behind each solar roadway project — from initial concepts in the early 2000s to the first solar roadway actually opened in France in 2016, they all flopped.
In the years since the concept of solar roadways went viral, solar PV has continued to improve in technology and drop in price. So, with a 2021 lens, is it time to re-run the numbers and see if a solar roadway could potentially deliver on that early promise? We dig in to find out.
Solar Roadways: The Original Concept
Solar roadways are complex in execution, but in concept, they're as simple as they sound. They're roads "paved" with extremely strong solar panels that are covered in glass that can withstand environmental stressors and the weight of vehicles driving over them on a consistent basis.
The idea was something that got people really excited when the initial Solar Roadways, Inc. project (which is still seeking funding) burst onto the scene in 2014:
More advanced designs included solar roadways outfitted with LED lights that could be used to illuminate lane lines, communicate to drivers and more. Other iterations included weight sensors that would detect when obstructions were on the road or could alert homeowners if unexpected vehicles were approaching their driveway. Embedding these kinds of technology into the solar roadways renderings only added to their appeal and the initial hype around the concept.
Key Selling Points of Solar Roadways
Early innovators of solar roadways touted the numerous benefits of their ideas. These included:
- Sunlight shines down on roads at no cost, making the energy not only readily available, but also free (aside from installation and maintenance).
- The ability to power street lights with solar roadways eliminated the need to pull extra energy from the grid.
- Having electronics embedded into the roadway opened up a world of possibilities for communicating with drivers in ways that didn't require painting and repainting of roads.
- The ingenuity to attach weight sensors on the solar panels could be used to alert drivers about potential obstructions, such as animals, disabled vehicles or rocks on the road.
- In a future of electric vehicles, the possibilities were seen as even more beneficial, as solar roadways could be used to power electric vehicle charging stations or to charge the cars while they're driving.
While some early thinkers may also have envisioned these roadways sending solar energy to the local power grid, the most impactful way solar roadways could utilize the energy they generated is right around the road itself: lighting street lights, heating mechanisms to melt snow on the roadway, or powering small emergency equipment on road shoulders.
Using the energy for on-road applications would mean that the power didn't have to be sent long distances before being used, which results in energy loss. However, in more rural or remote locations, having the solar roadway energy available for nearby homes and businesses could be a huge benefit, especially if there's an outage in the overall grid.
Why Solar Roadway Tests Have Failed
To much of the general public — and especially to people who weren't well versed in the intricacies of solar panels or road structures — solar roadways seemed like a slam-dunk solution that both looked futuristic and had benefits that went far beyond electricity generation. It was the kind of innovation that had people exclaiming: "How has no one done this yet?!" But in reality, the execution of solar roadways was much more complex than the idea.
Here are a few reasons solar roadway tests have failed:
Cost of Manufacturing and Maintenance
The cost of the energy from the sun may be free, but the investment to install and maintain the solar roadways was undeniably prohibitive. The reason asphalt is used by default to pave roadways is because it is immensely affordable and low-maintenance, which is especially critical on vast, expansive roadways and interstates.
In 2010, Scott Brusaw, co-founder of Solar Roadways, Inc., estimated a square foot of solar roadway would cost about $70. However, when the first solar roadway was built in France by a company called Colas, it measured 1 kilometer and cost $5.2 million to build — or about $1,585 per foot of roadway. Of course, this was a small iteration and bulk manufacturing would cost less, but either way, it's hard to believe the cost of a solar roadway would ever be competitive with the price of asphalt, which is about $3 to $15 per square foot.
Further, the cost and complexity to send a crew to repair individual panels that fail would far outweigh those to maintain asphalt. So, while one of the presumed benefits of solar roadways is the cost savings associated with self-generated energy, even back-of-the-envelope math highlights how the numbers would simply not add up to be more cost-effective in the long run.
Energy Required to Produce the Panels
Another limiting factor appears when considering the energy it takes to make asphalt versus high-durability glass and solar panels. Most asphalt used on roads today is a byproduct of distilling petroleum crude oil for products such as gasoline, which means it makes use of a substance that would otherwise be discarded as waste.
The solar roadway panels, although intended to save energy in the long run, take much more to produce. Typical rooftop solar panels can easily make up for the extra energy used in production because the glass doesn't need to withstand the weight of vehicles driving over them, but solar roadways have that added complexity.
Power Output of the Panels
When estimating power output, early optimists seemed to perform calculations based on the raw surface area they could cover — and not much else. However, beyond the stunted energy generation that any solar panels face on cloudy days or at night, solar roadways presented unique new performance challenges.
For example, vehicles constantly driving over solar roadways would interrupt sun exposure. Plus, they'd leave behind trails of fluid, dirt and dust that can dramatically reduce the efficiency of solar panels. Being installed on the ground is a challenge in itself because of how readily shade would find the roads; that's the reason you find most solar panels on rooftops or elevated off the ground and angled toward the sun.
Issues With Glass Roadways
Lastly, driving on glass surfaces is simply not what modern cars are designed to do. Asphalt and tires grip each other well, being particularly resilient in wet conditions. If the asphalt is replaced with glass — even the textured glass that's used for solar roadways — tire traction could be reduced dramatically. Wet or icy conditions could lead to catastrophic situations on solar roadways.
Could Recent Advances in Solar Technology Bring Solar Roadways Closer to Reality?
For all of these challenges and even more roadblocks that early solar roadway projects have run into in the past, the reality is that solar technology continues to improve. In the seven years since the first Solar Roadways, Inc. video went viral, solar panels have developed to be more durable, more cost-effective and more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity. To put some numbers behind these trends:
- The average solar PV panel cost has dropped about 70% since 2014.
- In 2015, FirstSolar made news with panels that were 18.2% efficient. Today, the most advanced prototypes are able to exceed 45% efficiency.
- Total solar energy capacity in 2021 is nearly six times greater than in 2014, and with that explosion has come advances to flatten the learning curve and increase the general public's acceptance of the benefits of solar.
- Solar jobs have increased 167% in the last decade, giving the industry more capable workers able to take the reins of a solar roadway project and more professionals who know how to affordably install solar.
The question to ask is whether these advances are enough to bring solar roadways from failure to success.
Despite the improvements, many of the original challenges with solar roadways remain, and the scale of execution is immense. Even with decreasing solar PV costs, outfitting long stretches of roadway with such complex technologies will require tremendous capital.
Rather than a future where solar roadways cover the country from coast to coast, a more likely outcome is that these advances will bring solar roadways to viability in narrow, niche applications.
Just like tidal energy is a great opportunity for small coastal communities but can't be scaled to solve the energy crisis across the world, it's conceivable that limited-scope solar roadways could be constructed around the world. However, large-scale solar roadways may never be more than a pipe dream.
Solar power represents one of the best, most reliable forms of renewable energy. Homeowners who install solar panels can harness the sun's energy and convert it to usable electric current. In the process, they can curb or even eliminate their dependence on utility companies, and dramatically scale back their ecological impact.
Solar energy tends to be most advantageous in states that get consistent sun exposure year-round, such as Utah. Naturally, communities throughout the Beehive State have shown an admirable commitment to solar power. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Utah installed the tenth-most solar of any state in 2020, and the ninth-most during the first quarter of 2021. But what are the top cities for solar in Utah? Let's investigate.
Top 10 Cities for Solar in Utah
When narrowing down the 10 cities leading Utah's charge toward clean energy, we looked at sources including solar power generation data from the Energy Information Administration, maps from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the latest Shining Cities report from Environment America.
Based on this data, the following are the top cities for solar in Utah:
- Salt Lake City
- Park City
- St. George
- Castle Valley
1. Salt Lake City
According to the Shining Cities report, Salt Lake City is one of the brightest "solar stars" in the nation. The report ranks the city No. 11 in the country for per-capita solar installation, or watts of DC current per person. It's also one of more than two dozen Utah municipalities that have pledged to use net-100% renewable energy by the year 2030.
Provo, south of Salt Lake City, is consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in the entire U.S. — and it's certainly a good place for solar enthusiasts. NREL maps show that consistent year-round sun exposure makes Provo well-suited for residential solar installation.
3. Park City
Park City is another municipality that has pledged to use 100% renewable energy by the year 2030, and it has a separate goal of using 100% renewable electricity for all city operations by 2022. To incentivize homeowners to go solar, the city has waived all building permit and site inspection fees for new solar installations.
4. St. George
Located close to the Arizona border, St. George is a city filled with sand dunes, desert vistas and, of course, plenty of sunlight to keep solar panels humming. In fact, the city gets an average of 255 sunny days per year — 50 more days than the average U.S. city.
This ski hub and outdoor mountain town is another municipality taking steps toward solar adoption. Ogden City Council recently voted to enter Utah's program to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030.
Another snowy, ski-lovers paradise, Alta is also part of the pledge to use net-100% renewable energy by the year 2030. It has already installed nearly 100 solar panels on ski patrol structures, ski shops and government buildings.
7. Castle Valley
Castle Valley, just east of Utah's iconic Arches National Park, is another solar leader. In 2017, Castle Valley became the first city in the state to use 100% renewable energy, generating all of its electricity through solar panels and renewable energy credits from Rocky Mountain Power.
Orem is home to the corporate headquarters of Blue Raven Solar, one of the top solar companies not only in Utah, but in many other parts of the U.S. as well. As a municipality, it has also pledged to use 100% renewable energy by 2030.
The gateway to Zion National Park, Springdale is a more tourist-driven town. But it has signed on as a participant in Utah's program to transition to 100% renewables by 2030. Inside the park, photovoltaic panels have already been installed on the south-facing roof of the visitors center, and the Zion Lodge has a solar array and a thermal solar water heater installed as well.
Logan, located in the northern part of the state, has its own net metering program that residents are able to enroll in after installing solar panels. It also has a Green Power Program, which allows Logan City Light & Power customers to purchase "green blocks" of renewable energy at a rate of $2 per 100 kWh.
Where Solar Panels Work Best
There are a few factors that can make a city particularly well-suited for solar installation. Of course, the most important factor is the amount of sunlight the city gets from season to season. Utah's cities tend to fare pretty well in this regard, even the more mountainous and snowy locations.
Something else that makes a city well-suited for solar power is high energy costs. If a city has expensive electricity, then homeowners tend to save more money by switching to solar. By contrast, if utilities are already low, solar savings will be more modest.
Average Utah Electricity Costs
The average household monthly consumption of electricity is 727 kWh in Utah, while the average monthly residential electric bill is $75.63. This is by far the lowest rate of any state in the region, well behind neighboring states such as Arizona ($126.09 per month), Nevada ($106.83) and even New Mexico ($80.04).
Utah Solar Tax Incentives
Utah residents have a number of financial incentives for investing in solar power beyond their month-to-month utility savings. Specifically, Utah offers a residential solar tax credit. However, this credit is phasing out, which means the value of the credit isn't as high as it used to be.
For installations completed in 2021, the maximum tax credit will be $1,200. In the year to come, the tax credit will be capped at $800. In 2023, it will go down to $400. After that, unless the state's legislature extends the credit, the program will be phased out completely.
Also note that Utah offers net metering, which means that if your solar panels generate more electricity than you really need, you can feed it back into the power grid in exchange for credits.
Federal Solar Tax Credits
In Utah, as in the rest of the country, homeowners can also claim a 26% tax credit when they install a residential solar system. This credit exists to make solar installation more affordable and more widely accessible.
Utah Solar Regulations
Though Utah does not have a ton of solar regulations to be aware of, there are a couple that are worth noting:
- Senate Bill 154 limits the power of homeowners associations to restrict solar installations within their communities.
- Utah also has laws to protect solar easements, which are written agreements between property owners to protect long-term access to sunlight.
Final Thoughts: Top Cities for Solar in Utah
Utah is a city leading the charge toward solar in the U.S., but there's always room for improvement. If your city didn't make our top list of solar stars in Utah, there are a few ways to raise your area's solar profile. These include:
- Installing a solar PV system on your own roof
- Educating your neighbors about the benefits of solar energy
- If your city has not already joined Utah's commitment to 100% renewable energy, contact your elected officials to urge for stricter goals
Many homeowners can benefit from installing solar panels, harnessing the sun's energy to help reduce or even eliminate their dependence on traditional utilities. Although solar panels can be expensive, solar loans make residential systems more accessible to homeowners.
Indeed, if you live in an area that gets consistent year-round exposure to the sun, solar panels can be an effective way to lower your home's energy costs while minimizing your environmental footprint. The biggest obstacle to solar adoption is the initial cost of solar panels.
All in, solar panel installation costs typically range from $10,000 to $35,000. In this article, we'll explain how solar loans can make that initial investment much easier to handle.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on for and is not intended to provide accounting, legal or tax advice.
Solar Loan Basics
So, how do solar loans work, exactly? Well, they're similar to home improvement loans, or any other type of purchase loan: They enable you to buy a residential solar system and pay it off over time.
There are plenty of solar loan options to choose from. For example, to finance solar panels, you can typically choose from any of the following:
- An unsecured personal loan
- A home equity loan or line of credit
- In-house financing through your solar installation company
For the most part, the terms and conditions of solar loans mimic those of any other standard loan. Specifically:
- Getting a lower interest rate means having a lower overall cost to borrow.
- A shorter loan term generally means higher monthly loan payments but a lower overall cost to borrow.
- Loans are available in a wide array of interest rates, term lengths, loan amounts, credit requirements, etc.
An important thing to note is that homeowners who finance their solar energy systems with a loan are still eligible for the federal solar tax credit. This gives you a credit worth 26% of your total solar installation costs.
How to Choose the Right Solar Loan
As you seek the best solar loan for your situation, there are a number of factors to keep in mind. These include:
- Monthly payment amount: If you end up choosing a shorter loan term (i.e., a loan that you must pay off in a shorter amount of time), your monthly payments will probably be higher. The overall cost of the loan will be lower, but it's nevertheless important to consider the impact on your household budget.
- Down payment amount: Depending on the loan you choose, you may or may not be required to put down a payment on the solar panels. Generally, larger down payments will mean lower interest rates and a more affordable loan overall.
- Fees: Some solar lenders may charge prepayment penalties or monthly fees in addition to your monthly principal and interest payments. Always make sure you get fee information upfront, so as to ensure there are no surprises on your loan statement.
Secured Vs. Unsecured Solar Loans
Another important factor to consider is whether you'll get a secured solar loan or an unsecured solar loan. Here's what homeowners should know about these two options:
- Secured loans are usually connected to some piece of collateral, such as a piece of equity in your house; this provides the lender with some protection. If you fail to make your payments, the lender can claim their piece of collateral. Because the lender has some insurance, secured loans usually offer lower interest rates and more favorable terms overall.
- Unsecured loans do not have any collateral or security provisions for the lender. They represent a greater risk on the lender's part, and thus usually come with higher interest rates and less favorable terms.
Ultimately, the decision about which type of loan to seek comes down to this question: Do you have enough equity in your home to take out a secured loan? If so, and if you are willing to use some of that home equity to pay for solar panels, then a secured loan may be the smarter choice overall.
How to Get Low Interest Rates for Solar Loans
In addition to choosing the right type of loan, there are other steps you can take to keep your interest rates manageable when you finance a solar panel system:
- Shop around: It's usually best not to go with the very first lender you find. Spend some time shopping around and comparing rates. Most lenders will give you a free quote that's good for a number of days while you compare offers from other companies.
- Have someone co-sign: Having a co-signer on your solar loan — especially one with excellent credit — creates extra assurances for the lender and will usually result in more favorable rates.
- Improve your credit score: There are several ways to improve your credit score to get a lower interest rate on a solar loan. For example, you can pay down old debts and credit card balances, be on time with monthly bill payments, and ensure you don't open any new credit cards as you apply for your solar loan.
Also be aware that there are things you can do to pay less over time other than getting a lower interest rate. Examples include choosing a shorter repayment period, looking for discounts like paperless or auto-pay discounts, avoiding loans with high fees and, if applicable, making a more substantial down payment.
Local Solar Loan Programs
Homeowners who are interested in going solar should also know about Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loan programs. According to the Department of Energy, PACE programs "allow a property owner to finance the up-front cost of energy or other eligible improvements on a property and then pay the costs back over time through a voluntary assessment." What makes these programs unique is that the assessment is tied to the property itself, not to the individual.
PACE financing legislation exists in some form in 36 states plus Washington D.C. A handful of states have separate loan programs for homeowners interested in solar. Here are some current programs worth knowing about:
|State||Solar Loan Program||
|Connecticut||Energy Conservation Loan Program||$25,000||0% to 7%||12 years|
|Louisiana||Home Energy Loan Program (HELP)||$6,000||2%||5 years|
|Michigan||Michigan Saves Home Energy Financing||$50,000||4.44% to 7.90%||15 years|
|North Carolina||State-regulated municipal loan options||Varies||Up to 8%||20 years|
Energy Conservation for Ohioans
3% APR reduction
on bank loans
Additionally, certain municipalities and local utility companies may offer low-interest solar loans. We recommend researching your specific area before turning to banks or credit institutions.
Where to Get a Solar Loan
If your state doesn't have its own solar energy loan program or you're not eligible for enrollment, there are plenty of other places to get solar loans. Some of the best places to check include:
- Credit unions
- Lending institutions
- In-house financing through your solar installer (which will come from a third-party solar lender)
Again, it's crucial to shop around and compare rates before deciding on which solar lender is the best fit for your needs. To get started with a free quote and find solar loan information from a top solar company in your area, you can fill out the form below.
Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Loans
Are solar loans worth it?
There are various factors to consider as you decide whether getting a solar loan is worth it. Solar loans help you increase the value of your property, lower utility bills, minimize your impact on the environment and potentially claim some tax incentives. Then again, financing does decrease your overall savings, and extends the break-even point for your residential solar system.
Do banks do solar loans?
Some banks do offer solar loans, though often with interest rates that exceed what you'd pay elsewhere. It may be worth checking with your local bank, but always remember to shop around and compare.
What is the best way to finance solar?
If you have sufficient home equity, a secured solar loan is often the most cost-effective approach. If you don't have sufficient home equity, an unsecured solar loan can work just fine.
What type of loan is a solar panel loan?
Solar panel loans are generally considered to be a type of personal loan, similar to a home improvement loan.
Can you buy a solar battery with a solar loan?
Most often the answer is yes, but make sure you double-check the terms of your loan.
When you think of states that have made a heavy investment in solar energy, Virginia may not be at the top of your list. Yet in recent years, Virginians have made a massive amount of progress; in 2019, the state was ranked No. 19 in the country for solar installation, and in 2020 it jumped to No. 4.
But what are the top cities for solar in Virginia? We've done some digging and come up with a comprehensive list.
Top 10 Cities for Solar in Virginia
When narrowing down the top cities for solar in Virginia, EcoWatch took into consideration solar power generation data from the Energy Information Institute, maps on solar irradiance and potential from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, local government websites and Environment America's latest Shining Cities report.
Based on this information, the top cities for solar in Virginia are as follows:
- Virginia Beach
- Newport News
Virginia's capital city ranks first in the state and 49th in the nation for total solar PV installations. According to the Shining Cities report, there are over 22 watts of solar installed per person in Richmond.
2. Virginia Beach
Although Virginia Beach is better-known for its large offshore wind energy farm, the popular tourist destination ranks second in Virginia and 61st in the nation for total solar PV installations. There are currently over five watts installed per person, per the Shining Cities report.
Alexandria earned a SolSmart Gold designation in July 2020, which is the highest designation given by the program. The city also boasts an impressive portfolio of new and promising renewable energy programs, solar feasibility studies and more.
NREL's Solar for All maps show that Norfolk boasts one of the highest potentials for solar energy generation and roof-mount capacity. Major corporations have already adopted solar in the area — the IKEA store in Norfolk even features a 180,000-square-foot solar array.
In 2012, Roanoke participated in the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Challenge with the goal of curbing energy use by 20% across 1 million square feet of building space by 2022. In 2018, Roanoke achieved that goal with a 23% energy reduction. The city remains committed to clean energy, as evidenced by its impressive Solarize Roanoke project.
Fairfax has also been designated a SolSmart Gold city and has its own Solarize Fairfax County initiative. This project, which gives residents access to free solar assessments, bulk-purchasing discounts, discounted solar batteries and more, has concluded for the 2021 season but may well return in 2022.
In addition to a city-specific solar tax credit and a Solarize Charlottesville program, the city has started putting solar panels on government buildings. Among the solarized buildings are Charlottesville High School, the City Facilities Maintenance Building and the ecoREMOD Energy House.
8. Newport News
This coastal city receives a lot of sunshine… some 215 days a year, in fact. It's no surprise, then, that NREL maps show a high capacity for rooftop solar and an above-average number of buildings suitable for solar.
According to NREL data, Danville has a high potential for rooftop solar capacity and generation, and the city is doing its part to help residents make the switch to clean energy. It has developed its own net metering program for residential solar installations up to 10 kW, as well as invested in two solar farms that are producing about 10 MW of energy to be used by Danville Utilities customers.
In March of 2014, Blacksburg became the first community in Virginia to launch a Solarize campaign, and NREL maps show it has a high potential for solar generation. This SolSmart Silver city offers many solar-focused resources for residents, including a solar panel installation checklist, information for those interested in solar jobs and guidance on solar access within the state.
Where Solar Panels Work Best
While there are many solar-smart cities in Virginia, some are better suited than others for PV installation. The best cities for solar include those that have:
- Decent sun exposure: Cities that get consistent year-round sunlight tend to be good places to invest in solar, hence the coastal communities we've included on our list.
- High local utility costs: Solar power tends to be more valuable in cities that have high electrical costs. More on that in a moment.
- Local rebates and incentives: Some cities make solar investment more attractive by implementing local net metering programs, tax rebates or other financial incentives.
Average Virginia Electricity Costs
As mentioned, residents in places with higher electricity costs stand to benefit more from installing solar panels. In Virginia, the average monthly electrical consumption is 1,122 kWh, which is roughly on par with nearby states such as South Carolina and West Virginia, though a bit higher than in Maryland or Washington, D.C. The average monthly electric bill is $135.46, which is on the high side compared to most neighboring states.
Virginia Solar Tax Incentives
Homeowners in Virginia can take advantage of a few solar tax exemptions and incentives to help offset the cost of solar panels. For example, there is a property tax exemption, which means that although solar panels will increase the value of a home, they will not increase your property taxes. Virginia also has a state-wide net metering program, which means that any surplus energy generated by solar panels can be fed back into the electric grid in exchange for credits from your utility company.
Federal Solar Tax Credits
Homeowners in Virginia (and anywhere else in the country) can also claim a residential federal tax credit worth 26% of their total solar installation cost. This can offset the initial investment expenditure considerably, but keep in mind that this credit may be phased out by 2023 unless Congress acts swiftly to renew it.
Virginia Solar Regulations
There are a few laws that impact solar adoption in Virginia. Some notable examples include:
- The Solar Rights law protects the rights of homeowners to install solar panels, without being obstructed by their homeowners association or other community association. HOAs do have some leeway to regulate the aesthetics of solar installations, however.
- Virginia's Zero Carbon Bill will create more than 30,000 solar jobs by the year 2030.
- The Virginia Clean Economy Act is set to create a number of new incentives for homeowners to go solar. It also creates robust clean energy standards for utility companies and fines providers unable to meet those standards.
Final Thoughts: Top Cities for Solar in Virginia
Solar energy presents a valuable opportunity for homeowners to lower electric bills, reduce their impact on the environment and become less dependent on traditional utilities. However, in Virginia, some cities are more solar-forward than others. If you didn't see your city on this list (and even if you did), there are plenty of ways individuals can push for more solar power in their areas. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Install solar panels on your home
- Educate your neighbors about the benefits of solar energy
- Reach out to your elected officials and urge them to set strict renewable energy goals
Solar energy is most frequently associated with states smack in the middle of the Sun Belt. And yet, there are some notable outliers, with New York being foremost among them. According to data from the Solar Energy Industries Association, New York installed the eighth-most solar of any state in 2020. And in the first quarter of 2021, New York was ranked No. 10 in the nation for solar installations.
There are a number of reasons New York tends to be a top state for solar, not least of which is its excellent solar incentives. However, some cities in New York are more commendable in their solar investment than others. In this article, we'll rank the top 10 top cities for solar in New York.
Top 10 Cities for Solar in New York
EcoWatch narrowed down these cities based on solar power generation data compiled by the Energy Information Administration, annual solar irradiance and Solar For All maps from National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the most recent Shining Cities report from Environment America.
Based on this research, here are the top 10 cities for solar energy in New York:
- New York City
- Oyster Bay
1. New York City
It's no surprise that magnificent New York City leads solar panel installation in the Empire State. According to Environment America, New York City is ranked No. 6 in the entire country for total installed solar PV capacity, coming in just behind Los Angeles, San Diego, Honolulu, Phoenix and San Antonio.
The Shining Cities report lists Buffalo as another of the nation's solar leaders, as it has over 30 watts installed solar PV per person. Overall, it ranks 40th in the U.S. for total installed solar wattage.
A coastal suburb of New York City, Brookhaven gets a decent amount of exposure to the sun all year long, making it ideally positioned for solar investment. It is also home to the Long Island Solar Farm, one of the largest photovoltaic arrays on the East Coast.
Huntington, on Long Island, gets plenty of natural light year-round, meaning it's a good place to commit to solar power. According to NREL maps, Huntington is located within the portion of the state that has the highest potential for solar power generation in the state of New York.
Southwest of Huntington, Hempstead is another high-sunlight city, and both residents and the local government have taken advantage of this with investments in clean, renewable energy. The city installed a number of solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations, as well as a solar- and wind-powered shellfish nursery to improve the area's clam beds.
One of the most populous cities in the state, Amherst is full of solar adopters who have committed heavily to solar energy. The town is located in western New York and has made leaps toward embracing solar on public buildings. It currently has solar arrays that power a community center and a water pollution control facility, and it is now looking to install panels at other government buildings, police stations, libraries and more.
Located on Lake Ontario, this old industrial town has one of the state's highest potentials for solar generation, according to NREL maps. It also has an above-average number of single-family homes that are already well-suited for solar PV installations.
Syracuse is one of the cloudiest cities in the U.S., but luckily, solar panels still work on cloudy days. The Upstate New York city is quickly becoming a hotspot for solar energy, with multiple companies proposing solar farms in Syracuse suburbs.
The city recently launched a partnership with nonprofits Sustainable Westchester and Groundwork Hudson Valley to launch five community solar projects throughout the city. This will give residents up to 10% off their electricity bills while also making strides toward a greener local energy supply.
10. Oyster Bay
Situated on the north shore of Long Island, Oyster Bay gets enough sun exposure to make it a great place for solar power. It's located next to Huntington, and NREL maps show it shares the city's high potential for solar power generation.
Where Solar Panels Work Best
What makes a community especially well-suited for solar power?
There are a couple of important factors to consider. One, of course, is exposure to sunlight throughout the course of the year. New York isn't quite as sun-soaked as, say, Arizona, Texas or Florida. With that said, there are a number of communities in New York that get decent solar exposure — enough to make solar energy viable.
Also, it doesn't have to be hot outside for solar panels to produce energy. In fact, solar panels, like most appliances, work most efficiently in cooler temperatures.
Another consideration is local electricity costs. In places where utilities are expensive, homeowners can realize big savings when they switch to solar. But when electricity is already pretty inexpensive, solar savings tend to be more modest.
Average New York Electricity Costs
So, how much does electrical power cost in the state of New York?
According to data from the EIA, New York's annual monthly consumption of electricity is 577 kWh, which is actually quite a bit less than in neighboring states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The average monthly cost of electricity is $103.60; again, this is less than in neighboring states, but only slightly.
New York Solar Tax Incentives
One of the reasons why New York is such a great state for solar is that there are so many financial incentives available. In fact, it's one of the top states for solar tax incentives in the U.S.
Start with the net metering program. The statewide net metering program allows homeowners to feed any surplus power their panels generate back into the electrical grid. This results in financial credits that can be used when they need to pull energy from the grid, such as to power their homes at night.
Additional tax incentives available to New York homeowners include:
- NY-Sun Megawatt Block incentive: This New York State incentive allows homeowners to claim a dollars-per-watt ($/W) cash rebate for their systems.
- Solar Energy System Equipment Credit: Residents can deduct up to $5,000 or 25% of total solar energy expenses (whichever is lower) from their taxes. This is available for homeowners who are leasing solar panels as well.
- State sales tax exemption: Homeowners do not pay the state's 4% sales tax when they purchase solar equipment.
Federal Solar Tax Incentives
It's also important to note that all Americans can claim the federal solar tax credit, which is worth 26% of their total investment. This credit exists to make the cost of solar panels even more accessible to homeowners.
New York Solar Regulations
New York State has a number of laws on the books that pertain to solar energy, and for the most part, they all represent a significant commitment to clean, renewable power sources. One good example is the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth Act, which calls for large-scale solar projects throughout the state. Another is the praiseworthy NY-Sun program, which offers incentives to communities that wish to develop shared solar resources and community solar programs.
And last but certainly not least, there's the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in July 2019 and requires New York to obtain 70% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030.
Final Thoughts: Top Cities for Solar in New York
The Empire State's commitment to renewable energy shines through its gracious financial incentives and many cities pivoting toward solar power.
If your city didn't earn a spot on our list of the top cities for solar in New York, there are a few things you can do to increase your area's solar profile. For example, you can urge your elected officials to adopt renewable energy goals, educate your neighbors on the benefits of solar and, of course, install a solar PV system on your own rooftop.
By doing these things, you can impact the future of clean energy in New York.
The COVID-19 Delta variant has left businesses and schools across the country backpedaling from their goals for more integrated, in-person participation.
In many areas, virtual learning and remote work are becoming the norm once again, and often, this comes with a significant increase in residential energy consumption. For those concerned about increased electric bills and a greater carbon footprint, however, researchers say solar energy could prove effective in offsetting the costs of working and learning from home.
Turning Back to Virtual Learning
Although most school districts across the country opened back up with the intention of holding 100% in-person classes, spreading of the Delta variant has already forced many classrooms into stints of remote learning.
As the Los Angeles Times recently reported, "a cluster of three or more potentially linked cases at one school over 14 days could represent an outbreak and could lead to having a group of students or even a class quarantine at home."
As of August 24, at least 80 school districts have been forced to halt in-person instruction in some capacity due to viral outbreaks.
At the end of the last academic year, an elementary school teacher in Marin County, California, who had not been vaccinated against COVID-19 infected at least 12 students while experiencing mild symptoms, according to a recent CDC report. The majority of her class was ineligible for vaccination, due to their age.
Cases like this illuminate the obstacles that schools are facing in their efforts to protect students. Eight states have passed laws banning mask mandates in public schools, and because students younger than 12 years of age are ineligible for vaccination, classrooms can quickly become hotspots. This forces students to quarantine and learn remotely, which raises energy consumption within homes.
A Bright Future for Remote Work
Some of the most successful companies in the world have maintained and refined opportunities for remote work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these corporations are moving toward permanent implantation of remote and hybrid working models, especially in industries like software, finance and media.
Studies suggest that these models could prove wildly successful, even in a post-pandemic era, not only because they expose employees to fewer health risks, but also because they promote higher productivity and greater mental wellness.
According to LinkedIn's 2020 Workforce Confidence Index, about half of the country's working professionals believe that their industry can operate successfully in a remote setting.
Minimizing Energy Costs and Environmental Impacts of Virtual Meetings
Increased use of home appliances, electronics, heating and air conditioning all contribute to higher electric bills and a greater carbon footprint for those working and learning from home.
At the onset of the pandemic, residential energy consumption increased by up to 10% and energy bills for remote workers increased by up to $50 per month, according to a study by Dr. Steve Cicala, a research fellow for the National Bureau of Economic Research and associate professor at Tufts University.
"The relative energy intensity of heating and cooling the entire homes of employees rather than a single office suggests that the future of working from home is not as green as one might think based on reduced commuting alone," Cicala writes in the study.
Drawing from solar panels could actually be the cleanest, most energy-efficient and cost-effective strategy to offset the energy costs of working from home. But is it worth installing solar panels on your home to offset increased energy costs due to COVID-19 quarantining?
"If people think they might be working from home and using more electricity long term, this would be a good time to think about prospective efficiency improvements," Cicala says in an interview with Tufts, "LEDs instead of old bulbs and plasma TVs, rooftop or community solar to spin the meter back a bit, or perhaps updating some old power-hungry appliances around the house."
Although market barriers and soft costs limit the expansion of the solar industry, the average cost of solar panels has dropped by more than 70% in the last decade. Federal solar tax credits can further reduce the cost of installation by 26%, and some states also offer their own incentives.
Beyond slashing costs, powering homes with solar energy can support the electric grid through net metering. This credits residences that produce more energy than they consume and allows them to export excess energy to the grid, providing surrounding consumers with clean energy.
While the barriers for entry are higher in certain states, solar panels are becoming more universally accessible. As remote work and schooling become the "new normal" once again, solar energy could be vital in preventing further financial and environmental crises related to the pandemic.
Solar energy is growing in popularity — especially amongst homeowners who are looking to reduce their carbon footprints, lower their electric bills and move away from being dependent on traditional forms of energy. Nicknamed the "Sunshine State," it's no surprise Florida has been a top state for solar installation in the U.S.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the state of Florida has the fourth-highest solar installation rate in the country, lagging just behind North Carolina, Texas and California. The state's total solar investment clocks in at $9.6 billion — and that number is only expected to grow.
Of course, even in one of the sunniest states in America, solar energy is more popular in certain geographic areas than others, which may leave you wondering: What are the top cities for solar in Florida?
Top 10 Cities for Solar in Florida
To narrow down the top cities for solar energy in Florida, our team compiled and examined reports generated by the SEIA and Energy Information Administration, solar generation maps from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the latest Shining Cities report from Environment America.
Based on our research, we have deemed the following 10 cities to be hubs for solar energy in Florida:
- Fort Myers
- Fort Lauderdale
- West Palm Beach
- St. Petersburg
- Winter Park
Taking the top spot on our list of top cities for solar in Florida is Jacksonville. In the latest Shining Cities report, Jax ranked No. 13 in the country for total installed solar PV capacity, outranking places including Austin, Texas; San Francisco; and New Orleans. The city has implemented a number of programs to make solar more accessible to its residents, including a rebate of $4,000 per home on solar battery purchases.
Tampa is another solar leader in the Sunshine State, boasting a solar installation rate that averages out to 42 watts per resident (as of December 2019). With an average of 246 sunny days annually, the city is well situated to truly reap the benefits of solar. Summers are hot, and while the area is humid in certain months, the winter and early spring are mild and dry.
Orlando comes in just below Tampa with about 35 watts of solar PV per person through the end of 2019. Nestled snug in the middle of the state, the city is exposed to ample sunshine year-round, making solar energy a natural choice to combat high traditional electric bills, and residents have eagerly embraced the utility cost savings that solar can offer.
The southernmost city on this list, Miami has a tropical climate with pleasantly warm winters and long and muggy summers — as well as plenty of sun. Yes, the area gets its share of rain, but that doesn't stand in the way of solar being a great investment for residents. The city of Miami is fast-tracking its solar panel installation: It has about 10 watts installed per person, and that number is steadily increasing.
5. Fort Myers
NREL maps show Fort Myers has one of the most highly concentrated potentials for rooftop solar generation in the state. Something else that makes this Southwest Florida city stand out is its proximity to Babcock Ranch, the first solar-powered town in America. The planned community is located just 25 miles north of Fort Myers.
6. Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, receives over 3,000 hours of yearly sunshine. And rightfully so, the city has recognized the need to harness the power of natural sunlight to produce clean energy. Fort Lauderdale is an active participant in the GoSolar Broward Rooftop Solar Challenge, which is focused on making it easier and more affordable for homeowners to install rooftop solar PV, and has local financing programs and community co-ops to help lower the cost of solar panels.
7. West Palm Beach
Just north of Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach benefits from a tropical climate and abundant sunshine year-round. The city has embraced multiple forms of clean energy and is focused on phasing out oil and coal, while simultaneously boosting solar usage. West Palm Beach seeks to employ at least 30 million solar panels by 2030.
Melbourne is another coastal Florida city that soaks up sunshine all year long. NREL maps show this area has an above-average number of buildings suitable for solar installation, and residents have been cashing in on their prime positioning. One reason for this may be that the average solar investment comes with a sizable return — according to Google's Project Sunroof, Melbourne residents stand to save $8,000 over 20 years after buying solar panels.
9. St. Petersburg
Situated in West Florida just south of Tampa, St. Pete has been nicknamed "The Sunshine City," averaging 361 days of sunshine each year. In fact, the city set a Guinness World Record between 1967 and 1969 for logging 768 days of sunshine. Knowing that, it's probably no surprise NREL maps show the area as having one of the state's highest potentials for rooftop solar energy generation.
10. Winter Park
Winter Park, located just outside of Orlando, was the first city in Central Florida to offer residents PACE financing for solar panels — and its commitment to solar energy has only continued to expand. Recently, the City of Winter Park was even awarded a SolSmart Gold designation for its strides toward renewable energy and its efforts to make installations faster, easier and more affordable for residents.
Where Solar Panels Make the Most Sense
Solar panels generally work best in cities that have regular and constant exposure to sunlight on an annual basis. Additionally, areas where winters tend to be shorter and less harsh stand to benefit more from solar energy. This alone demonstrates why there are so many solar-embracing cities all across Florida.
Renewable energy systems are also more attractive in cities that have adopted incentives for their residents, such as Jacksonville's solar battery rebate program. Many cities that didn't make our top 10 list offer solar rebates and low-interest loan programs, including Longwood, Tallahassee and Lauderhill.
Another factor that goes into where solar makes sense is local energy costs. Generally speaking, Florida's energy costs are high, which makes an investment in solar energy a worthy choice. If this were not the case, and the cost of energy wasn't above average, then the benefits associated with solar energy would be reduced.
Average Florida Electricity Costs
According to the EIA, the average monthly electric bill for a Florida resident is $129.65, with normal monthly consumption totaling 1,108 kWh. Comparing these numbers to other South Atlantic states, Florida is one of the clear leaders in terms of cost and consumption, making solar energy a natural choice for reducing bills as well as minimizing traditional energy output.
Florida Solar Tax Incentives
When considering solar energy, it is also important to learn about any tax rebates or incentives that are provided by the state. Along with city-specific programs, all Florida homeowners can benefit from the following statewide incentives:
|Florida Solar Incentive||Details|
|Property Tax Exemption||
Installing a solar panel system will up the value of your home,
but this mandate ensures you won't have to pay higher property
taxes due to the increased value.
|Sales Tax Exemption||
Florida's 6% sales tax is not applied to the purchase of solar
panels or related installation equipment.
Also worth noting is Florida's net metering program. This is one of the most important regulatory policies pertaining to residential solar owners in Florida. It allows a homeowner to sell excess solar energy that is generated by the grid, resulting in a cost savings.
Federal Solar Tax Credits
On a federal level, Florida residents who invest in solar can also receive a 26% federal solar investment tax credit (ITC). This applies to people who buy their PV system outright either through a cash purchase or through a solar loan or financing.
Florida Solar Regulations
The state of Florida has numerous regulations that must be followed as it pertains to solar energy. The most prominent, however, is the Florida Solar Rights Act. This restricts any person or group, inclusive of homeowners associations, from barring solar or other renewable energy device installation on any building. Additionally, an HOA cannot require that a homeowner's solar system be screened from view by trees, fences, remote roof location or any other means.
All in all, based on the high need to use energy in Florida in order to keep houses cool, solar is a great choice. Plus, residents are well-positioned to receive cost savings by embracing this form of clean, renewable energy.
As homeowners seek new ways to reduce their carbon footprint, minimize their use of traditional forms of energy and lower utility bills, solar power is on the rise. One state that's leading the charge toward earth-friendly power is North Carolina.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Tar Heel State is the third top state for solar installation in the entire U.S. North Carolina's total investment currently tops out at a staggering $10.1 billion, and the state has enough solar installed to power almost 900,000 homes.
Of course, some areas of the state are more solar-forward than others. In this article, we'll take a look at the top cities for solar energy in North Carolina.
Top 10 Cities for Solar in North Carolina
To determine North Carolina's top cities for solar, we examined data provided by a variety of organizations, including generation reports from the Energy Information Administration, capacity maps from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and city-specific analyses by Environment America.
Based on our findings, these are the top 10 cities for solar in North Carolina:
- Chapel Hill
A progressive bastion within the state, there is little wonder why Asheville ranks No. 1 on our list of top solar cities in North Carolina. Asheville aggressively promotes solar energy, even going so far as to offer a rebate on building permits when solar is installed on either residential or commercial properties. Asheville currently has over 89.5 watts of solar capacity installed per person, which is the 18th-highest per-capita installation in the U.S.
As the capital of the state, Raleigh stands central to a few leading universities and is part of the Research Triangle, a major science and technology hub. As such, the area is deeply committed to innovation, so it is no surprise it ranks No. 2 in the state for its adoption of solar. The city has over 23.4 watts of solar PV capacity installed per person.
The Queen City has approximately 14 watts of total installed solar PV per person, and it's likely this number is set to grow as the local government pivots toward solar. Charlotte is currently in the process of transitioning 25% of its municipal buildings' electricity needs to solar energy.
Another part of the Research Triangle region, Durham is known for its technology companies and the fact that it is home to Duke University. The area leans progressive and has the reputation of being North Carolina's " hippest city." Likely because of this, its residents tend to think green and have been eagerly adopting solar as a way of combating climate change.
Situated in the center of the state, Greensboro is a rapidly growing area that encompasses a beautiful and vast natural environment. Residents bask in the abundant Carolina sunshine, and as such, NREL maps show the area has one of the highest potentials for annual solar generation in the state.
6. Chapel Hill
The town of Chapel Hill, also a member of the famed Research Triangle and home to UNC-Chapel Hill, has a focus on research and development that includes renewable energy. The town recently became a member of the U.S. Department of Energy's SolSmart Program, which means it receives federal technical assistance with enhancing opportunities for local solar generation.
Located along the Eastern Seaboard, Wilmington is a beach town that receives constant attention from the sun. The city encourages its residents to embrace conservation, and in a recent survey, 81% of respondents strongly agreed with the city's goal to transition to clean energy, and over half agreed solar was the best way to do so.
Winston-Salem, located near Greensboro as part of the Piedmont Triad area, is another North Carolina city that's promising for future solar installations. According to NREL maps, the city has an above-average number of buildings that are suitable for solar panels, and it has one of the highest roof-mount generation potentials in the state.
Located just outside Raleigh, it's easy to understand Cary's shared values with its sister city. It is one of the fastest-growing cities in the South and attracts Northerners seeking the area's pleasant weather and abundant sunshine in droves. Expect to see Cary's solar adoption continue to grow in the coming years.
Planted just outside of Charlotte, Concord actively partners with NC GreenPower, an independent nonprofit organization that promotes the mission of expanding knowledge and acceptance of clean energy practices, including the adoption of solar. Concord's work has been paying off, as it assumes the 10th spot on our list of the top cities for solar in North Carolina.
Where Does Solar Make the Most Sense?
North Carolina is located in an area of the country known for its long, sunny summers and relatively short winters. This makes the state ideally situated to reap the benefits of solar. Of course, solar is also more attractive in cities that have adopted local financial incentives (more on that below).
The cost of energy can also make solar a better or worse decision. If costs associated with energy tend to be high, homeowners will get a better return on their solar energy investments. Conversely, if energy costs are low, the benefit associated with transitioning to solar energy is not as prevalent.
Average North Carolina Electricity Costs
In North Carolina's case, most homeowners can expect to spend significant amounts of money on utilities, which explains the state's heady move to solar.
Based on a report distributed by the EIA, the average monthly electricity bill for a North Carolina resident is $123.25, with average monthly consumption checking in at 1,079 kWh. These numbers aren't the highest in the South Atlantic region — which also includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia — but they aren't the lowest, either.
Compared with the national average of about $115 per month, North Carolinians pay a decent amount for energy, making the state's residents well-suited to receive considerable solar benefits.
North Carolina Solar Tax Incentives
Along with benefiting from low to nonexistent utility bills, North Carolina residents can take advantage of a few key financial incentives that make solar a more appealing investment. Here is an overview of what North Carolina homeowners should know about the state's tax incentives:
|Incentive||North Carolina Solar Incentive Details|
|Duke Energy solar power rebates||Duke Energy customers who opt to install a solar panel system can receive a rebate of 60 cents per watt for systems up to 10 kW. The program is first-come, first-served, but customers can join a waitlist to receive future benefits when funds run out for the year.|
|Revolving loan options||North Carolina allows for cities and counties to provide low-interest loans for solar panels as well as other energy upgrades. Interest rates on loans cap out at 8%.|
|State property tax exemption||A solar panel system increases the value of your home, but North Carolina residents can rest assured their property taxes will not go up due to a solar-related increase.|
Additionally, the state of North Carolina has a net metering policy that credits homeowners for the excess power that their system generates. The program is administered by two of the state's major power companies, Dominion Energy Virginia and Duke Energy.
Dominion Energy encourages homeowners who use solar to enroll in a net metering program to connect their system to the power grid. The utility will then install a meter that measures a two-way flow of electricity.
Duke Energy's program lets customers who generate electricity from a solar power system offset energy costs and receive a credit on their bill when excess energy is produced.
Federal Solar Tax Credits
Another incentive to be aware of if you live in North Carolina — or anywhere else in the U.S. — is the federal investment tax credit (ITC). This solar tax credit is recognized as one of the major drivers for encouraging Americans to adopt solar. It offers a credit valued at 26% of the cost of a home solar system.
North Carolina Solar Regulations
There are some key regulations that residents of the state of North Carolina need to be informed about as well. For instance, HB589 requires the creation of a rebate program and financing incentives to encourage customer adoption of clean energy like rooftop solar. From this legislation, a Solar Rebate Program has been created that seeks to attract and encourage homeowners interested in clean energy to install solar on their homes.
Another key point of HB589 is the establishment of a Community Solar Program, which allows North Carolina residents to collectively own a solar facility or subscribe to some of that facility's overall output. This program applies to developers, utilities or even a group of neighbors or customers.
The programs established by this bill are currently in development.
Final Thoughts: Top Cities for Solar in North Carolina
It's easy to see why North Carolina is a top state for solar energy in the U.S., but there's still room for improvement. If your city didn't make our top list of the top cities for solar in North Carolina, there are a few ways to raise your area's solar profile.
First, you can install a solar panel system on your own roof and encourage your neighbors to do the same. You can also contact your elected officials (at the local, state and even federal level) to urge for more stringent renewable energy goals. By doing these things, you can play a big part in North Carolina's clean energy future.
Solar energy is a great way for homeowners to curb their dependence on traditional utilities, slashing or even eliminating monthly electric bills and lessening their environmental impact. For those who live in the Sun Belt, solar power can be especially advantageous. As such, it should come as no surprise that Arizona is one of the top states for solar installation.
In fact, data from the Solar Energy Industries Association reveals that Arizona ranks No. 5 in the nation for total solar installations. The question is, what are the top cities for solar in Arizona? In this article, we'll present our comprehensive rankings.
Top 10 Cities for Solar in Arizona
To determine Arizona's top cities for solar energy, EcoWatch analyzed solar generation data from the Energy Information Administration, maps from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the latest Shining Cities report from Environment America.
After synthesizing these data points, we've determined the following places to be the top 10 cities for solar in Arizona:
- Camp Verde
Phoenix isn't just Arizona's leader in solar installation — it's also one of the top solar cities in the entire country. According to the Shining Cities report, Phoenix is ranked No. 8 in the nation in terms of total watts of solar energy installed per capita. That puts it just behind Las Vegas (Nevada's top solar city) and about equal to Riverside (one of the top cities for solar in California).
This desert town outside of Phoenix is known for its luxurious resorts. It's a great destination for golfing or for getting pampered at the spa. According to NREL data, there are plenty of rooflines that make it just perfect for solar panel installation.
Beautiful Tucson is another go-to for leisure and recreation. Because of its closer proximity to the equator, Tucson has one of the highest annual solar power generation potentials in the state — and this sun-saturated city has made an admirable commitment to solar power.
Flagstaff is another Arizona city that gets plenty of sun exposure throughout the year, making it ideally positioned for solar installation. Flagstaff City Hall even has solar panels installed on its south-facing facade, which generate a small portion of the building's energy and serve as a good sign of support for residents.
Positioned next to the Colorado River on the U.S.-Mexico border, Yuma consistently tops lists of the sunniest cities on Earth. In fact, it even holds a Guinness World Record for "most sunshine." Yuma's community has embraced the benefits of clean, renewable energy, but the city still has a lot of untapped potential, with an above-average number of buildings suitable for solar according to NREL.
Located outside of Phoenix, Tempe is a great place to soak up some sun, and many homeowners have taken advantage of that fact, installing robust, residential solar systems. Tempe is also one of the cities in the 2021 Arizona Solar Challenge, which means its residents are working to help the state realize its commitment to be carbon-free by 2050.
Another city in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, Glendale is rapidly growing. And as its population expands, so does its commitment to solar. NREL's maps show the city has more than 20,000 buildings suitable for solar panels and some of the state's highest potentials for both solar power capacity and generation.
Camp Verde, located in the center of the state between Phoenix and Flagstaff, is another town that's well-known for outdoor recreation and festivities. Naturally, it's also a pretty good place to harness the natural energy of the sun.
Just west of Camp Verde, residents of Prescott have put their sun-soaked rooftops to good use and given the city an admirable reputation for solar installation. There is also a new solar facility being developed in the area, which will be able to provide clean, renewable energy to over 20,000 homes.
This Phoenix suburb is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. As it blossoms, its commitment to solar energy grows. In fact, the city was recently chosen as the site of the first U.S.-owned lithium-ion battery plant thanks to its proximity to a vibrant solar industry.
Where Solar Panels Work Best
As you consider your own possible investment in solar power, it's important to keep in mind that solar energy is more viable in some places than in others. With that said, what makes a city or town especially primed to embrace solar energy?
There are a couple of factors to consider. The obvious one is sun exposure. Places that have consistent sunlight throughout the seasons are always going to be better bets for solar installation. Luckily, most Arizona cities don't struggle with sunshine.
The other factor is local utility costs. In places where electricity costs are high, the value of solar energy is more pronounced. But if local electrical costs are low, then the benefits of going solar are comparatively modest.
Average Arizona Energy Costs
According to the Energy Industries Association, the average monthly electricity cost in Arizona is $126.09. This is considerably higher than the average in neighboring states; in Utah, for example, the average monthly cost for electricity is just $75. The high cost of electric energy makes Arizona a sweet spot to embrace the benefits of solar power. It is also worth noting that Arizona's average monthly electrical consumption is higher than the U.S. average, which is about $115 per month.
Arizona Solar Tax Incentives
Solar energy can help homeowners save money in more ways than one. Not only can it cut electric bills, but in many places, there are significant tax incentives, as well. These can make the cost of solar panels significantly less impactful on your wallet.
Arizona has some of the most helpful solar tax incentives in the entire country. There are a couple that are especially worth knowing about:
- Residential Arizona solar tax credit: This credit reimburses you 25% of the cost of your panels, up to $1,000. You can claim this credit on your personal income tax returns.
- Equipment tax exemption: You do not have to pay any sales tax when you buy solar panels or other installation-related equipment in Arizona.
- Property tax exemption: Solar panels will increase your property value, but this exemption makes sure that this doesn't factor into the property taxes you pay. In Arizona, you won't be taxed higher because of your solar installation.
Federal Solar Tax Credits
These tax incentives are nice, but keep in mind that there is also a federal solar tax credit, available to all Americans, that currently reduces the cost of your solar system by 26%. This can be compounded with the savings mentioned above to make it that much more affordable to go solar.
Keep in mind, however, that in 2023, this credit will be reduced to 22%, and there is currently no credit available in 2024 or beyond.
Arizona Solar Regulations
One of the downsides of Arizona's solar energy scene is that the state itself has a dicey history of passing anti-renewables laws, some of them as recent as 2018. Such laws essentially allow utility companies to ignore clean energy mandates, or to receive only the most minimal fines when they do so. And yet, other laws mandate that utility companies make a considerable investment in solar power.
From a regulative standpoint, Arizona is thorny, at best… but that should not stop homeowners and business owners from embracing the benefits of solar power.
As solar energy becomes increasingly popular for residential use, you've probably had a few neighbors install solar panels and may even be thinking of getting a system for your own home. But before adopting this technology, you may be wondering: What are solar panels made of, and how are they made?
Many people simply accept that solar panels work and that's all we need to know about them, but for the scientifically and technologically curious, each individual solar panel contains a world of interesting components and materials. Keep reading to learn more about what actually makes up a solar panel.
What Are Solar Panels Made Of?
When you come across a solar panel, it may simply look like a single comprehensive block, but the truth is that solar panels are made of a bevy of chemical components and materials, each crucial to the effective and efficient conversion of solar light into usable electricity.
To start, virtually all solar photovoltaic (PV) panels use crystalline silicon wafers as the main component material. Silicon is used to create semiconductors for about 95% of all solar panels on the market today, with the other 5% using experimental and in-development technologies like organic photovoltaic cells.
The semiconductors created for solar panels are what create electricity: upon interaction with sunlight, the electrons in this material get knocked loose, which is the basis of electricity. This process is called the photovoltaic effect and it's how solar panels work to generate power.
Of course, the solar PV cells won't be able to power your home without the rest of the operational components, including glass, plastic, metal and wiring. Solar panels are typically covered by a layer of glass and an anti-reflective coating to protect the sensitive silicon solar cells while still letting the light through. The whole arrangement is supported by a plastic/polymer frame for installation on a rooftop or in a ground-mounted solar system.
As with any modern and advancing technology, particularly in the energy space, solar panels come in many variations of styles, sub-components and designs. The most common types of solar panels are monocrystalline solar panels, polycrystalline solar panels and thin-film solar panels:
- Monocrystalline silicon panels are made from a single crystal. They are the most efficient solar panels, but they're also the most expensive.
- Polycrystalline silicon solar cells are made from multiple silicon crystals melded together. They're not quite as high-efficiency as monocrystalline panels, but they're a more budget-friendly rooftop solar option.
- Thin-film solar cells are made from amorphous silicon, which makes them the most flexible solar panels but also the least efficient.
Why Are Solar Panels Made With Silicone?
With silicone being the predominant material used to create solar panels, the natural question to ask is: why? Silicone has been used as the semiconductor material of a solar PV panel for the majority of the solar industry's history.
When investigating all possible materials on the periodic table, developers of early and modern solar panels all found that silicone actually boasted a number of ideal properties that made it the perfect candidate as this semiconductor material:
- Silicone is abundantly available and affordable as an elemental material, making it good for large-scale systems.
- Chemically and electronically speaking, silicone is quite easy to optimize for the photovoltaic effect that efficiently converts sunlight into electricity.
- As a component material, silicone is recognized as having a long lifespan, making the investment in solar panels even more fruitful.
How Are Solar Panels Made?
Because of how many solar panels are needed to keep up with the growing global demand for new solar installations, the manufacturing process has become quite streamlined and standardized.
Solar manufacturers start by creating the silicon cells, a process that involves melting the silicone material down and mixing it with supportive elements. They then create sheets of material that can be cut and turned into the component cells. This part of the process typically entails mass production and laser cutting to expedite manufacturing. The finished cells are then protected with a layer of material such as glass or plastic.
Once the solar cells are created, they need to be connected together in the right size, shape and configuration. To do this, manufacturers solder them to the base of a solar panel, which is made of a conductive metal. The base houses the cells and also transfers the electricity they're generating to a single location, whether it's being sent into a building, into a local power grid or elsewhere.
At that point, all that's left is to connect the solar module to an outer polymer frame, which holds the panel and insulates the electrical components, covering everything with a protective layer of glass. Finally, manufacturers box the panels and send them out to installers.
Are Solar Panels Environmentally Friendly to Make?
While solar power is often held up as a beacon of clean energy in a world rapidly succumbing to climate change, detractors will point out that solar panel manufacturing has its own environmental considerations.
As solar panel technology has improved over the last several decades, the manufacturing process has continued to become less polluting, as shown in an academic study that found "strong downward trends of environmental impact" from solar panel production between 1975 and 2015.
That rate of improvement hasn't stalled in recent years, and identifying the most environmentally friendly materials and production processes remains a top priority of all major solar producers. Even further, end-of-life considerations for solar panels are being actively incorporated into the solar panel lifecycle, with manufacturers developing ways to recycle panels and their material components to further minimize their impact.
With that said, there is no such thing as a free lunch. The manufacturing of any product requires energy and resources, meaning the process inherently adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere — exactly what that renewable energy is seeking to minimize.
While it's true that solar panels have an environmental cost to their production, so too do the construction of power plants and wind turbines; the extraction and burning of fossil fuels; and any other method to create useful energy. But with solar panels having a lifetime of 25 years or more, that environmental impact is spread over a long period, while the actual electricity production requires zero fuel.
On a per-kilowatt-hour basis over the course of a solar panel's lifetime, the net impact is much lower than almost any other energy source, and that impact is getting even smaller with the continued improvement to technologies, supply chains and recycling programs.
Is Solar Energy Right for You?
As power companies seek to address climate change and eco-conscious energy consumers recognize the benefits of generating their own electricity, solar energy is becoming a much more common source of electricity.
After being merely a blip on the radar as recently as 2010, U.S. solar energy capacity has grown by 50 times in the past decade to reach nearly 76 gigawatts, generating enough energy to power 19 million average households.
Most people have observed this trend toward clean energy, seeing neighbors buy solar panels, coming across solar installations on top of a local business or even driving by a full-sized solar farm. But is solar a good choice for your home?
For many homeowners, the decision comes down to cost. You can get a free, no-obligation estimate from a top solar company in your area by filling out the 30-second form below.
Frequently Asked Questions: What Are Solar Panels Made Of?
What products are solar panels made of?
Solar panels are composed of numerous solar cells, a set of wiring to connect those solar cells to a conductive material base, a glass or plastic protective casing for both individual cells and the whole panel, and a frame used to house all of these components. The material components typically include silicone or another semiconductor material, metal, plastic or glass, and wiring apparatuses.
Is living near a solar farm dangerous?
Solar farms do not produce any emissions, noise, pollution or other outward hazards. They also won't impact the level of sunlight experienced by those living near them. The hazardous materials sometimes discussed regarding solar panels are safely contained within the panels themselves and are only a concern when determining how to dispose of or recycle those panels, so they pose no danger to those living nearby.
What toxic materials are in solar panels?
Some of the metal and chemical materials in a solar panel can be toxic and hazardous if exposed to people, including panels that may have cadmium telluride, arsenic, hexavalent chromium coatings, copper or selenium. In typical operation, though, these materials are securely contained and don't pose any direct risk.
What is the back of a solar panel made of?
The back of a solar panel, known as the backsheet, is made of a polymer or plastic combination. It provides insulation from the electrical components of the panel.
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Transitioning to solar power can help homeowners save loads of money, especially in the long run. Over time, monthly savings on utility bills really add up, making solar panels a financially savvy investment. In the short term, though, the initial price can be pretty steep.
Thankfully, there are a number of tax incentives available to help you offset the starting cost of solar panels — and to provide additional monetary benefits down the road. The most notable of these incentives is the federal solar tax credit, which defrays 26% of the total startup installation cost. What's more, many states offer their own benefits to homeowners who wish to invest in solar power, and many of those benefits are quite significant.
So, what are the top states for solar tax incentives? Let's dive in.
Top 10 States for Solar Energy Tax Incentives
As you consider whether to invest in solar energy, make sure you're aware of any tax incentives specific to your state. If you decide to work with a local top solar company, it will likely provide you with assistance in claiming these financial benefits.
According to our research and analysis, the 10 states with the best solar energy tax incentives include:
- New York
- Rhode Island
- New Mexico
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
New York Solar Incentives
Residents of New York have a number of ways to offset their solar panel installation costs, above and beyond what's offered by the federal tax incentive:
- NY-Sun Megawatt Block incentive: Under this program, solar consumers can claim a dollars-per-watt ($/W) cash rebate for their systems. Both residential and commercial systems can qualify for this program.
- Solar Energy System Equipment Credit: This solar incentive allows residents to deduct up to $5,000 or 25% of total solar energy expenses from their taxes (whichever is lower). The credit is available to homeowners who purchase a new system or who choose to lease a system.
- Sales tax exemption: Buyers do not pay the state's 4% sales tax on solar equipment.
- Net metering: New York residents may also take advantage of the current statewide net metering program, which allows any excess solar power generated by a system to be fed back into the solar grid in exchange for credits on utility bills.
Rhode Island Solar Incentives
For residents of Rhode Island, there are several ways to save money on solar installation:
- CommerceRI's Renewable Energy Fund grant program: Under this program, homeowners can get a rebate of $0.85 per watt, capped at $7,000, when they have a new system installed. For the average system, this amounts to savings of somewhere between $4,000 and $5,000.
- Property tax exemption: This exemption makes sure that, even if solar panels raise the value of your property, they will not raise your property taxes.
- Sales tax exemption: When Rhode Island residents purchase a new solar system, they are exempt from paying the state's 7% sales tax on the equipment.
- Net metering: Rhode Island residents may feed their excess solar power back into the solar grid in exchange for utility credits. The state has a Renewable Energy Growth program that ensures those enrolled receive 29.65 cents per kilowatt-hour fed back to the grid for 15 years.
Iowa Solar Incentives
Iowa offers a number of solar tax incentives, in addition to the federal tax credit:
- Iowa Solar Energy System Tax Credit: Iowa residents can recoup 15% of the cost of a solar system, capped at $5,000. This credit is claimed when filing state income taxes.
- Property tax exemption: This exemption assures Iowa homeowners that property taxes will not rise if solar panels raise the value of their property.
- Sales tax exemption: Iowans do not have to pay the 6% state sales tax when they purchase equipment for their new solar system.
- Net metering: Iowa residents may also take advantage of net metering credits.
Connecticut Solar Incentives
Several financial incentives are available in Connecticut, including each of the following:
- Residential Solar Investment Rebate Program: This rebate is managed by the Connecticut Green Bank and pays $0.463 per watt of solar installed. Most homeowners are eligible for more than $2,000 savings through this rebate program.
- Energy Conservation Loan Program: Connecticut residents who wish to purchase a solar system can get low-interest loans from the state government. Specifically, residents can borrow up to $25,000 for 10 years with interest rates as low as 0% and no higher than 6%.
- Sales tax exemption: Connecticut residents do not have to pay the 6.35% state sales tax on new solar equipment.
- Property tax exemption: This exemption assures Connecticut homeowners that property taxes will not be raised after solar panel installation.
- Net metering: Connecticut residents also have the option of net metering, meaning any excess solar power generated by their system can be fed back into the solar grid in exchange for utility credits.
Maryland Solar Incentives
In addition to the federal tax incentives, Maryland residents can take advantage of these financial incentives:
- Residential Clean Energy Rebate Program: Maryland residents get a rebate of $1,000 when they install a new solar panel system or solar shingles at their primary residence.
- Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs): Maryland homeowners may receive one certificate for each megawatt-hour of clean electricity they produce via their residential solar system. These credits can then be sold on the SREC market.
- Property tax exemption: Installing solar systems can increase the value of a home, but Maryland residents do not have to pay any additional property taxes.
- Sales tax exemption: Maryland residents do not have to pay the state's 6% sales tax on new solar equipment.
- Net metering: Maryland homeowners have access to net metering, meaning any excess solar power generated by their system can be fed back into the solar grid in exchange for utility credits.
New Mexico Solar Incentives
In New Mexico, residents can take advantage of the federal tax incentive as well as the following:
- Solar Market Development Tax Credit: New Mexico taxpayers get a 10% tax credit (up to $6,000) toward total solar energy expenses.
- Sustainable Building Tax Credit: New Mexico will credit up to $6.50 per square foot on your income taxes when you install solar panels. Note that, to qualify, the home must be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.
- Property tax exemption: New Mexico homeowners don't pay property taxes on their increased home value after installing solar panels.
- Net metering: Homeowners can take advantage of the state's net metering program to sell excess energy back to the grid.
Colorado Solar Incentives
In Colorado, some of the most prominent solar tax incentives include:
- Local rebates: Although Colorado does not have a statewide solar rebate program, the majority of major utility companies and local organizations offer incentives.
- Community Solar Gardens: Colorado is a leader in community solar adoption, which means many non-homeowner residents can subscribe to get their energy from an off-site solar array.
- Sales tax exemption: The state does not tax the physical equipment of solar panels or solar systems.
- Property tax exemption: Colorado residents do not have to pay any additional property taxes for increased home value due to solar installation.
- Net metering: Colorado homeowners can take advantage of net metering through their utility companies.
Massachusetts Solar Incentives
There are several incentives available to homeowners in Massachusetts:
- Residential Energy Credit: Massachusetts residents can get a credit worth up to 15% of the total cost of their solar system. The maximum is a $1,000 credit.
- Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program: The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources created this incentive program, which provides credits to customers of investor-owned utility companies.
- Property tax exemption: Massachusetts residents do pay additional property taxes after installing solar panels.
- Sales tax exemption: Massachusetts does not tax the physical equipment of solar panels or solar systems.
- Net metering: Customers of regulated electric companies are eligible for net metering in Massachusetts.
New Hampshire Solar Incentives
Tax incentives available in New Hampshire include:
- Renewable Energy Generation Incentive Program: Those with a solar system size of 10 kilowatts (kW) or less can claim credits worth either $0.20 per watt (up to $1,000) or half the cost of their residential solar system.
- Property tax exemption: New Hampshire residents in select counties are exempt from paying increased property taxes from the value add of their residential solar system.
- Net metering: New Hampshire has a statewide net metering program through which residents can get money back from utilities.
New Jersey Solar Incentives
The following incentives are available to residents of New Jersey:
- Transition Renewable Energy Certificates (TRECs): Residential solar systems can help homeowners earn these certificates, which can be sold back to utility companies.
- Property tax exemption: Those who live in New Jersey are exempt from any property tax increases related to their residential solar equipment.
- Sales tax exemption: Residents do not have to pay the state's 6.625% sales tax on solar panels and related installation equipment.
- Net metering: New Jersey homeowners can take advantage of net metering, meaning any excess solar power generated by their system can be fed back into the solar grid in exchange for credits.
Federal Tax Incentives for Solar Energy
No matter which state you live in, all American homeowners can claim a federal tax incentive for installing solar panels. This credit can be claimed on your federal income tax return and is worth 26% of the total cost of your solar purchase. The incentive is meant to make solar installations more affordable and more accessible to a wider range of homeowners.
The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) was first developed through the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Initially, it was set to last for just two years, but it has been extended for residential solar installations through at least 2023. (Note that the specific terms of the credit have changed over the years and may continue to shift.)
To be eligible for the federal credit, homeowners must meet the following criteria:
- You have installed a residential solar system at any point from 2006 through the end of 2022.
- You have placed the solar system in a residential location. It does not have to be your primary residence.
- You own the solar system (as opposed to leasing it), meaning you paid for it in cash or are financing it.
Is Home Solar Right for You?
We've noted some of the top states for solar tax incentives, but it's worth noting that there are plenty of other states that offer net metering, rebates and other financial incentives. Additionally, we recommend checking for financial incentives from your city/municipality or your local utility company.
While solar installation can cost a lot of money on the front end, these incentives can make it worthwhile — especially if you live somewhere with ample sun exposure, where you can really take advantage of your system's energy-producing abilities.