Solar Panel Cost in California (2022 Local Savings Guide)

In this EcoWatch guide on the cost of solar panels in California, you’ll learn:

  • How solar panel costs in California compare to the U.S. average
  • What Californians need to know about the Federal Solar ITC
  • Which local providers offer net metering programs
  • What affects solar prices for California residents

This guide has helped thousands of Californian homeowners produce clean, renewable energy, while saving them time and money in the process. Let’s get started!

Ecowatch Author Karsten Neumeister

By Karsten Neumeister, Solar Expert

Updated 9/18/2022

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SunPower

  • Pros icon Most efficient panels on the market
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  • Pros icon Great warranty coverage
  • Con icon Expensive
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NRG Clean Power

  • Pros icon Industry-leading warranty
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  • Con icon No leases or PPAs
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solar panel cost in california

What Should Californians Know About Using Solar Energy?

With well over one million solar installations throughout the state, California has long been a leader in the U.S. solar industry. Recent legislation mandating that all new homes in the state must be built with solar panels likely leaves residents wondering about the cost of solar panels in California.

With ample sunshine, unnaturally high energy costs, ambitious climate goals and progressive leadership, California is ripe with solar potential. The preexisting availability of local solar providers in California allows solar customers the valuable opportunity to gather a large number of competing quotes, sometimes generating several thousand dollars worth of savings in the process.

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How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in California?

As of 2021, our market research and data from top brands shows the average cost of solar panels in California is around $2.73 per watt. This means a 5-kW system would cost around $9,555 after the federal solar tax credit is applied.

Here’s how that price looks when applied to other solar panel system sizes:

Size of Solar Panel System California Solar Panel Cost Cost After Federal Tax Credit
5kW $13,650 $9,555
6kW $16,380 $11,466
7kW $19,110 $13,377
8kW $21,840 $15,288
9kW $24,570 $17,199
10kW $27,300 $19,110

It may surprise some readers that the cost of solar in California isn’t as low as in many other states, but keep in mind that the real value of solar comes relative to the price of energy in the state (and California’s is the highest in the country). All in all, solar power provides excellent value to California residents.

Knowing the average price of solar panels in California is $2.73 per watt, a savvy solar customer can compare quotes against this figure to ensure they receive the best value possible. You may find that popular national brands don’t have the lowest prices.

See also: Calculate how much you can save by going solar

What Determines the Cost of Solar Panels in California?

The average cost of solar equipment in California is around $2.73 per watt. For standard-sized systems, that means you could pay anywhere between $5,733 and $19,110 for your solar equipment in CA after the federal tax credit is applied. 

The average overall price is $12,121. The range is so wide because several factors can swing your costs up or down by thousands of dollars. We’ll explain these factors below.

Solar Equipment

Every solar panel system is different, and the pieces of equipment you choose to install, as well as the brands you choose, can have a major impact on your total system cost.

First, you’ll need to consider the size and efficiency of the equipment. Most homeowners choose a system that is expected to cover their total energy consumption, which means the efficiency of the panels you install and the number of panels you need can vary. 

California receives 284 sunny days per year, which is well above the national average of 205. That means most homeowners don’t need high-efficiency panels, so some money can be saved there. Additionally, the number of panels you need depends on your home size and energy efficiency, which can also vary quite a bit.

Luckily, California residents don’t experience much in the way of extreme weather, so the risk of power outages is low. This means most homeowners don’t need to pay more for solar batteries, which brings down the average total cost of solar systems in CA. 

California residents also use much less energy than the national average — 572 kWh per month as opposed to 893 kWh — so most homeowners can get away with smaller systems that cost less and still eliminate electric bills.

Solar Financing in California

How you pay for your solar panels will play a role in your total cost to install solar as well. Cash purchases, of course, require the highest payments up front, but they save the most over time because they don’t require you to pay interest. Solar loans make your equipment more affordable up front, but they save slightly less because they include interest paid over time.

Luckily, California has plenty of financing options to make solar affordable and accessible to most homeowners. First, Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs are available to the majority of homeowners, and they serve to reduce financing costs and up-front payments for solar systems.1 

Second, California has the Single-Family Affordable Solar Housing (SASH) program, which seeks to lower ongoing costs of solar for low-income households.

California Solar Installation Company

California is home to nearly 900 registered solar installers, which means you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to choosing a solar company.2 

Picking the right one will provide you with a positive experience but can also lower your costs overall. Each company charges different amounts for installation labor and equipment, and similar systems can be thousands of dollars apart in price from different installers.

It’s often tempting to choose your installer based on price alone, but you should really consider value provided as well. 

For example, NRG Clean Power is a local solar company based in Los Angeles, and it installs panels made by SolarEdge, SMA, Panasonic, Solaria, REC, Hyundai and Tesla. Many of these brands are affordable and provide plenty of efficiency for CA residents. 

On the other hand, SunPower — the top national solar company that operates in California — only installs Maxeon panels. These are quite expensive, which means you’ll pay more when you choose SunPower. However, the panels come with an industry-leading warranty and efficiency, and are therefore a better value.

Read More: 5 Best Solar Companies in California (2022 Reviews)

Additional Considerations and Costs in California

The major cost factors above will have the most influence on your cost of going solar, but we’ll include some information on additional things to consider when choosing a solar installer in California.

  • Permits: All towns and cities in California will require building permits to be filed before solar installation and inspections to take place after. Most solar companies will handle this for you, but you should be aware that the cost of the permit will be your responsibility.
  • Licenses: All solar installers in California must have a C-46 license. This is a dedicated license for solar installation that many other states don’t require. Make sure your installer has this license before committing to their services.
  • Warranties: Your solar warranties help protect your investment and your home, so you should absolutely consider what kind of coverage is included with your system. Most warranties cover labor, parts, equipment or performance, and the best warranties include all of the above.
  • HOAs: California has strict solar rights and easement laws, so every homeowner will be able to install and enjoy the benefits of solar panels. Homeowners’ associations and other private entities are prohibited from restricting your ability to install or use solar panels.
  • Environmental zoning: The zoning laws in CA are very solar friendly, so you’re unlikely to hit any snags in terms of zoning restrictions when installing solar.

What Solar Panel Incentives Are Available to California Residents?

California’s progressive leadership has done good work in spurring investment in renewable, clean energy. However, given the state’s ambitious climate targets and the energy burden on most of its population, it could probably do more.

All homeowners are eligible for the federal solar tax credit, and the state offers several incentive programs and solar rebates aimed at further increasing access to reliable, affordable solar panels. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), and Southern California Edison (SCE) are three local utility companies that provide solar rebates and funding to assist with the upfront costs.

Let’s take a closer look at the solar incentives available to California residents.

Federal Solar Tax Credit

All California residents are eligible for the federal solar investment tax credit, or ITC, for installing photovoltaic (PV) solar panels and any other eligible solar equipment. Any reputable solar installer will assist in the process of claiming the ITC on your federal tax returns. Claiming the ITC deducts 30% of the total cost of your solar installation from the taxes you owe.

To be eligible for the solar tax credit, homeowners must own the solar energy system, either having paid for it in cash or by taking out a solar loan. Homeowners who lease residential solar panels are not eligible to claim the ITC.

California Net Metering Programs

Net energy metering (NEM), or net metering, allows customers to feed the surplus energy generated by their solar panels back to their local power grid in exchange for energy credits from their utility company. As most solar energy systems generate more energy than can be used during the day, this incentive provides homeowners additional savings on their California electricity bills and lowers the demand for grid-supplied electricity in the region.

California currently offers a statewide net metering incentive for residents generating electricity with solar panels. Exact credit values will vary based on your utility company.

WATCH: California Public Utilities Commission Aims To Reduce Rooftop Solar Incentives

California Solar Tax Incentives and Rebate Programs

There are also a handful of California solar incentives to help lower the cost of solar for residents. Some of these include rebates, loans and property tax exemptions. Though any quality solar company will be knowledgeable about the local incentives in your area, it’s always worth doing some independent research. We recommend using the DSIRE solar incentive database to find money-saving opportunities in your area.

Read More: California Solar Initiative (CSI)

The Best Solar Panel Brands Available in California

California residents will be able to choose from just about any solar product brand they want to install, so you’ll need to choose one that fits your budget and energy production expectations. 

The table below includes some of the top solar panel brands available in California, as well as their average pricing, to help you decide.

Solar Panel Brand Average Cost Per Watt ($-$$$$$)
LG Solar $$$
Canadian Solar $$
JA Solar $$
Mission Solar $$
Panasonic $$
Q Cells $$
REC $$$
Silfab $$$
SunPower $$$$$
Tesla $$
Trina Solar $$$

Ready to see what size solar system you need for your home and what it will cost? Just select one of our preferred providers below, and we’ll connect you with an installer in your area that will provide a free, no-obligation quote.

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Read More About Going Solar

FAQs: Solar Panel Cost California

At EcoWatch, we’re happy to get questions about the process and costs of getting rooftop solar from California residents. Below are some of the questions we see most often, along with our responses. If you have specific questions that aren’t answered here, reach out to our team of solar experts at solar@ecowatch.com.

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Karsten Neumeister

Solar Expert

Karsten is a researcher, editor, writer and energy specialist focused on environmental, social and cultural development. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the solar energy sector, studying energy policy, climate tech and environmental education. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.