Alaska Solar Panel Buyers Guide [Installation & Efficiency 2022]
Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide to Alaska solar panels:
- What most solar panels cost in AK
- How to estimate the production rate for your system
- Incentives available to bring down the solar panel cost in your area
How to Get Solar Panels in Alaska
When you’re ready to install your solar power system in AK, you can get started by reaching out to a local solar company. You’ll need to provide access to your roof for an inspection as well as a recent electric bill. Your provider will design a system to meet your energy needs and fit on your roof.
Next, you’ll have to choose one of the four financing options: cash purchase, loan, solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA). Once payment is made, permits will be pulled, and your system will be installed and activated. Finally, the installer will make arrangements for the final inspection to be done to close the permits for you.
While many people believe AK doesn’t receive enough sunlight for solar to be worthwhile, The Last Frontier is an outstanding place to convert to clean energy. Not only does solar reduce your carbon footprint and make your home more sustainable, but the average system also saves property owners nearly $35,000 on electricity.
Arctic Solar Ventures
Renewable Energy Systems of Alaska
What Is The Price of Solar Panel Installation in Alaska?
Alaskans enjoy the third lowest average cost of photovoltaic (PV) equipment in the country at just $2.41 per watt. For the typical 6 kilowatt (kW) solar project in the area, you’re looking at an average total of around $14,500, or closer to $10,000 after the federal Residential Clean Energy Credit is taken.
One of the most useful metrics for determining the value of solar PV systems in an area is the panel payback period. This is the timeline for panels to pay themselves off, and it takes your energy consumption, electricity rates and system costs into consideration.
The average payback period in the U.S. is 12 years, and Alaskans see their panels pay for themselves in just seven years, so panels are more valuable in AK than in nearly any other state. For more cost and value information, you can check out our pricing guide for solar in AK.
The Best Solar Panel Brands Available in Alaska
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), AK ranks 49th in the country for solar conversion rate.1 However, most of the major panel brands are still available in the area, as the local solar industry has become relatively strong in recent years.
AK receives an average of around 121 sunny days per year, which is only a little more than half the national average.2 Given the lack of sunlight, most residents need high-efficiency panels to make solar conversion worthwhile.
Below are some of the more popular brand options in the area. These brands have some of the highest efficiency ratings in the industry, as well as excellent warranties.
- Maxeon (formerly branded as SunPower, these are generally considered the most efficient panels)
- Trina Solar
- Canadian Solar
Is Alaska a Good State for Solar Panels?
Despite the lack of sunlight available in the area, AK is one of the best states in the country for solar adoption. There are a few important factors that make the Last Frontier such a profitable place to convert to solar energy. We’ll discuss these below.
- Low equipment costs: As mentioned above, AK residents see the third lowest material costs in the country for PV systems. At just $2.41 per watt, the typical 6 kW system in the area costs around $1,500 less than it would in most other states. That means your installation costs will be lower than average, and the value you get from your panels will naturally be higher.
- High energy costs: AK residents pay higher electricity rates than most Americans. In fact, the local electricity costs are the third highest in the nation and nearly double the national average.3 Areas with high energy rates see more value from solar because each kilowatt-hour (kWh) produced by panels saves more money. A higher savings potential means your panels will pay for themselves more quickly and save you more in total over time.
- Below-average energy needs: While the cost of electricity is high in AK, residents use less electricity than property owners in every other state except Hawaii.4 With an average consumption of just 552 kWh per month, AK homeowners need systems that are much smaller than average, which translates to a lower installation cost and a smaller barrier to entry into renewable energy.
- Frequent power outages: AK is prone to frequent power outages, primarily due to inclement weather.5 Solar panels alone can’t provide electricity through outages, but systems with solar batteries installed can. Not only are systems with panels, inverters and solar storage solutions more popular in the area as a result, but they’re also more valuable because they can take your solar array off-grid.
- Decent solar incentives: Finally, AK provides residents access to a handful of tax incentives that make going solar more worthwhile. We’ll discuss the specific perks available to you in a later section.
How Much Energy Can I Get From Solar Panels in Alaska?
The amount of electricity your panels can generate depends on several key factors, so it’s challenging to get an accurate estimate for production rates. The best way to get accurate numbers is to have a reputable installer assess your home and design a system to meet your energy demands.
We’ll discuss some of the factors that affect your production levels below.
- The direction your home faces: The more intense the sunlight hitting your panels is, the more electricity they will generate for your home. This is reflected in data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) regarding solar irradiation. In North America, south-facing roofs receive the most direct sunlight because they’re angled toward the path the sun takes in the sky. This is the best option for solar installations. East-west roofs can also be viable, but they’ll generate less power.
- Shading on your roof: The best-case scenario is a south-facing roof that doesn’t receive any shading throughout the day. Any interruptions to the available sunlight — from trees, nearby buildings, utility poles or other obstructions — will cause a drop in your production levels. This is especially true if your panels are shaded during the peak production hours of the mid- to late afternoon.
- The panels you choose: The panel brand you choose will affect your production as well, as some panels are more efficient than others. Every brand comes with an efficiency rating, which tells you how effective the panel is at harnessing the available sunlight and converting it into electricity. Panels with higher efficiency ratings will always generate more energy in equivalent conditions.
- The size of your solar energy system: The number of panels you have installed on your home will be one of the biggest determiners when it comes to production rates. Each additional panel you install will bump up your monthly generation by approximately 100 kWh.
- The weather: Finally, the local weather conditions can cause swings in energy production. Cloud coverage can drop your overall system efficiency to between 10% and 90% of its peak production.
Getting a property inspection and system design from a local installer is the best way to get an estimate for system production on your property. However, you can use the chart below to get rough numbers for energy generation from common system sizes in AK.
|Solar Power System Size||Expected Daily Energy Produced||Expected Monthly Energy Produced||Expected Annual Energy Produced|
|3 kW||10 kWh||300 kWh||3,600 kWh|
|4 kW||13.3 kWh||400 kWh||4,800 kWh|
|5 kW||16.6 kWh||500 kWh||6,000 kWh|
|6 kW||20 kWh||600 kWh||7,200 kWh|
|7 kW||23.3 kWh||700 kWh||8,400 kWh|
|8 kW||26.6 kWh||800 kWh||9,600 kWh|
|9 kW||30 kWh||900 kWh||10,800 kWh|
You can also use our solar cost calculator to get an estimate for solar production. This tool uses satellite imaging to gauge shading on your property and other local conditions to provide an accurate estimate of how much energy panels on your roof will provide.
Solar Panel Policy History in Alaska
Alaska isn’t the most solar-friendly state, but it has made efforts to make solar panel adoption more valuable for homeowners.
The pro-solar policies in AK didn’t begin until 2000, which was decades after many other states began passing legislation to promote clean energy. That year, AK initiated the solar easement laws, which provided arbitration guidelines for homeowners to maintain access to available sunlight on their properties if neighboring units blocked it.
Nearly a decade later, the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) mandated net metering throughout the state. This policy provides credits for all excess energy produced with panels. Those credits can go toward paying down future energy bills.
Net metering is mandatory for all utility companies in AK, and the RCA prohibits fees for interconnection. Your energy credits will carry over indefinitely, which is outstanding for Alaskans, who receive minimal sunlight for months at a time.
In 2010, AK passed legislation that allowed municipalities to exempt solar systems from property taxes. Normally, solar energy equipment boosts your property value, which would also increase your taxes.6 This policy prevents that from happening.
Finally, in 2011, AK passed interconnection guidelines that set out how and when solar customers could take advantage of net metering.
What Are the Solar Panel Incentives in Alaska?
While there hasn’t been as much pro-solar legislation passed in AK as in many other states, residents still have access to a handful of solar benefits. We’ll discuss the available perks below.
- Residential Clean Energy Credit: The federal solar tax credit is equivalent to 30% of your entire system cost, which averages around $4,300 in AK. This amount gets applied to your income tax liability for the year you install your equipment. This is offered by the federal government and is one of the most beneficial perks for solar customers in the country.
- Net metering: This policy lets you overproduce solar electricity when the sun is shining — like in the summer months — and earn credits for use when you consume more than you generate — like in the winter in AK. This is a crucial policy for making PV equipment more valuable in Alaska, and it’s mandated for all utility providers.
- Property tax exemption for renewable energy systems: The State of Alaska lets individual municipalities offer a property tax exemption that excludes the value of your equipment from your assessed property value. This prevents your taxes from increasing just because you install solar equipment. This perk is most helpful in more costly areas like Anchorage, Juneau, Homer, Fairbanks and Sitka, but it saves homeowners money throughout the state.
- Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) incentive: GVEA offers solar customers the Sustainable Natural Alternative Power (SNAP) program. This provides a credit for all energy produced with your panels.
- Alaska Power and Telephone rebate program: This utility company offers a rebate called the AMP-UP program to customers who purchase an electric vehicle. While not specific to solar, it can provide up to $1,000 in cashback incentives.
- Chugach Electric electric vehicle (EV) charger rebate: This utility company offers up to $200 back for customers who install an EV charger along with their solar systems.
You can read more about these and other local perks available in your area in our guide to solar incentives in AK.
Find a Local Installer in Alaska
Alaska is home to just a handful of local installers, but choosing one can still be a challenge. Ideally, you want to pick one that fits into your budget, provides high-quality equipment, includes a lengthy warranty for peace of mind and brings good customer service to the table.
You can read our guide to choosing a solar installer in AK for solar company recommendations and reviews.