Kentucky Solar Panel Buyers Guide [Installation & Efficiency 2022]
Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide:
- The typical cost to install solar equipment in Kentucky
- How efficient solar panels are in Kentucky
- What state benefit programs are available to make solar more enticing
How to Get Solar Panels in Kentucky
When you’re ready to begin the process of installing your solar energy solution, you’ll first need to find and reach out to a solar installer in your area. The sales rep you speak with will review a recent energy bill and may send someone to take measurements of your roof and check your property for sun exposure.
Here are the steps you can expect after you meet with a sales representative:
- System estimate: Once your system is designed to meet your needs, you’ll get an estimate of the price of your project.
- Choose your payment plan: You’ll then be able to discuss financing options with your rep. You can typically choose from a cash purchase, a solar loan, a solar lease or a power purchase agreement (PPA).
- Sign your contract: Once you’ve approved your system design and chosen your financing plan, you can sign your contract with your sales representative.
- Permits and installation: After financing is squared away, permits will be pulled and your system will finally be installed and commissioned.
- Inspections: Your installer might need to schedule additional inspections after the installation to close out your permits and formally complete your solar installation.
Solar investment in Kentucky is usually a great option that makes good financial sense. Although the upfront cost of converting can be high, most KY residents enjoy energy savings that end up saving them a total of over $20,000 over the lifetime of the system.
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What Is The Price of Solar Panel Installation in Kentucky?
The cost of solar panel systems in Kentucky can vary by thousands of dollars based on a few different factors. Most importantly, the size of your system.
As such, the average price per watt for solar equipment is often a more helpful metric for determining average cost. In Kentucky, the typical price per watt is around $2.34, which is far below the national average of $2.66. In fact, this is one of the lowest average costs per watt in the entire country.
Since most Kentucky residents need a system that’s around 11 kilowatts (kW) to offset their electric bills, that puts the typical all-in cost for a solar energy system at around $18,000 after the federal tax credit is applied.
This might seem high, but your system will also afford you savings each month that will add up over time. Those savings are expected to pay off your entire system in just 12 years. This time period is called the solar panel payback period. After that, the panels could save over $20,000 on electricity costs.
For more information on average costs and the factors that have an impact on system pricing, you can check out our guide to the cost of solar systems in KY.
The Best Solar Panel Brands Available in Kentucky
Kentucky residents have a few options when it comes to solar equipment brands, as most of the major suppliers in the U.S. have a foothold in the Bluegrass State.
Since Kentucky receives fewer sunny days per year than most other states, many residents choose high-efficiency panel brands that can outperform the more run-of-the-mill options. This helps meet household needs and offset electric bills.
Below are some commonly available, high-efficiency panel brands you’ll find offered in Kentucky.
- SunPower (now Maxeon)
- LG (will be discontinued in the near future)
- Trina Solar
- Canadian Solar
- Mission Solar
All of these brands have product lines that come with excellent efficiency ratings. This makes the panels suitable for use in Kentucky, where sunlight is less abundant than in most other areas of the country.
Is Kentucky a Good State for Solar Panels?
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Kentucky ranks 46th in the nation in terms of solar installations.1 Although the rate of solar adoption has been far slower than in nearly every other state, Kentucky is still considered an excellent place to convert to solar energy.
There are a few primary factors that make solar a great investment. We’ll briefly explain each of these factors below.
- Affordable equipment: As mentioned above, KY residents enjoy the lowest cost per watt for solar equipment in the entire country. When solar equipment costs are below average, solar customers in the area get more value for their money. Even in areas like Kentucky where larger systems are required to offset electric bills, the barrier to entry into renewable energy is significantly lower, thanks to the local equipment costs.
- Above-average energy consumption: Kentucky residents pay below-average electricity prices, but they consume far more energy than homeowners in most other states. The average monthly consumption in the Bluegrass State is 1,073 kilowatt-hours (kWh), as compared to the national average of 893 kWh.2 Higher energy consumption rates mean higher energy bills, which, in turn, equate to more potential savings when converting to solar.
- Many solar incentive programs: Although KY isn’t the most eco-friendly state, it has recently taken steps to make solar more affordable and accessible to its residents. A big part of that initiative was creating more solar incentives to bring down upfront costs and push long-term savings higher. We’ll discuss the exact statewide benefit programs available in a section further down in this article.
- Frequent power outages: Finally, KY is prone to some severe weather and natural disasters, including floods, tornadoes, intense thunderstorms and more.3 These weather conditions make power outages a common occurrence. For this reason, many residents find value in installing panels and solar batteries. A system fitted with an energy storage solution can bring a home off-grid for some time and provide electricity even through blackout conditions.
How Much Energy Can I Get From Solar Panels in Kentucky?
Many homeowners want to know what size solar power system they’ll need before they pursue solar, as this helps determine their total cost to install the equipment. Sizing your system appropriately means installing panels that can match your average energy consumption, taking net metering and other incentives that affect production value into account.
Unfortunately, while it’s easy to size a system based on your energy consumption, it’s difficult to say with certainty how much electricity a system on your roof will generate. There are a bunch of factors that play a role in electricity production, so a home assessment is really the only way to determine an accurate system size.
Below are some of the factors that affect your system’s energy efficiency and production rate.
- The direction your home faces: First, your solar installer will have to consider the orientation of your home. According to the Department of Energy (DoE), southern-facing roofs in the U.S. are the best for solar panels.4 This is because they tilt toward the path of the sun in the sky, which means they receive the most direct sunlight. More direct sun means a higher level of production, which means your panels’ overall efficiency will be improved. West- and east-facing roofs can also be viable for solar, although they aren’t as ideal.
- How many panels you install: The number of panels you install will be a crucial factor in determining your system’s rate of production. The more panels you put on your roof, the more square footage you dedicate to harnessing sunlight, and the more energy you’ll produce. It might be tempting to cram as many panels onto your home as will fit. However, it’s important to size your system to your energy needs as accurately as possible to avoid overpaying for your equipment and not seeing a significant return on your solar system.
- The efficiency of those panels: If you’ve already done research on different panel options for your home, you’ve likely come across a metric called the efficiency rating. This number tells you what percentage of the sunlight that hits the panel will be converted to electricity for your house. The highest panel efficiency on the market right now is around 22.7% and comes from SunPower/Maxeon panels. The higher your efficiency, the higher the cost, in most cases. However, higher efficiency ratings also mean that your system will produce more energy in all situations.
- Property specifics, like shading: One of the primary reasons your solar installer will want to inspect your home prior to sizing and designing your system is to look for shading on your roof. Nearby trees, utility poles, electrical wires and other buildings that cast shadows on your roof will interrupt the available sunlight that would otherwise be absorbed by your panels and transformed into electricity. When sunlight is blocked, panel production drops significantly. Overall production will be affected the most if your roof gets shade during the peak sunlight hours, which are usually in the early to mid-afternoon.
- The weather: Finally, the weather in your area will play a role in solar production. Solar panel efficiency can drop down to about 10% on cloudy days. The local weather conditions — including the average number of sunny days per year — should be taken into account by your installer when designing your system. Just keep in mind that day-to-day production can and will vary based on the weather.
As you can see, a lot of factors go into determining what size system is appropriate for your home and your energy needs. While getting an accurate size really requires some property-specific research and a customized system design, you can use average numbers in KY to get a rough idea of what system size you’ll need.
The chart below provides some averages that you can use to estimate your appropriate system size.
|Solar Power System Size||Expected Daily Energy Produced||Expected Monthly Energy Produced||Expected Annual Energy Produced|
|8 kW||26.6 kWh||800 kWh||9,600 kWh|
|9 kW||30 kWh||900 kWh||10,800 kWh|
|10 kW||33.3 kWh||1,000 kWh||12,000 kWh|
|11 kW||36.6 kWh||1,100 kWh||13,200 kWh|
|12 kW||40 kWh||1,200 kWh||14,400 kWh|
|13 kW||43.3 kWh||1,300 kWh||15,600 kWh|
|14 kW||46.6 kWh||1,400 kWh||16,800 kWh|
If you’re looking for production numbers that are more customized for your home, you can use our solar calculator to see how much electricity solar panels on your roof are expected to produce.
Solar Panel Policy History in Kentucky
Kentucky is way behind most other states in terms of solar adoption. However, in the past two decades, it has picked up the pace and implemented quite a few pieces of legislation that are helping to push solar conversion and renewable energy in general.
In 2008, the state implemented its net metering program. Net metering is one of the most beneficial solar perks afforded by states, as it helps reduce long-term solar costs and maximize energy savings over time.
The program in Kentucky was mandated for all investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and electric cooperatives. However, the Tennessee Valley Association, one of the largest utility companies in Kentucky and the surrounding states, was exempted from this policy.
For all other utilities, they were required to provide access to net metering and energy credits for all solar customers with systems up to 30 kW via interconnection. This encompasses virtually all residential systems. Minimums for the program were set based on kW, which scaled with each company’s size and customer base.5
Also in 2008, Kentucky enacted legislation that mandated that all new construction and renovation projects to buildings that were funded at least 50% by the state must be up to energy efficiency guidelines. Projects included in this new policy include government agency buildings, schools and more.
Three years later, in 2011, the Bowling Green Solar Farm project was completed. This solar farm was sized at a massive 2 megawatts (MW), and it was the first utility-scale solar project in the state. This acted as a statement for KY that solar was a viable option for clean energy.1
In 2015, Kentucky passed a bill that legalized Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing. This was a part of the Energy Project Assessment District (EPAD) Act of 2015.6
PACE financing provides low-interest rate loans with relatively small down payment requirements for solar conversion and other efficiency-based projects. PACE financing makes solar more accessible, as it lowers the financial barrier to entry.
Most recently, in 2019, the net metering policy in KY was updated. The change mandated that this perk be offered to home solar systems up to 45 kW — up from 30 kW. The Kentucky Solar Energy Society (KSEC) is pushing to increase this up to 2 megawatts.7
The policy change also required that the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) implement minimums for each utility provider based on energy dollar amounts and not kW.
Overall, this change was positive for all KY solar customers and helped to widen the range of individuals that could take advantage.
What Are The Solar Panel Incentives in Kentucky?
Today, after all of the changes and improvements mentioned above, KY residents have several solar benefit programs they can take advantage of to reduce upfront costs and improve savings in the long run. We’ll explain each of the perks available below.
- Federal solar tax credit: The federal investment tax credit (ITC) is available to all KY residents and is offered by the federal government. When you take this perk, you’ll get a credit to your income tax burden for the year you installed your system, and the credit amount — or a portion of it — can be pushed to the following year as well. The credit is for 30% of your entire system cost, including the price of panels, solar batteries and inverters. In KY, where the average system pre-credit totals around $25,740, the typical ITC is approximately $7,722.
- Net metering: This is a billing policy mandated in KY that allows solar customers to overproduce with their panels and get compensated with energy credits for all excess energy. Those credits roll over to future utility bills, so the energy you generate during a high-production month can be put toward bills when your consumption outpaces your production. All utility companies including electric cooperatives — except the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) — are required to provide this policy to customers at the full retail rate.
- PACE financing: PACE financing is available for energy efficiency upgrades, including the installation of photovoltaic (PV) equipment. The loans come with a low interest rate and a minimal down payment requirement to keep going solar as accessible as possible.
- Incentives for Energy Independence: This is a set of benefits available to commercial customers that take efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and their reliance on fossil fuels. The perks include rebate programs, sales and property tax exemptions and more.
For more information on these perks and other benefits that might be available to you, you can check out our complete guide to solar incentives in Kentucky.
Find a Local Installer in Kentucky
Choosing a solar installer is one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make when installing a solar PV system. Different installers come at different prices, provide varying warranty coverages and bring different levels of customer service to the table.
According to the SEIA, there are around 15 local installers that serve KY specifically, along with a multitude of regional and national solar providers that can tackle your solar project. Having options is great, but it also means you’ll have a lot of research to do to ensure you find the best one for your needs and budget.
Below, we’ll include some links to reviews of the top solar companies in a few of the major cities in KY.
If you need company recommendations outside of these cities, or in other major cities like Louisville, you can check out our complete guide to choosing a solar panel installer in Kentucky.