7 Steps to Solar Panels in Kentucky (2023)

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
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The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) ranks Kentucky as 46th in the country for solar adoption, but that’s not because solar is a bad idea in the Bluegrass State.1 In fact, solar panels pay for themselves just as quickly in Kentucky as they do in most other states – and most homeowners in the state can save as much as $20,000 or more beyond that.

Going solar in Kentucky is an outstanding investment for several other reasons, as well. First off, Kentuckians generally use more electricity than the national average.2 Areas with high energy needs naturally stand to save more by converting to a renewable energy source, as solar panels help offset electric bills.

Installing solar panels is also cheaper in Kentucky than virtually anywhere else in the entire country. A typical 11 kilowatt (kW) system in Kentucky will be about $3,520 less expensive than the national average. Kentucky solar incentives are also decent and help boost long-term savings.

We’ll explain the process of solar conversion in Kentucky in depth in the following sections. You can use the links below to jump to a specific area.

Step 1: What to Consider When Buying Solar Panels

Step 2: Getting a Quote from a Solar Provider

Step 3: Signing a Solar Contract

Step 4: What to Expect on Solar Panel Installation Day

Step 5: Final Inspection for Installed Solar Panels

Step 6: Permission to Operate (PTO)

Step 7: Sit Back and Enjoy Your Solar Energy

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Step 1: What to Consider When Buying Solar Panels in Kentucky

Going solar in Kentucky costs about $25,740 before any rebates or solar tax credits, so it isn’t something you want to dive into without doing some research. Here are a few factors you should consider when determining if solar will be a good fit for you.

Research If Solar Panels Are a Good Fit For Your Kentucky Home

Solar is a great option for most Kentuckians, but it might not be for you and your home, specifically. Your first order of business should be to determine if solar is a good match for your particular property.

We recommend starting by using our solar calculator to figure out how many panels are suitable for your home.

Roughly 27 to 28 solar panels are needed to generate enough power for a typical Kentucky home. If you need far more due to unique energy needs, going solar will be abnormally costly for you and may not be worthwhile.

We also recommend you consider how much sun your property gets, which involves assessing local weather conditions and things like tree coverage.

The state as a whole only gets an average of 189 sunny days per year, which is well below the national average.3 Solar panels experience significantly reduced production on cloudy days, so areas that don’t see a lot of sunlight may see a lower return on investment – and may not be ideal for going solar. This is especially true for properties where the tree canopy prevents sunlight from reaching the roof.

Another major thing to research is the electric company that services your property. You’ll want to find out about the utility’s net energy metering policy, which allows you to send excess energy you generate to the local power grid and get credits you can use to offset future electricity bills.

Commonly referred to as NEM, net energy metering is a hugely beneficial financial incentive that helps you reduce energy costs over time – and helps your investment in solar panels pay off more quickly.

Luckily, most Kentucky residents will have access to a net metering program. Net energy metering is currently mandated by the Kentucky Public Service Commission for residential and small business customers who are served by investor-owned utilities (IOUs). The state’s largest electric company, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), doesn’t fall under that mandate, but chooses to offer NEM nonetheless.

Contact your utility company and ask if you would have access to net energy metering. Be sure to ask about the rate they use to calculate your credits.

The table below includes some pertinent statistics and figures related to converting to solar as a renewable energy source in your area. We’ll also include a side-by-side comparison with U.S. averages so you can see how valuable solar can be in the Bluegrass State.

Kentucky State Average United States National Average
Solar Power System Size Required 11 kW 9 kW
Typical Cost Per Watt to Install Photovoltaic (PV) Equipment $2.34 $2.66
Average Total System Cost Before Federal Solar Income Tax Credit $25,740 $23,940
Average Federal Credit Value $7,722 $7,182
Average Total System Cost After Federal Credit $18,018 $16,758
Average Panel Payback Period 12 years 12 years
Average Lifetime Savings of Converting to Solar $20,247 $22,379

Research How to Finance Solar Panels

If you decide solar is a good investment and makes sense for your home, you can start to look into financing options you could use to pay for your solar energy system.

Before you get too deep, we suggest using our solar calculator to estimate what size system you’ll need for your home and then multiplying the watts you require by the average price per watt in your area — $2.34. That will give you an idea of where your total cost will fall.

While the price might seem overwhelming, it’s worth considering how much money you’ll save with your system and that solar payment options are available to help make the conversion more accessible. Below are the four payment options you have at your disposal:

  • Cash: You’ll have to pay up-front and out-of-pocket, but you’ll get the lowest total system price and the fastest panel payback timeline of all of the payment methods. Plus, you’ll have access to all the solar incentive programs available.
  • Solar loan: Your initial costs will be significantly lower than if you paid in cash — sometimes $0 — but the interest you pay each month will push up the all-in cost of solar panels. You still get access to all incentives, and you have a great payback timeline, although it will be a bit longer than with cash.
  • Solar lease: Taking out a solar lease means you’ll never actually own your solar panels, but it can be a good way to access some of its benefits. With this arrangement, you rent panels from an installer, paying a monthly rental fee and getting to use the energy the panels generate to offset your utility bills. However, you cannot take the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) if you lease, and your overall energy savings will be significantly lower than if you paid with cash or a loan.
  • Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): In this arrangement, a company installs panels on your home at no upfront cost, and you have the opportunity to buy the energy they generate at a lower-than-retail rate. This option doesn’t let you take the federal tax credit either and has the lowest possible return on investment.

Step 2: Getting a Quote from a Solar Provider

Next, you can move on to getting formal estimates. Here’s how the process works.

Picking a Solar Installer

Your first order of business will be to choose a few solar power installation companies in your area and request quotes. This seems like a simple step, but we recommend putting some time and effort into finding reliable installation companies to make sure you get a safe installation and good warranty coverage after the fact.

We recommend carefully considering the factors below when deciding which companies to contact for a quote:

  • Time and experience in the solar industry
  • Customer reviews
  • Affordability and availability
  • Warranty coverage
  • Certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP)
  • Contribution to clean energy initiatives

In our opinion, some of the best solar companies in Kentucky that match these criteria include the following:

You can check out our guide to choosing a solar company in Kentucky for more information on these companies.

What to Expect After Requesting a Quote

In most cases, you’ll provide your information in an online form to request an estimate from an installer. Shortly after you do, a sales representative from the company should connect with you to set up a time and date for a consultation. This meeting can be done in person, but virtual meetings are typically more popular.

The consultation usually takes about a half hour, during which time you’ll need to provide some information about your home, your energy usage and what systems in your home use electricity (such as heating and stoves). You’ll also be asked to provide a copy of a recent power bill to assess your average monthly energy demands.

The sales rep will then move your solar project to the design phase, and they should schedule a technician to come out to take measurements of your roof and inspect your home in person. Once a system is designed to suit your home, you’ll receive a formal solar proposal.

The proposal will have a lot of information on it. Below are some of the things you should look for in particular:

  • The proposed size of your system, including the number and brand of panels
  • Diagrams of where the panels, inverters, wiring conduits and add-on products will be installed
  • The total cost of your system before and after rebates and tax credits
  • How much energy your system is expected to produce each month and annually
  • Information on how your energy bill and effective electricity rates will be affected
  • An estimated panel payback period — the time it takes for your panels to pay for themselves
  • A breakdown of permitting and inspection fees
  • How much you’re expected to save on your energy bills over the life of your system
  • Warranty coverage information 
  • Payment and payment method information
  • A proposed timeline for your system to be installed and commissioned

While getting quotes can take some time and effort, we recommend getting at least two or three proposals. This will allow you to compare them and find the one that works best for you. Some companies will also offer to match a competitor’s price, which means you could save money just by getting multiple free solar quotes.

Consider Purchasing Solar Accessories

When you’re requesting estimates from solar providers, you should start considering what, if any, additional equipment you want to be installed. All systems include panels and inverters, but some Kentucky solar customers also choose the below add-on products:

  • Solar batteries: Solar storage is quite popular in Kentucky, helping power your home in the event of power outages. Solar panels coupled with batteries can continue to provide power even through blackouts.
  • Solar carports: Solar carports are a convenient way to increase the area you have on your property to install PV panels. This is helpful in Kentucky, specifically, because of the above-average system sizes needed to offset the electricity usage. Larger systems don’t always fit on homes in the area, so carports are useful for expanding solar potential.
  • Energy efficiency upgrades: Since the average energy consumption in your area is so high, many property owners choose to carry out energy efficiency home improvements alongside their solar conversions. New insulation or more eco-friendly doors and windows can help reduce energy usage, improve your sustainability and save you money on your electric bills. Some solar companies in the area offer these services.
  • Electric vehicle chargers: Electric vehicles (EVs) aren’t terribly popular in Kentucky, largely due to the lack of a charging infrastructure.6 For homeowners looking to purchase an electric vehicle, an at-home charging station will likely be required.

Step 3: Signing a Solar Contract in Kentucky

Once you dial in what you’ll be including in your solar array and have an estimate on hand that works for you, you can finally sign a contract with the company of your choosing. We’ll detail some of the things to look for in a contract and what to expect afterward in the sections below.

How Do Solar Warranties Work in Kentucky?

One of the most important things to look for in your solar contract is the warranty coverage that’s outlined for your solar panel system and installation. There are three different warranty coverage options you may see, which we’ll explain briefly below. Companies that offer all three of these are ideal.

  • Equipment warranty: Equipment warranties — also called manufacturer warranties — cover defects in your equipment that stem from the manufacturing process. The typical equipment warranty is for 25 years.
  • Labor warranty: Labor warranties cover the installation process and protect you from issues that come about because of mistakes made by your installers. Some companies don’t offer workmanship warranties at all, but most offer at least a 10-year labor guarantee. Look specifically for roof leak coverage within the labor warranty language. This is a relatively uncommon offering, but it’s great to have, especially in the areas in the Bluegrass State that see well-above-average rainfall per year.7
  • Performance warranty: Finally, you should receive a performance warranty for your panels, which guarantees that the equipment won’t lose too much efficiency as it ages. The standard in the solar industry is for panels to maintain between 80% and 90% efficiency over 20 to 25 years.

When Can I Expect Solar Service to Go Live?

Once you sign your solar contract, you can expect to wait between six and eight weeks for the installation process to begin. During that time, your installer will be waiting for permits to be approved and issued and for equipment to be delivered, if necessary.

You could wait a bit longer, depending on your installer and how backed up they are. If you order products that are on backorder — like Tesla Powerwalls, which are currently backed up for several months — then your installation timeline will be delayed.

Thankfully, the demand for solar is lower in Kentucky than in most other states, so delays on the part of your installer shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

Solar Panel Permits in Kentucky

Each municipality in the state handles solar permitting differently, but the bottom line is that you’ll need permits before you can legally begin your installation process.

In most cases, your installer will handle the permitting for you, so you won’t have to contact your local building department or worry about filing any paperwork. There is often a fee for filing, though, which your installer will charge you for and usually include on your initial solar quote.

The fee for solar permits varies based on where you live, but most fall between $50 and $150, which is well below average.

For example, the Louisville building department charges $50 for the electrical permit required for solar system installation.8 The city of Lexington has electrical permits available for just $10, which is well below average.9 The city of Bowling Green charges up to $100 for electrical permits.10

We recommend checking your solar estimate to see if permit fees and inspection fees — if applicable — are included in the total cost. If not, you should expect to have to pay these fees out of pocket as your solar project progresses.

Solar & Utility Interconnection

Interconnection is the term that describes how your PV array interacts with the power grid, and it’s what allows for net energy metering. Since NEM is such a wildly beneficial perk in the area, applying for interconnection should be considered a necessity.

Interconnection applications need to be submitted to your local utility company and approved before you can connect your system to the grid. Each provider will have a different application and application process – and your installer will often handle it for you.

TVA has a streamlined online application process for interconnection and its dispersed power production program.12 You can fill out the form online or have your contractor do so for you.

Applying for interconnection is a bit time-consuming, and waiting for the inspection to be done by an inspector from your power company can delay the process of getting your clean energy system commissioned. However, NEM is valuable and helps boost your long-term energy savings with solar, so it’s well worth the time invested.

Step 4: What to Expect on Solar Panel Installation Day in Kentucky

When the solar PV system design is completed, and the permits are all in order, you’ll be put on your company’s installation schedule. Solar installations take around six to eight hours in Kentucky, although some can take longer due to the larger solar power system sizes required.

Many customers wonder, “Do I need to be home for solar panel installation?” The answer is yes, absolutely. Your solar installation team will need access to the interior of your home throughout the installation, so you should plan on being home all day to provide access. You should also prepare for quite a bit of noise, as they’ll be drilling on your roof.

Some companies might split the work into multiple days, but efficient installation teams will likely be able to wrap up in a single day.

If your installer schedules an inspection with your utility company on the day of the installation to streamline the interconnection process, it might extend your total installation time. Solar inspections typically take 30 minutes to an hour to complete.

Step 5: Final Inspection for Installed Solar Panels in Kentucky

In addition to the inspection from your utility provider, you’ll also need a final inspection from the building department to close out your permits. This inspection is typically scheduled after the panels are installed, so it won’t occur the same day the work is done.

Final inspections often seem unnecessary, but they do two important things for you. First, they allow the building department to close out your open permits. Open permits can be an issue when you go to sell your home, so it’s important to close them within a reasonable time from when they’re opened.

Second, they help the building department confirm that your system was installed safely and won’t cause any severe property damage.

You will need to be home for most inspections, although some inspectors are willing to do a drive-by inspection. It all depends on the specific inspector assigned to your project. Your contractor should coordinate a day for you to meet the inspector, if necessary.

Inspections usually don’t come with a separate cost. However, you might be billed for a reinspection if you miss your original appointment with the building department representative.

Once your inspection is done, you’re on your own in terms of making sure that your equipment continues to function as expected. In many cases, your installer will provide access to a monitoring app — like the ones that SunPower and Tesla offer — to keep an eye on production and energy consumption.

Step 6: Permission to Operate (PTO) in Kentucky

The final step of the process is getting permission to operate (PTO), which is provided after your inspections. This confirms that your system is installed and connected to the grid properly. At this point, it’s safe to activate your system and start powering your home with your panels.

Your installer will usually help you download any monitoring app that’s included with your panels and show you how to use the software to check on your production. They should also walk the property with you and show you where the emergency shut-off switch is and how to use it. They will also officially activate your system by turning the switch on.

The only other thing to keep in mind is that you should be aware of who to contact in the case of an emergency. You’re urged to call 911 if there is any indication of an electrical fire or other life-threatening issues, and then call the emergency number for your power company. We’ll list those numbers for the larger electric companies below.

  • Louisville Gas & Electric: 502-589-1444
  • Kentucky Utilities: 800-981-0600
  • Tennessee Valley Authority: 855-476-2489

Step 7: Sit Back and Enjoy Your Solar Energy in Kentucky

Now that your solar array is connected and activated, you can relax knowing that your panels will start paying for themselves and providing you with savings each and every month! Not only will your panels provide you with financial benefits, but they’ll also help you reduce your carbon footprint and your contribution to global warming and fossil fuel emissions.

Plus, while your panels provide the most value if you continue to enjoy the electricity savings they provide, you’ll also see a significant upside if you sell your home. Solar systems boost home value by an estimated 4.1%, so you’ll see a return on your investment even if you don’t live in your home for the lifespan of your panels.13

FAQ: Solar Panels in Kentucky

We get a lot of questions about the process of converting to solar in Kentucky. We’ll answer some of the most common ones we see below.

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Article author
Dan Simms is an experienced writer with a passion for renewable energy. As a solar and EV advocate, much of his work has focused on the potential of solar power and deregulated energy, but he also writes on related topics, like real estate and economics. In his free time — when he's not checking his own home's solar production — he enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, skiing and rock climbing.
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Expert reviewer
Andrew Dunn is a veteran journalist with more than 15 years of experience reporting and editing for local and national publications, including The Charlotte Observer and Business North Carolina magazine. His work has been recognized numerous times by the N.C. Press Association and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Andrew earned a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as a certificate in business journalism and a minor in Spanish. He's also an avid outdoorsman, an Eagle Scout and volunteer leader in the Boy Scouts of America. He lives in Charlotte, N.C.

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