Your Guide to Solar Panels in Maine: 7 Steps to Solar Panels in Maine

Solar panels are more valuable in Maine than they are in most other states, with the average system paying for itself in just ten years and then saving over $20,500 on utility bills after the payoff period.

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Maine ranks quite low in terms of solar adoption rate, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), but that doesn’t mean solar isn’t a worthwhile investment in the area.1

Solar ends up being a great investment for most Mainers thanks to the well-above-average electricity costs in the area, the low installation costs and the decent solar incentives.2 Solar perks like full-retail-value net metering and property tax exemptions for photovoltaic (PV) panels equipment help legitimize solar conversion and increase the overall value of systems in the area.

System costs in Maine average around $11,886 after incentives and solar rebates are accounted for and save significantly more than that over their lifespan. Overall, the return on investment is higher in the state than in most other areas throughout the country.

In this guide, we’ll be explaining the process of going solar, including a look at each step of the process, from initial research to panel activation. You can use the links below to jump to a particular section if needed.

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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  • Most efficient panels on the market
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  • Expensive
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Summit Energy

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  • Great warranty coverage
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ReVision Energy

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  • Relatively short workmanship warranty
  • No leases or PPAs

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

Although solar arrays are more affordable in Maine than in most states, the installation cost still averages close to $12,000 after incentives, so it’s important to do your research on the value of your system before moving forward. We’ll explain how to assess your property’s solar viability in the following sections.

Research If Solar Panels Are a Good Fit For You in Maine

Before you start contacting local solar companies for estimates, it’s a good idea to make sure that solar will be beneficial for your home. Converting to clean energy ends up being beneficial for most residents, but it’s not right for everyone.

We suggest getting started by figuring out how many panels your home requires to offset your energy needs. You can use our solar calculator to get a system size approximation.

This estimate should serve as your first piece of evidence that solar is a good fit for your home. The average system size in Maine is 6 kilowatts (kW). If you need a system much larger than that and your energy consumption is close to the average in the area, then there’s some factor that’s limiting your system value.

Tree coverage and weather are two of the most likely culprits. If you don’t have significant shade on your roof from trees throughout the day, then we recommend you look at local weather conditions.

The state as a whole sees around 192 days of sunshine per year, which is below average.3 If your area sees more cloudy weather than normal — which is detrimental to solar production — then your PV panels may prove to be less valuable over time.

Consider Net Metering

Additionally, snow coverage on panels will limit solar production. If your area sees much more snowfall than the state average of around 60 inches, your production and long-term savings will be slightly below-average as well.4

In most states, access to net metering is another crucial factor to consider. Net metering — or net energy metering (NEM) — is a billing policy offered by power companies that lets you accrue energy credits for excess energy production. Your credits can then offset any kilowatt-hours (kWh) you pull from the grid, maximizing your savings.
Thankfully, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in the state mandates NEM for all electric companies, and it requires that the full retail value per kWh be offered for excess production. This is the best-case scenario, and all residents have access to it in the Pine Tree State. As such, NEM policies will not affect your solar viability unless, of course, the policy changes.

As of this writing, though, all utility companies in the state are required to provide this outstanding net energy metering program. That includes the larger providers, like Madison Electric Works (MEW), Versant Power (Bangor Hydro), Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative (EMEC) and Maine Public Service (MPS).

The chart below illustrates just how beneficial it can be to go solar in Maine. It includes some statistics about solar installation costs and long-term savings compared to the same numbers in the country as a whole.

Maine State Average United States National Average
Solar Power System Size Required 6 kW 9 kW
Typical Cost Per Watt to Install Photovoltaic (PV) Equipment $2.83 $2.66
Average Total Solar Panel Cost Before Federal Solar Income Tax Credit $16,980 $23,940
Average Federal Solar Tax Credit Value $5,094 $7,182
Average Total System Total After Federal Credit $11,886 $16,758
Average Panel Payback Period 10 years 12 years
Average Lifetime Savings of Converting to Solar $20,786 $22,379

It’s important to note that although the lifetime solar savings in ME are slightly lower than the national average, the installation costs are also well below average. That means the overall return on investment (ROI) is higher in your state than in most others.

Research How to Finance Solar Panels

Once you’ve confirmed that your property will benefit from solar adoption, you can start thinking about the most convenient ways to pay for your rooftop solar system.

We suggest starting by getting an idea of the size of the system you need for your home. Once you know the size in watts, you can multiply by the average cost per watt in the area — $2.83 — to get an approximate all-in price. The average cost to go solar in ME is around $16,980, but it’s important to remember that your system is expected to pay for itself over time.

Next, you can consider the four primary payment options you have available to you, which we’ll explain briefly below:

  • Cash purchase: A cash purchase demands the entire system price upfront, which makes this the least accessible option. However, it also leads to the shortest panel payback period, the highest savings and the lowest system cost.
  • Solar loan: A solar loan is more accessible because you’re only responsible for a down payment upfront, which can be as low as $0. The interest you’ll pay will increase your overall system price and reduce your savings a little, but if it means accessing renewable energy, then it’s an option that’s well worth considering.
  • Solar lease: A solar lease is a rental agreement for PV equipment. You pay a monthly fee to your installer, but you get to keep and use the energy the panels generate to offset your energy bills each month. Overall, this option saves you less than a cash purchase or solar loan would, but the upfront costs are almost always $0.
  • Power purchase agreement (PPA): A PPA is similar to a lease, but instead of paying a monthly panel rental fee, you get panels installed for free and sign an agreement to buy the electricity they produce. You’re expected to see minimal savings in the long run, but this is a good way to support the renewable energy movement without having upfront costs.

It’s worth noting that leases and power purchase agreements prevent you from taking the federal investment tax credit (ITC), which is an average value of around $5,000 in Maine.

The state also offers Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, which is an alternative payment option that includes low-interest rates and down payment requirements. Your monthly payment gets added to your tax bill for easy and automatic payment.

Another option you have in the state is opting into community solar. Several community solar farms in the area can provide a low-cost access point to renewable energy.

We always recommend choosing the option with the lowest panel payback period that fits within your budget. This will help you optimize your financing option without paying more than you can afford.

Step 2: Getting a Quote from a Solar Provider

After you figure out your solar viability and the best financing option for your situation, you can start contacting local solar companies to get legitimate estimates. We’ll explain what to look for in a solar system installer and what to expect after providing your information in the sections below.

Picking a Solar Installer

As straightforward as it might seem, choosing a solar contractor is usually a time-consuming and challenging process. There are over 30 installers to choose from in Maine, and each one offers different equipment, warranties, customer service and overall value.5

Ideally, you want to choose an installer that meets the following criteria:

  • The company should have mostly positive customer reviews online, as well as a score of A or better with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
  • The installer should have technicians on its installation team that are certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).
  • The provider should offer high-quality equipment brands, maintain affordable pricing and accept your preferred payment method.
  • The company should have at least five years of experience serving the solar industry, and localized experience is preferred.

In case you’re looking to expedite some of the research process, we’ll include a list of some of the top PV panel installers in Maine that meet the above criteria below:

  • ReVision EnergyRegional installer
  • Maine Solar Solutions — Local installer
  • Summit Energy — Regional installer
  • Invaleon Solar — Regional installer

You can get more information about these installers and why we chose each of them by checking out our article on the best Maine solar installation companies.

What to Expect After Requesting a Quote

After you request a solar quote, you should be contacted by a sales representative within 24 to 48 hours. The rep will discuss your energy needs, request information about the equipment in your home that uses electricity and ask for a recent energy bill to determine your monthly energy consumption rate.

Next, your rep should set up an in-person inspection so someone from the company can look at your roof. They will take measurements and might use drones to assess how much sun exposure your rooftop solar panels would see each day. After that, your solar project will be passed to the design team.

Once your design is completed, you’ll receive a solar proposal, which will include a bunch of information about your system and its estimated production. Your sales rep should contact you again to discuss the proposal and the details below:

  • The cost of your system before and after tax incentives and rebates are considered.
  • The size of your system in kW, the energy production estimate in kWh and your expected monthly, annual and lifetime savings.
  • The specific placement of your equipment is depicted in schematics.
  • Fees you’ll be paying for permits, inspections and grid connection.
  • An estimate for how long your panels will take to pay for themselves.
  • Warranty coverage information.
  • Information about your payment option and when funds are due.

Although it can take a few weeks to get to the point of receiving a formal solar quote from just one installer, we recommend going through the above process with at least two or three companies.

Not only will getting multiple quotes help you choose the installer that provides the best value, but some companies will match competitor prices or include add-on products for free to get your business if they know you’re getting multiple quotes.

Consider Purchasing Solar Accessories

Many Mainers choose to include add-on products to their PV system, which can help increase savings over time or allow you to utilize overproduction to save money elsewhere. It’s a good idea to include add-ons in your original quote and installation, as you can only claim the federal tax credit once, and it might apply to accessories as well.

Below is a short list of some of the popular add-ons Maine residents choose when going solar:

  • Electric vehicle (EV) chargers: According to local news sources, residents are adopting EVs in greater numbers than ever before.6 With charging stations placed sporadically throughout the state, though, many residents are opting for in-house EV chargers to make their cars more practical and affordable.
  • Energy efficiency upgrades: New England residents pay unusually high electricity prices, and Maine is no exception, with each kWh costing approximately 1.5x the national average.7 To help combat high electricity rates, many solar providers in the area also offer energy-efficiency home improvements, including insulation replacement, new window and door installation and solar water heater installation.
  • Solar batteries: PV batteries are most useful in areas without one-to-one NEM policies. While net metering in ME is outstanding, residents also see an above-average occurrence of power outages.8 Solar storage solutions like the Tesla Powerwall can take you off-grid and provide power through blackout conditions, making them indispensable in the Pine Tree State.

Step 3: Signing a Solar Contract in Maine

Community Solar Panels in MaineWhen you’re comfortable with one of the proposals you’ve received, you can move on to signing the contract from that installer. We’ll explain some of the things you should look for in your contract language below to ensure you get favorable terms.

How Do Solar Warranties Work in Maine?

The warranty coverage section of your solar contract is one of the most important things to read carefully. This describes what issues will and will not be covered after installation. Good warranty coverage can help protect your solar investment, while poor coverage can cut into your savings and reduce your panel value.

There are three kinds of solar warranty coverage to look for:

  • Efficiency warranties: Efficiency warranties guarantee that a certain percentage of your panels’ original efficiency — around 80%, on average — will remain after a given amount of time — 20 years, in most cases.
  • Workmanship warranties: Workmanship warranties cover the labor that goes into installing your PV equipment. They protect any resulting damage to your panels and your property, although only the best labor warranties cover roof leaks. The typical workmanship warranty lasts for around 20 years.
  • Equipment warranties: Equipment warranties usually come from the panel manufacturer and last for an average of 25 years. These cover things like manufacturer defects.

When Can I Expect Solar Service to Go Live?

Given the average installation timeline and demand for solar conversion in Maine, you should expect to wait between three and six months for your panels to be installed and commissioned from the time you sign your contract. There are a few factors to consider that can affect this timeline:

  • Delays due to your installer being backed up, given the high demand.
  • Delays in getting permit applications approved. These stem from your building department and can vary based on demand in your area and the building department in charge of your municipality.
  • Delays in getting your electric company to complete the final inspection of your solar electricity system to sign off. This is required for panel activation and, unfortunately, can delay the process by weeks or even months.

The weather in your state can also affect the installation timeline. Residents in your area see above-average amounts of snow, which can make installation dangerous and lead to short delays.

Solar Panel Permits in Maine

Permits for PV panel installation are mandated throughout the state and are governed by local municipalities. The application process and the fees charged for the permits can vary based on your location, but in all areas, your solar contractor will be the one filing the permits and providing any necessary documentation to the building department.

The only thing you’ll be responsible for is any permit fee that is charged by your building department. On average, you can expect to pay between $40 and $900 for your solar permits.

For example, Portland charges around $576 for the building permit for solar installation and $265 for the required electrical permit, totaling $841.9 Lewiston charges a much more reasonable $40 for residential solar permits.10 Bangor’s electrical permits total $79, and the building permits and COs total $150 for a total of $229.11

If in doubt about your permit costs, you can ask your installer, check your solar proposal for fee estimates or contact your local building department for more information.

Solar & Utility Interconnection

In addition to filing for building and electrical permits, your installer should also be submitting an application for interconnection with your local electric company. Interconnection is what governs how energy flows back and forth between your PV panels and the electric grid. Application is required to access NEM.

Every electric company has its own interconnection application process, and the application fee varies among providers. Your installer will handle applying, but you will be responsible for paying any application fees.

Madison Electric Works (MEW), for example, doesn’t charge for residential applications (level 1), and it uses printable applications that your installer can fill out.12 Versant Power (Bangor Hydro) also uses a printable application, but it charges $100 to apply.13

Maine Public Service (Central Maine Power) charges $100 for most residential applications, and the application form is printable as well.14

You can check your solar proposal or ask your installer for fee information if in doubt, or call your electricity provider for more information.

It should be noted that applying for interconnection and waiting for approval and an inspection can cause delays in getting your system up and running. However, since this process is required to get access to the positive NEM policy in your area, it’s well worth paying the application fee and waiting for approval.

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

After permits and applications for interconnection are all squared away and your installer has received any back-ordered equipment, you’ll finally receive your expected installation date. On that day, the installation team can be expected to take between four and eight hours to install your PV equipment, given the average size of systems in your area.

One of the most common questions we see about the actual installation process is, “do I need to be home for solar panel installation?” The answer is: yes! You should have someone home all day during the installation process to provide access to your home. Access is required to install add-on products and connect your PV equipment to your electrical panel.

Some installers will schedule the inspection for interconnection on the same day as your installation. This can save time, but it isn’t always possible and depends on your utility company. Solar inspections take around a half hour, so if it is scheduled for the same day, it will extend your installation timeline a little.

Step 5: Final Inspection for Installed Solar Panels in Maine

The permits that your installer opened as part of the preparation phase will need to be closed out after the installation is completed.

Open permits can lead to a variety of issues, including building department violations, monetary assessments and complications in the sale of your home to a financing buyer. It might seem like an unnecessary step, but getting your permits closed and receiving certificates of occupancy (COs) for the work is necessary to finalize your solar project.

Depending on the building inspector assigned to your project and whether you installed more than just panels and inverters, you might only need an exterior inspection, which doesn’t require you to be home. Some installers — and most inspecting systems with interior components, like EV chargers or solar batteries — will need interior access.

Your installer should facilitate the inspection scheduling if your inspector does need access, but you’ll need to be home to provide it. If you miss your appointment, you might be charged a re-inspection fee to have the inspector come back out to your property.

After the inspection is done, you’ll be the only one keeping an eye on your solar energy system for proper functionality. Some panel manufacturers like SunPower and Tesla include a solar monitoring app or software to keep track of production. You can use this to identify issues with your panels. Your installer should help you set up your app.

Step 6: Permission to Operate (PTO) in Maine

The last step in the process is to get permission to operate (PTO) from your electric company. PTO can only be received after your provider inspects your solar panel system — usually with an exterior inspection only — to confirm the connection is made safely. After this inspection is signed off on, your panels can be activated.

Your installer should explain how to turn your system on and off, and they should leave your panels activated for you to generate power for your home. You can also ask about monitoring software if you haven’t already.

Finally, you should have emergency contact information for your electric company. If you experience a life-threatening or property-threatening issue with your panels, you should call 911 and then contact your power provider to report the issue. If it’s safe to do so, you can use the emergency shut-off switch that’s located near your electric meter.

We’ll include the emergency contact information for some of the more popular power providers in your state below:

  • Madison Electric Works (MEW): 207-696-4401
  • Versant Power (Bangor Hydro): 207-973-2000
  • Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative (EMEC): 207-454-7555
  • Maine Public Service (MPS): 207-287-3831

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

Finally, your hard work should be paying off! Your panels should now be offsetting your energy bills, your contribution to pollution and emissions will be significantly reduced and your carbon footprint will be limited. Perhaps best of all, your energy costs should be much lower, and you’ll be enjoying energy independence from fossil fuels and your power company and all the freedom that it offers.

The last thing to note is that your hard work in installing solar will also have boosted your home value. You should see a return on investment from your panels whether you continue to use the renewable energy they provide for yourself or sell your home after conversion.

Find a Local Installer in Maine

The installer you choose will affect your solar warranty coverage, your all-in system cost, the panel brands available to you and your overall experience with going solar, so deciding on the best provider for your needs demands a lot of research and thought.

Below, we’ll include links to reviews of the top solar companies in some of the larger cities throughout Maine.

View of Bangor, ME, from the water
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Bangor

Aerial view of Old Port in Portland, ME
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Portland

Street view of downtown Lewiston
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Installers in Lewiston

Aerial view of beautiful Bar Harbor
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Installers in Bar Harbor

Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in South Portland
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Installers in South Portland

If you’re looking for company recommendations outside of these cities, or you just want more general recommendations that apply to the entire state, you can check out our guide to choosing a solar installer in Maine.

FAQ: Solar Panels in Maine

Below, we’ll provide answers to some of the most common questions we see about solar conversion from Mainers.

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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
Kristina Zagame is a journalist, editor and content writer with expertise in solar and other energy-related topics. Before joining EcoWatch, Kristina was a TV news reporter and producer, covering a wide variety of topics including West Coast wildfires and hurricane relief efforts. Kristina’s reporting has taken her all over the U.S., as well as to Puerto Rico and Chile.

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