Maine Solar Panel Buyers Guide [Installation & Efficiency 2022]
Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide to Maine solar panels:
- The process of converting to solar energy in ME
- The typical cost for a solar power system and incentives you can take advantage of to bring your total down
- The average amount of electricity a system in ME can produce
How to Get Solar Panels in Maine
Residents who are ready to begin the solar conversion process in ME will need to start by contacting a local solar installer. You’ll speak with a salesperson who will determine your energy needs and inspect your home to take roof measurements and assess your sunlight availability.
The rep will then provide you with a proposed system design and a free quote. You can discuss solar financing options at this point, including cash purchases, solar loans, solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs). Once you approve the design and make payment, permits will be pulled, and your solar array will be installed.
Most residents in ME find that solar investment is worthwhile. Not only does conversion make your home more eco-friendly and reduce your carbon footprint, but it also tends to save you money on energy bills. The average energy savings over the lifespan of the equipment in Maine is over $20,000.
What Is the Price of Solar Panel Installation in Maine?
Solar panel systems in ME average around $2.83 per watt, which is well above the U.S. average of $2.66. However, homeowners in the Pine Tree State require relatively small systems of just 6 kilowatts (kW). That puts the average total to go solar at just under $12,000 after the federal tax credit is taken.
While this might seem expensive, it’s below the average cost in America. Plus, it becomes obvious how beneficial solar is in ME when you consider that the estimated energy burden in ME without solar is nearly $40,000.
You can read through our guide to solar costs in ME for more information on these numbers and your estimated costs.
The Best Solar Panel Brands Available in Maine
ME is a relatively green state, so it’s no surprise that the local solar industry is booming. Mainers have plenty of options when it comes to panel brands.
One important consideration to make when going solar in ME is the panel efficiency. The state receives around 192 sunny days annually, which pales in comparison to the national average.1 Many residents opt for highly efficient solar panel brands — like SunPower — to maximize production, given the relative lack of sunlight.
The brands below are some of the most popular options available in ME — all with excellent efficiency ratings.
- Maxeon (previously SunPower)
- LG (solar panels from this brand will soon no longer be available)
- Canadian Solar
- Mission Solar
- Trina Solar
Is Maine a Good State for Solar Panels?
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Maine ranks 32nd in the country for solar adoption.2 However, that certainly doesn’t mean solar isn’t a good investment in the Pine Tree State. In fact, there are a few factors at play that make ME an excellent state for solar conversion. These include:
- Below-average energy consumption: First off, ME residents have the fourth-lowest rates of energy consumption per month, with an average of just 570 kilowatt-hours (kWh).3 This is little more than half the national average monthly consumption. Areas with low energy needs require smaller solar systems to offset their consumption, which means the total installation cost to go solar in ME is well below average in the U.S.
- Above-average electricity rates: Although ME residents use less energy than most Americans, they also pay far more for electricity than average. The typical cost per kWh in ME is 16.81 cents, which is the lowest in New England but well above the national average of 13.15 cents.4 Solar becomes more valuable when there is more money to be saved on monthly electricity bills, so panels in Maine provide residents with more energy savings than they would in most other states.
- High risk of power outages: Maine is prone to some extreme weather, including massive snowstorms that can wipe out portions of the electric grid and cause large-scale blackouts. In fact, it’s one of the most likely places for power outages.5 Although solar panels alone won’t provide energy through outages, installing panels, inverters and solar batteries will let you maintain electricity temporarily off-grid through blackout conditions.
- Decent solar perks: ME has long been an environmentally-friendly state, so it should be no surprise that it promotes solar adoption by providing several benefits for solar customers. We’ll discuss the available benefits in greater depth later on.
How Much Energy Can I Get From Solar Panels in Maine?
Understanding how much electricity your solar energy system will produce is crucial for sizing your system appropriately and for ensuring that your utility bills will be sufficiently offset. Unfortunately, it’s very challenging to estimate production.
The reason for this is that there are several important factors to consider that can swing your generation rate way up or down. We’ll discuss these factors below.
- The number of panels you have installed: The single most important thing to consider when estimating your production is how many panels and solar cells you install on your roof. More panels will always equate to more significant energy generation, provided other variables don’t come into play. It’s important to remember, though, that larger systems aren’t always better, as there is a cost-to-value ratio to consider.
- The efficiency rating of your panels: For systems of the same size, the efficiency of the panels is often the next most important equipment factor to consider. Each panel brand comes with a specific efficiency rating, which tells you the percentage of the sun that hits the panels that can be converted to electricity. Higher energy efficiency ratings will yield more electricity in otherwise equal conditions.
- The direction your roof faces: The best-case scenario is to have photovoltaic panels that track the sun’s movement. However, since this is unrealistic for most residential solar projects, south-facing roofs are best for converting to solar in North America, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).6 This leaves you with the most direct sunlight possible for most of the day, which equates to higher levels of electricity generation.
- Shading on your property: Some homes with south-facing roofs still aren’t viable for solar conversion because of shading. Trees, other buildings, utility poles and electrical wires can all cast shadows on your roof and interrupt the available sunlight. Any shading on your panels during the day will cause a drop in production, although usually temporarily.
- The weather: Finally, the weather in your area can affect your production from day to day. Just like tree coverage, clouds can interrupt the available sunlight hitting your panels and cause a dip in production. Of course, your installer will take average weather conditions into account when sizing your solar array in ME.
As you can see, estimating how much electricity your PV system will produce can be a real challenge, given how many factors go into the equation. You can use the chart below to get a rough idea of what your production will be based on your solar electric system size.
|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|
|9 kW||26.6 kWh||800 kWh||9,600 kWh|
|9 kW||30 kWh||900 kWh||10,800 kWh|
You can also try out our solar estimates calculator for a more customized price. It uses an equation based on your property address and estimates shading on your roof to get a good idea of how much electricity panels on your home will generate.
Solar Panel Policy History in Maine
Maine has a bit of a checkered past when it comes to solar policy, with many different iterations of laws and benefits. However, going solar in ME today is highly beneficial thanks to the set of pro-solar laws now in place.
The state’s history with solar policy began in 1981 when ME enacted solar easement laws. These gave solar customers the right to use the available solar energy hitting their property.
In 1987, ME began its net metering program, but it was only available to a handful of residents because of restrictions on the systems that could benefit. It wasn’t until 1997 that the policy was expanded to benefit all solar customers.
Maine’s first Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goal was also set in 1997. It set out to generate a minimum of 30% of all the state’s electricity via renewable energy sources by 2017. This was an aggressive first RPS goal, but not quite aggressive enough, evidently. The goal was quickly amended to 40% by 2022. It is now set to 100% by 2050.
There was no solar carve-out in the RPS, but organizations like the Efficiency Maine Trust helped promote solar by offering rebates and other perks. The funds — provided by unavoidable charges on electric bills throughout the state — ran out in 2015.
In 2009, ME finally added solar rights to the easement laws it established in the 1980s. These new laws made it illegal for homeowners associations (HOAs) and other governing bodies to prevent solar installations.
2009 was also the first year that ME started pushing community solar farms, which are great for customers who want to move to clean energy but don’t want rooftop panels on their homes.
Two years later, in 2011, ME passed legislation that made Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing available to residents. This program kept interest rates and up-front solar panel costs low to make solar more accessible.
Finally, there were two additional changes to the net metering policy in ME. The first came in 2017 and changed it to a gross metering system, which was far less beneficial than when it provided retail rates for excess energy. This change was quite controversial, and the policy was finally changed back in 2019.
What Are the Solar Panel Incentives in Maine?
After numerous policy changes in ME, residents are finally left with quite a few incentives. We’ll briefly discuss these below and how they positively affect solar customers in the area.
- Net metering: This policy lets you generate more energy than you use and bank the excess with your utility company for later use. This is one of the best perks available in the solar industry, and it helps Mainers maximize their long-term energy savings.
- Renewable energy equipment exemption: Your property taxes are based on your home’s assessed value, which typically increases when you move forward with home improvements. Solar installation is expected to bump up your home value, but this tax exemption prevents your property taxes from rising as a result.7
- Federal solar tax credit: The federal investment tax credit (ITC) is a credit to your income tax burden in the amount of 30% of your total solar electric system cost — including panels, inverters and energy storage solutions. In ME, most residents get an ITC of around $5,000.
For more information on these benefits or to see if there are other local incentives in your area, you can read through our detailed guide to Maine solar incentives.
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.
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.