Michigan Solar Panel Buyers Guide [Installation & Efficiency 2022]

Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide to Michigan solar panels:

  • What the process of going solar in MI looks like
  • The typical cost of solar panels in the area
  • How much energy your panels in MI are likely to generate
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How to Get Solar Panels in Michigan

The first step you’ll need to take when you’re ready to go solar is to reach out to a local solar installer. The company will review your energy needs and will typically send a representative to inspect your home for sun exposure and shading, as well as measure your roof for the panels.

Your sales rep will then pass off your file to the design team to come up with a system that suits your needs. This will include panels, inverters and solar batteries, if applicable.

Once you sign off on the design, your rep will help you find a suitable financing option. If you don’t plan on paying cash, you can choose from a solar loan, a solar lease or a power purchase agreement (PPA), depending on your installer. Next, permits will be pulled and approved, and then the installation will be carried out.

Going solar in MI is typically a great financial decision. Converting to solar energy nets the average Michigander around $23,500 in energy savings after the panels pay for themselves. Plus, solar reduces your carbon footprint and lowers your use of fossil fuels.

Badge icon

SunPower

Best National Provider

Nationwide Service

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Most efficient panels on the market
  • National coverage
  • Cradle to Cradle sustainability certification
  • Great warranty coverage

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Customer service varies by local dealer
Badge icon

Windfree Solar

Outstanding Local Installer

Local Service

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Excellent reputation
  • Outstanding workmanship

Cons

  • Slightly limited service area
  • May be overqualified for residential systems
  • No leases or PPAs
Badge icon

The Green Panel

Outstanding Local Installer

Local Service

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Outstanding customer service
  • Excellent reputation
  • Great warranty coverage

Cons

  • No leases or PPAs

What Is the Price of Solar Panel Installation in Michigan?

The average price of a solar array in MI is $13,769. This assumes a few things:

  • The typical per-watt cost in the area of $2.81, which is above the national average
  • The full 30% federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) is taken, totaling $5,901, on average
  • The average size system for MI of seven kilowatts (kW) will suffice to offset your electric bills

If you have average energy bills for the area, then you can safely assume that your panels will pay for themselves in around ten years. This is referred to as the solar panel payback period, and it’s shorter than the U.S. average of 12 years.

You can get more information on the cost of your solar energy system and what influences your total by reading through our guide to Michigan solar prices.

The Best Solar Panel Brands Available in Michigan

MI is ranked 24th in the country for solar adoption, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).1 While the local solar industry is still in the process of expanding and catching up to the early adopters, residents already have access to equipment from most of the major panel manufacturers.

MI residents only see around 170 sunny days per year, which is well below the national average,2 so most residents opt for high-efficiency panel brands to produce sufficient energy for their homes.

Below is a quick list of some of the more common panel brands available in Michigan that residents choose for efficiency and affordability:

  • SunPower (highest efficiency panels on the market)
  • Panasonic
  • Tesla
  • LG
  • REC
  • Qcells
  • Trina Solar
  • Canadian Solar

Is Michigan a Good State for Solar Panels?

Many people assume that Michigan’s northern location in the U.S. means that solar isn’t viable in the area. While it’s true that MI receives less intense sunlight and less sunlight overall than most other states, there are a few factors that make solar a great option in the Great Lakes State. These include:

Michigan solar panels

  • Below-average energy needs: The average household in MI consumes around 676 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per month, which is well below the national average of 893 kWh.3 This places it 11th in the country for the lowest electric bills. Low energy needs mean that smaller solar system sizes will typically suffice. The average solar panel system requirement in MI is seven kilowatts (kW), which is below average and more affordable than in most other states.
  • High cost of electricity: While energy consumption in MI is low, electricity rates are high. The average cost per kWh is over 16 cents nearly 30% higher than the national average.4 Photovoltaic (PV) equipment is more valuable in areas where electricity prices are high, as it saves more money for each kWh generated.
  • Decent solar incentives: MI is also home to a handful of valuable solar perks. These help reduce up-front solar panel costs and improve long-term savings.

How Much Energy Can I Get From Solar Panels in Michigan?

One of the first questions most prospective solar customers ask is how much energy their panels can produce. This is especially relevant in MI, where sunlight is relatively scarce and lacks intensity.

It’s challenging to answer this question without inspecting your property because a number of factors have an impact on solar electricity generation. These factors can affect production among different solar systems and even for the same system on a day-to-day basis. These factors include:

  • The orientation of your Michigan home: The sun travels across the sky to the south in North America, so roofs that face the south will receive the most direct sunlight. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), this is the primary reason why systems on southern-facing roofs generate the most electricity5
  • Tree coverage and shading on your property: Your solar PV panels will only produce energy when the sun is shining on them, so anything on your property that blocks the available sunlight will cause production to dip. Common obstructions include tree coverage, nearby buildings and utility poles.
  • The panel brands you install: As mentioned above, Michigan residents have access to a variety of panel brands, and each has a different efficiency rating. Since MI receives less sun and less intense sunlight than most states, choosing a high-efficiency panel is usually necessary. The one you pick, though, will determine how much of the available sunlight can be absorbed and converted to electricity.
  • The weather: The weather plays a role in panel production because it affects the available sunlight. Sunny days will yield the highest production, while cloudy days can cause your energy generation to drop significantly, sometimes down to 10% of the panel’s maximum capabilities.
  • How many panels you install and the watts per panel: The size of your system is one of the most significant factors that influence production rates. Larger systems with the same efficiency rating will always generate more power, although price also increases with size.

All of the factors above combine to make it difficult to estimate electricity generation for your system. However, you can use the chart below to get a rough idea of what your panels will produce in MI.

Solar Power System Size Expected Daily Energy Produced Expected Monthly Energy Produced Expected Annual Energy Produced
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
10 kW 33.3 kWh 1,000 kWh 12,000 kWh

For more information on how we arrived at these numbers or to see how much energy panels on your specific roof will generate, you can check out our solar calculator.

Solar Panel Policy History in Michigan

While many of the most pro-solar states began offering perks for installing solar equipment in the 1970s, MI didn’t have a solar policy until 2002.

That year, MI passed its solar property tax exemption, which is a great policy for promoting solar adoption. This policy prevents property taxes from rising as a result of installing solar equipment even though it boosts home value.6

In 2008, MI set its first Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goal, which was to produce at least 10% of the state’s electricity using renewable energy sources. The deadline for this goal at the time was 2015, which the state did end up hitting. 

Also in 2008 MI implemented its net metering program. This policy allows solar customers to overproduce energy and “bank” the excess to pay down future bills when consumption is greater than production. This option is one of the most crucial and beneficial for solar panel value.

Net metering was mandated in MI for all utility companies, although this changed later on. Currently, Detroit Edison Energy (DTE Energy) and Consumer Energy are two of the largest companies that still offer net metering. DTE’s policy set the trend for other providers.

In 2009, the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) started a program called Michigan Saves. This solar loan program sought to advocate for affordable and accessible solar financing options, and it did so by negotiating low interest rates and down payments with third-party lenders.

Michigan Saves grew quite a lot in the following years and ended up becoming a standalone organization in 2011. Following the split from the PSC, Michigan Saves initiated the Home Energy Loan Program (HELP).

Unfortunately, 2012 brought some bad news for MI homeowners, with the termination of the solar property tax exemption.

Three years later, though, in 2015, MI reached its prior RPS goal and set a new one to produce 15% of the state’s power via renewable energy sources by 2021. This policy didn’t include a carve-out for solar.

That same year, MI first offered Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing. PACE financing helps provide affordable loans for energy efficiency upgrades — including solar power system installation — to low-income households.

michigan solar panels
Credit: Pixabay / Pexels

What Are The Solar Panel Incentives in Michigan?

With all of the solar policy ups and downs discussed in the previous section, keeping track of the currently-available solar benefits in MI could be a challenge. We’ll outline the incentives available today below for clarity:

  • Federal solar tax credit: The federal tax credit is for 30% of your total system cost, and it gets credited to your income taxes owed for the year your equipment is installed. The credit averages around $5,901 in MI.
  • Michigan Saves Home Energy Loan Program (HELP): The HELP program brings affordable solar loans to MI residents and keeps financing accessible by keeping interest rates and up-front payments down.
  • Alternative energy property tax exemption: This exemption prevents the added home value from your solar array from bumping up your property taxes.
  • PACE financing: The PACE program is aimed at making solar conversion more affordable and accessible to low-income households.
  • Net metering: Although net metering is not mandated in MI, many utility companies do offer it. If you’re a customer of Consumer Energy or DTE Energy, you will be able to bank excess energy and apply it to future energy bills to save money.

If you need more information on how to access these programs, or you want to see what other local benefits are available, you can check out our guide to solar incentives in Michigan.

Another backslide in solar policy took place in 2018, when the net metering policy was downgraded to an inflow/outflow model rather than retail cost. This meant excess energy was discounted when bought by the utility company.

Finally, in 2019, the property tax exemption was reinstated. Additionally, the state saw some major expansion in terms of community solar and utility-scale solar power plants. This was the year the Shiawassee County Planning Commission approved the largest solar farm in MI history, along with several other large-scale solar power plants.

Find a Local Installer in Michigan

The installer you choose to handle your solar project will determine your overall experience with solar to a large degree. System costs, customer service, available equipment brands and warranty coverage all vary among solar providers in MI.

Below, we’ll include links to company reviews for some of the largest cities in MI to help get your research phase started.

Sunset over beautiful Ann Arbor
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Installers in Ann Arbor

Sign entering Bloomfield Township in MI
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Installers in Bloomfield

Aerial view of Canton, MI
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Installers in Canton

Detroit city skyline at night
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Installers in Detroit

Panorama of Grand Rapids city skyline
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Installers in Grand Rapids

Location of Allendale in MI
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Installers in Allendale

Downtown Lansing in MI
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Installers in Lansing

Street view of downtown Flint
Credit: Michigan Municipal League / Flicker

Best Solar Companies in Flint

MI State Rte 29 leading into Chesterfield Township
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Installers in Chesterfield

Skyline of Battle Creek in MI
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Installers in Battle Creek

 

If you live outside of one of these cities, or you’re looking for larger regional or national companies to keep costs down, you can check out our guide to choosing a solar installer in MI.

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Dan Simms, Home Improvement Expert
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.