North Dakota Solar Panel Buyers Guide [Installation & Efficiency 2022]
Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide to North Dakota solar panels:
- The average cost of solar panels in ND
- How sunlight availability in the area affects panel production
- Benefit programs available that can help you save money on your system cost
How to Get Solar Panels in North Dakota
Installing solar panels is a fairly straightforward process in ND. You’ll first need to reach out to a local installer to get a free quote. The company will usually inspect and measure your roof and assess your energy bills to see how much solar electricity your panels will need to generate.
Next, you’ll decide which financing option works best for you. Options include cash purchases, loans, solar leases, and power purchase agreements (PPAs). After that, you’ll approve the system design and installation locations, permits will be pulled and the system will be installed and turned on.
Converting to solar energy in ND is usually a decent investment that provides some return over time. The majority of North Dakotans who install solar panel systems end up saving just over $18,000 on their electric bills over the lifespan of their panels (over and on top of savings that repay the system cost).
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What Is the Price of Solar Panel Installation in North Dakota?
The cost of solar panels can fluctuate based on many factors, but the average price in ND is around $2.42 per watt. The typical 11 kilowatts (kW) system required in the area would, therefore, total around $26,620. After the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) is considered, that would drop to approximately $18,634.
Over time, your panels are expected to pay for themselves by providing energy savings each month. The time this takes is called the panel payback period, and it averages around 13 years in ND. The savings mentioned above — over $18,000 — are additional savings that will come after the panel payback period.
You can read through our solar pricing guide in ND for more cost information in your area.
The Best Solar Panel Brands Available in North Dakota
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), ND is ranked dead last in the country in terms of solar adoption.1 However, most of the major panel manufacturers still provide their solar equipment to residents in Peace Garden State.
Since ND receives an average amount of sunlight and solar energy systems aren’t particularly prone to damage from extreme weather, most of the available panel brands are suitable.
Below, we’ll include a list of the equipment brands that pop up most often in home solar systems in ND.
- Maxeon (previously called SunPower)
- Canadian Solar
Is North Dakota a Good State for Solar Panels?
Although ND ranks last in the country for solar installations, it’s still considered a great place to install photovoltaic (PV) equipment. There are a few factors at play that make solar viable in the area. These include:
- Below-average equipment costs: Solar PV equipment is relatively affordable in ND at just $2.42 per watt on average. Residents enjoy prices that are the fourth lowest in the nation and well below average, so you get more for your money when you convert to solar power in North Dakota than you would in most other states.
- Lots of sun: Despite its northern location, ND receives plenty of sunshine for panels to offset your energy bills. Residents experience an average of 201 days of sunshine annually, which is just a touch below the U.S. average. This is plenty for most homeowners to see significant reductions in their utility bills and make the cost of solar equipment worthwhile.
- Heavy energy consumption: Electricity rates are lower than average in ND, but energy needs are relatively high. Homeowners in the state use an average of 1,085 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month, as compared to the national average of 893 kWh.2 Higher energy consumption means above-average electric bills, which means your solar equipment will have more to offset. Ultimately, this means more potential savings.
- Decent solar incentives: The Peace Garden State has made some efforts to entice residents to adopt solar. There are several benefits programs afforded by ND that help keep conversion costs down and make panels more profitable in the long term. We’ll discuss the specific incentives available in a later section.
How Much Energy Can I Get From Solar Panels in North Dakota?
One of the first questions prospective solar customers ask in ND is how much electricity their panels will generate. Once an estimate is provided, the customer can then calculate how many panels they need and the total system cost based on prices per watt.
Unfortunately, figuring out your panel production rates is a challenge. It’s not as simple as multiplying the number of panels you have by a per-panel generation rate, as a variety of factors can push panel energy efficiency up or down. We’ll briefly discuss these factors below.
- The efficiency rating of your panels: You’ll have access to a range of panel brands in ND, and each one has a rating for efficiency. That number tells you the maximum amount of sunlight that hits your panels that can be converted into electricity. Ultimately, if you choose high-efficiency panels and all other variables remain equal, you’ll always see greater energy production levels over solar PV panels with lower efficiency ratings. Just keep in mind that panels with high efficiencies typically cost more.
- The direction your panels face: In North America, the sun is in the southern section of the sky for most of the day. Panels that are mounted on southern-facing roofs, therefore, get hit with the most direct sunlight. The greater the intensity of the sunlight hitting your panels, the higher your energy production rates will be. That makes homes with south-facing roofs in ND better suited to solar conversion than those with roofs that face other directions.3
- The amount of sun your panels receive: Along with the intensity of the sunlight, the amount of sun hitting your panels will play a massive role in your production rates. If your roof receives shade at any point throughout the day, especially in the afternoon, your efficiency will drop significantly. Trees, buildings, utility poles, and electricity lines that cast shadows on your roof will all decrease production to some extent.
- The number of panels you install: The size of your system is one of the most influential factors to consider when estimating your energy production rates. Provided the other factors mentioned here remain equal, larger systems that contain more panels will always generate more power. Sizing your system appropriately is more cost-effective, though, than installing as many panels as possible.
- Weather conditions: Cloud coverage affects your production as well. In inclement weather, some systems produce just 10% of what they would on a bright, sunny day. Average local weather conditions should be carefully considered by your installer when sizing your equipment for your energy needs.
Calculating how much energy your panels will produce and accounting for all of these factors is all but impossible without a thorough property assessment. That’s why your sales rep will likely need to check out your home before providing a solar quote. However, you can use the chart below for a quick estimate based on system capacity.
|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|
You can also use our solar calculator for a more accurate estimate. This tool takes your specific geographical location into account and uses satellite imagery to determine shading on your roof. It then provides a customized estimate of how much electricity a solar array on your home will generate.
Solar Panel Policy History in North Dakota
Seeing as ND is ranked 51st in the country for solar adoption — after all other states and Washington, D.C. — it’s probably no surprise that the pro-solar policies and legislation in the area have been lacking compared to other states.
The first policy that helped promote and legitimize solar energy in ND was the solar and wind easements and laws. These were established back in 1977 and guaranteed that all homeowners had the right to install solar and collect the sunlight that would normally hit their properties.
It was over a decade later, in 1991, that the next piece of pro-solar legislation was passed: the bill that established the state’s net metering policy.
Net metering was pushed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) and was eventually put in place for all residential solar systems up to 100 kW — which was virtually all of them. It is now mandated for all investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and electric cooperatives.
Net metering has historically been one of the most crucial incentives for promoting solar adoption in the U.S. It helps maximize long-term savings, which, in turn, shortens the panel payback period.
One of the reasons net metering didn’t make as big of a difference for solar in ND as it did in other states is that the mandated credit for excess energy was the avoided-cost rate, which is less beneficial than the retail rate for energy.
In 2007, the North Dakota Industrial Commission established the Renewable Energy Program (REP). This helped fund large-scale industrial solar projects to promote clean energy throughout the state.
That same year, ND established the renewable energy property tax exemption. This policy keeps your taxes from increasing when you install solar.
Finally, in 2019, the CannonBall Community Solar Farm solar project was completed. This 300 kW solar farm became the largest utility-scale solar farm in ND history. This didn’t change policies or legislation, but it helped to set the stage for future projects and further solar adoption.
ND has yet to set a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goal, but doing so would likely lead to additional pro-solar laws and policies.
What Are the Solar Panel Incentives in North Dakota?
ND offers a handful of solar perks to residents, all of which increase the value of photovoltaic equipment and help make renewable energy more accessible. We’ll explain the benefit programs available today below.
- Net metering: Through interconnection, net metering lets solar customers overproduce electricity and get energy credits for the excess generation. Those credits can be rolled over into future energy bills, which helps maximize the value of solar and reduce the payback period with additional energy savings.
- Federal solar tax credit: The federal tax credit is offered by the federal government to all ND residents. It’s a credit for 30% of your system total — including panels, solar batteries, and inverters — that gets applied to your income tax liability. In ND, the ITC averages nearly $8,000.
- ND solar easements and laws: These laws guarantee that all residents can install and enjoy solar equipment. It prevents homeowners associations (HOAs) and strict municipalities from prohibiting solar installation.
- Property tax exemption: Installing a solar power system boosts your home value by around 4.1%.4 Normally, when your property value goes up, so do your taxes. This exemption prevents your solar PV system from affecting your taxes.
For more information on these perks and to read about rebate programs and other benefits offered by local electric utility companies — including Xcel Energy and Otter Tail Power Company — you can check out our guide to all available North Dakota solar incentives.
Find a Local Installer in North Dakota
Choosing a solar installer is a big decision. The company you pick will play a role in your total equipment price, how lengthy your solar warranty is, and the kind of customer service you receive throughout the installation process.
Below, we’ll include some links to lists of the top solar providers in some of the larger cities in ND.
For additional recommendations and for companies that serve other cities in the area, you can read through our guide to choosing a solar company in North Dakota.