Vermont Solar Panel Buyers Guide [Installation & Efficiency 2022]
Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide to Vermont solar panels:
- How to get the process of installing solar equipment started
- How much a system costs in the area and how to save money
- How much energy your panels are likely to produce
How to Get Solar Panels in Vermont
When you’re ready to install solar equipment on your Vermont home, you can get started by reaching out to a local installer. You should have a copy of your most recent utility bill to send to the salesperson, and you might need to schedule a property inspection for roof measurements and an assessment for solar viability.
At this point, you’ll likely need to discuss financing options for your home solar system. The options include cash purchase, solar loan, solar lease, and power purchase agreement (PPA). Solar leases and PPAs are the most affordable upfront but tend to save the least over time.
Next, the company will design a system for your home and get your approval on it. It will then pull permits for the solar installation and install your panels, inverters, and batteries, if applicable. Finally, the team will schedule inspections to close out the permits.
Choosing to convert to solar energy in VT is usually a wise decision. Not only does it make your home more eco-friendly by reducing your carbon footprint and fossil fuel emissions, but it also typically saves quite a bit of money. On average, your panels will pay themselves off and then save you over $26,000 on energy bills.
Green Mountain Solar
What Is the Price of Solar Panel Installation in Vermont?
Solar equipment is more costly in VT on a per-watt basis than it is in most other states. The average cost is around $2.87 per watt, which puts the total for a standard 6 kilowatt (kW) system at $17,220. If you can take the entire federal solar investment tax credit (ITC), then you can effectively knock your total down to just over $12,000.
A great way to see how valuable solar is in your area is with a metric called the panel payback period. This tells you the average time in your area — based on equipment costs, electricity rates, and average energy consumption — it takes for panels to pay for themselves.
In VT, the payback period is just nine years, which is much shorter than the U.S. average. For more information on how this is calculated or for additional cost metrics, you can check out our guide on solar energy system pricing in VT.
The Best Solar Panel Brands Available in Vermont
The solar industry in VT isn’t quite as robust as it is in many other states, but most of the major panel manufacturers do still serve The Green Mountain State. You should have plenty of equipment brand options to find one that works for you.
VT isn’t particularly prone to extreme weather that can damage panels, so while warranty coverage is great, it’s not the primary concern for most residents. Instead, most solar customers focus on panel efficiency, as VT receives far fewer sunny days per year than most other states.
Below is a brief list of some of the most prevalent panel brands that Vermonters choose to install. These all have a high energy efficiency rating, which makes them suitable for the area.
- Maxeon (previously called SunPower)
- Canadian Solar
- Mission Solar
- Trina Solar
- JA Solar
Is Vermont a Good State for Solar Panels?
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Vermont is ranked 35th in the country for solar adoption.1 This lagging adoption isn’t a reflection of the overall value of solar in VT, as the state is one of the best for converting to renewable energy. There are a few reasons for this, which we’ll discuss below.
- Below-average energy needs: First off, VT residents use far less electricity than most U.S. property owners. With an average use of just 567 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per household per month, Vermonters use less energy than residents of all but two other states.2 While this might seem to make solar conversion less valuable, the opposite is true. With low energy consumption, you need a much smaller photovoltaic (PV) system to offset energy demands. VT solar customers need a 6 kilowatt (kW) system on average, compared to the national average 10.5 kW system. That means going solar is significantly more affordable in VT than in most states.
- Above-average energy costs: While VT property owners use less energy than most U.S. residents, they also pay far more per kWh. The typical cost per kWh in VT is 19.54 cents, about 50% above the national average of 13.15 cents.3 Areas with high energy prices see far more savings from going solar because there is more money to be saved on each electric bill.
- Decent solar benefit programs: VT is a relatively green state that has initiated several important solar perks for customers. We’ll discuss the specific solar incentives and how they reduce up-front costs and boost overall savings later on.
- Frequent power outages: Finally, VT receives around 90 inches of snow each year.4 This is well above average and puts the area at high risk of lengthy blackouts.5 Solar batteries are a popular and valuable option in the area because they allow your electricity to function off the electric grid and maintain power through outages.
How Much Energy Can I Get From Solar Panels in Vermont?
The rate of energy production you’ll experience with your solar electric system is tough to pin down with any certainty. This is because there are quite a few factors that contribute to real-time and average solar generation rates. We’ll discuss some of these factors below.
- Impediments to sunlight hitting your panels: Your PV system will only produce electricity when the sun is shining on it. If your panels are shaded at any point during the day by trees or nearby structures, your production will drop. Even partial shading from utility poles and electrical wires will interrupt the sun hitting some of the solar cells, and you’ll miss out on maximum production.
- The direction your roof faces: South-facing roofs are the best for solar conversion, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).6 This is because the sun travels through the southern portion of the sky and delivers the most intense light to panels angled toward it. More intense sunlight means higher levels of energy production.
- The panel brand you install: If you’ve looked at spec sheets for any panels, you’ve likely seen a metric called the efficiency rating. This number tells you what portion of the sunlight hitting your panels can be collected and converted into electricity for your home. The maximum panel efficiency available now is 22.7% — from Maxeon panels — and any efficiency below this will generate less energy.
- The number of panels in your PV system: Larger solar panel systems will always produce more electricity if all other factors remain equal. Every kW you install should generate around 100 additional kWh each month. The size of your system is a major consideration when determining what kind of energy demands your solar project will be able to meet.
- The weather conditions: Finally, the weather can play a role in your generation rate. Cloudy days will leave you with significantly lower energy production — sometimes just 10% of what’s produced on bright, sunny days. Average weather conditions should be a consideration made by your installer as part of designing your system.
Although an accurate efficiency estimate really requires a property inspection, you can use the chart below to see general numbers for average PV system sizes in VT.
|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|
|8 kW||26.6 kWh||800 kWh||9,600 kWh|
|9 kW||30 kWh||900 kWh||10,800 kWh|
Alternatively, you can turn to our solar calculator for more accurate numbers. This tool uses your location and satellite imaging to estimate shading on your roof. This means you get a relatively accurate idea of how much energy panels on your home will generate.
Solar Panel Policy History in Vermont
VT has long been a proponent of renewable energy and solar in particular. Its pro-solar measures began back in 1975 with the instigation of the local property tax exemption. This gave municipalities the option of offering an exemption for solar systems on property taxes, which prevented taxes from increasing as a result of adding solar equipment.
In 1998, VT began offering its net metering program, which provided credits for all excess energy generated with solar power systems. At the time, the credits were issued at the retail rate per kWh, although this changed in later years. Net metering was and still is mandated for all utility companies.
A year later, in 1999, the state initiated the renewable energy systems sales tax exemption. This waived all sales tax for solar equipment, which knocked down system costs quite substantially.
In 2003, VT began the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Incentive Program (SSREIP). This fund issued rebates for solar system installations, making the conversion process more appealing and accessible. Unfortunately, the funds ran out in 2013, and the program has not been available since.
A few years later, in 2007, the State of Vermont started the Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development (SPEED) program.
This was similar to a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goal that other states were setting, although participation was voluntary. It set a goal of producing 20% of the state’s power via clean energy sources by 2017.
In 2009, the state passed renewable energy rights legislation, which made it unlawful for homeowners associations (HOAs), villages, and other municipalities to prohibit residents from installing rooftop solar systems.
2013 brought the uniform capacity tax exemption for solar. This policy revised the 1975 legislation for solar tax exemption and made it mandatory for all municipalities throughout the state. All solar systems 10 kW and under — which includes most residential solar arrays in VT — are included in this exemption.
In 2015, VT finally set its first official RPS goal to generate 75% of all consumer electricity via renewable energy sources by 2032. This was and still is one of the most aggressive RPS goals in the nation, and the state is already well on its way to hitting it.
2017 was another big year for solar policy changes in VT. First, the net metering policy was updated to reflect a blended rate for credits. This isn’t quite as appealing as the retail rate, but it’s the second-best option.
Second, the rate for Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) was updated to $0.01 per kWh produced for the first ten years your solar electric system is in operation.
Finally, the state passed a law that enabled group net metering, also called virtual net metering. This policy lets homeowners who participate in community solar programs take advantage of net metering.
What Are the Solar Panel Incentives in Vermont?
All of the solar policy changes above have led to a handful of crucial benefit programs and perks for solar customers in VT. We’ll briefly explain each of these below.
- Federal solar tax credit: This is provided by the federal government and acts as a credit to your income tax burden. The credit is for 30% of your entire system cost, including panels, inverters, solar battery storage solutions, and even electric vehicle (EV) chargers. Provided you can take the entire credit, you could get an average of $5,100 in VT.
- Net metering: This policy credits you for all energy you produce above and beyond what you consume. That means months of overproduction can effectively offset your electric bill if your panels underproduce in a later month (for instance if they’re covered in snow). The policy in VT credits all customers with close to the retail rate for energy.
- Renewable energy systems sales tax exemption: This policy exempts all photovoltaic equipment from sales tax. Ultimately, this brings the up-front cost of going solar down quite a bit, making clean energy more accessible.
- Uniform capacity tax exemption for solar: This is a property tax exemption that excludes the value added by your system — around 4.1% of your home value — from taxation.7 This exemption reduces the barrier to entry to solar.
If you need more information on how these benefit programs work or how you can take advantage of them, you can read through our guide to solar perks available to Vermonters.
Find a Local Installer in Vermont
One of the most crucial decisions you’ll have to make when installing solar equipment is the installer you choose for your solar project. Your system cost, efficiency, longevity, and warranty coverage all hinge on this single decision, as does the customer service you’ll experience.
With nearly 40 installers servicing VT, your decision can be a difficult one that requires extensive research.8 To help narrow down your options, we’ll include some links to reviews for the best installers in major VT cities below.
For more general company recommendations or to see installers that service areas outside of these cities, you can check out our guide to choosing a solar company in VT.