7 Steps to Solar Panels in Vermont

Most Vermont homeowners who install solar panels see their systems paid off in energy savings in just nine years — faster than the national average of 12 years — and save over $26,000 in total.

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The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) ranks Vermont as 36th in the country for solar system installation, but this doesn’t tell the full story of how successful solar adoption can be in the area.1

Installing solar panels in Vermont proves to be worthwhile for most residents. Since energy usage is well below average, solar energy systems are usually smaller than average and more affordable as a result.2

Additionally, each kilowatt-hour (kWh) generated via solar panels in VT is more valuable than in most states because of the high electricity rates.

The typical system in the Green Mountain State costs around $17,220, but the local solar incentive programs can bring down the effective cost to $12,054 or less. These low equipment costs, coupled with the high long-term savings and great tax credits and rebates, make Vermont an excellent place for solar viability.

In this article, we’ll discuss the process of going solar from start to finish. You can use the links below to jump to a specific part of the process for more information.

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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  • No leases or PPAs
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Step 1: What to Consider When Buying Solar Panels in Vermont

Although the cost of a photovoltaic (PV) solar panel system in Vermont is below the national average, you’ll still likely pay more than $10,000 for your equipment and installation labor. Such a large investment means you should take care to make sure your home will truly benefit from solar. We’ll discuss how to assess the value of solar for your home below.

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

Solar adoption is almost always a great investment for Vermonters, but not every home has equal solar viability. One of the first things we recommend doing to see if solar is a good option for you is figuring out how many panels you need.

The average system size in the state is 6 kilowatts (kW), which is enough to offset the typical energy consumption in Vermont. If your recommended solar array sizing is way over 6 kW, there’s a chance that your potential energy production may be limited by tree coverage or a lack of sunlight.

It’s worth figuring out how much sunlight your property gets on an annual basis. The state as a whole sees around 167 sunny days per year, which is significantly below the U.S. average of 205 days. That means solar availability is limited, and if you also have tree coverage or a roof that doesn’t face south, solar may not be ideal for your home.

You may want to check weather conditions in your city, as well, as this number fluctuates pretty drastically depending on location.

An important factor to consider in some states is access to net metering, especially in areas where it’s not mandated. Net metering — also called net energy metering or NEM for short — is a policy that credits you for every kWh you overproduce and supply to the grid. Your credits pay down your effective energy rates and electric bills in the future.

Historically, net energy metering is one of the most valuable incentive programs for solar and community solar customers in the U.S., as it helps maximize your long-term savings. Thankfully, NEM is mandated by the Vermont Public Utilities Commission (PUC), and the minimum credit rate is set at the “blended rate,” which is just below the retail rate.

Since NEM is available to all homeowners in the state, your solar viability isn’t contingent on the policy your power provider offers. However, you should still check what your available rate is, as it can vary.

For example, Green Mountain Power (GMP) offers a rate that sits just under the full retail value, making it one of the best in the state.3 Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO) also uses a blended rate, which is right in line with GMP’s program.4

The table below includes some solar system installation statistics for Vermont and pits them against the same numbers for the nation as a whole. This should illustrate just how affordable renewable energy systems are in Vermont and how valuable they can be over time.

Vermont State Average United States National Average
Solar Power System Size Required 6 kW 9 kW
Typical Cost Per Watt to Install Photovoltaic (PV) Equipment $2.87 $2.66
Average Total System Cost Before Federal Solar Income Tax Credit $17,220 $23,940
Average Federal Solar Tax Credit Value $5,166 $7,182
Average Total System Cost After Federal Credit $12,054 $16,758
Average Panel Payback Period 9 years 12 years
Average Lifetime Savings of Converting to Solar $26,468 $22,379

Research How to Finance Solar Panels

Once you confirm that going solar is financially a good option for you, you can start thinking about the best way to pay for your panels.

The average system total in the state is $17,220 before the federal tax credit or around $12,000 after the credit. You will, however, need an accurate estimate for your system to figure out which financing options suit you.

We recommend using our solar calculator to see what size system will suit your energy needs and then multiplying the size in watts by $2.87, which is the typical price per watt in Vermont. The cost might seem high, but remember that panels typically end up saving you money, so your system should benefit you greatly over time.

You’ll have four financing options available to you, although some installers may not accept all of the below.

  • Cash purchase: If you pay for your system in cash, you’ll have the highest initial payment to make, but you’ll save money over time by avoiding loan interest. Cash purchases let you take all of the incentive programs, including the federal credit, and they lead to the fastest ownership and greatest energy savings over the panel lifespan.
  • Solar loan: Loans make solar adoption more accessible because they significantly bring down your upfront payment requirements. Some loans have no down payment requirements at all. You will end up paying more for your system and saving a bit less over time because of the interest. However, loans still let you take advantage of the federal tax credit and lead to panel ownership.
  • Solar lease: A solar lease will not lead to panel ownership, which also means you cannot take advantage of the federal credit. In a lease agreement, you pay a monthly panel rental fee and get access to all of the energy the equipment generates. Leases save you much less than cash payments and loans in the long run, but they’re super accessible.
  • Power purchase agreement (PPA): A PPA is an agreement in which you have panels installed at no cost and agree to buy the energy they generate. The cost is usually below the retail rate, so you do save a bit, much less than you would with the other options. PPAs don’t let you take the ITC, and they don’t lead to panel ownership.

A good way to gauge the overall value of a particular payment option is to look at the panel payback period. The shorter the payback period, the more you’ll save over time. Options that don’t have a payback period will yield the lowest savings.

Step 2: Getting a Quote from a Solar Provider

Now that you know how you plan on paying for your panels, you can start reaching out to PV panel installation companies in Vermont for quotes. We’ll detail everything involved in this step of the process in the sections below.

Picking a Solar Installer

Choosing an installer to tackle your solar project is a deceptively complicated process, made even more difficult by the fact that there are around 30 to choose from.5 We suggest looking for companies that meet the following criteria to ensure a smooth and safe installation and good customer service:

  • The company should have at least five years of experience in the solar industry.
  • The company should have lengthy warranty coverage, which we’ll discuss later on.
  • The installer should have positive customer reviews and few if any complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
  • The provider should have reasonable prices and high-quality solar brands.
  • The company should offer your preferred payment method.
  • The company’s technicians should ideally be NABCEP-certified (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners)

We’ll include some of our most highly recommended solar companies in Vermont below. We still recommend doing some of your own research, but these companies should give you a good place to start.

  • SunCommon — Local Installer
  • SunPower — National Installer
  • Green Mountain Solar — Local Installer
  • PlugPV — Regional Installer
  • Catamount Solar — Local Installer

What to Expect After Requesting a Solar Quote

Within a day or two of providing your contact information to an installer, you should be contacted by a sales representative to set up a consultation. These can be in-person or virtual, but at some point before providing your quote, your installer will need to take roof measurements and do a quick home inspection in person.

You’ll need to provide a copy of a recent energy bill before or during the consultation as well. You may also need to answer some questions about any electrical appliances or heating and cooling equipment you have, as well as questions about any electric vehicles (EVs) you own or plan to charge at your home in the future.

Once all of that information is gathered, your project will move to the design team, which will come up with a system that’s sized and installed to meet your energy demands and fit your roof.

Finally, your sales rep will set up another call to discuss your solar proposal. The proposal is a formal estimate, so there is quite a lot of information on it that we recommend you look for. Some of the more important points that should be on there include the following:

  • The cost of your system before and after the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) and local incentives and rebate programs.
  • The size of your clean energy system and how many panels will need to be installed.
  • Detailed diagrams for how and where your equipment — panels, inverters and add-on products like solar batteries — will be installed.
  • An estimated timeframe for permitting and installation.
  • How much energy your system will generate, and what that means for annual and lifetime savings for you.
  • How long your system is expected to take to pay for itself.
  • Warranty information.
  • Payment information and scheduling.
  • Fees charged for permits and inspections.

We recommend getting at least two or three formal proposals from different installers in your area. This is a time-consuming process, but you could save money by finding a more affordable installer, and some companies will price-match lower bids, potentially saving you even more.

Consider Purchasing Solar Accessories

When you’re working on getting your proposals, you should also think about add-on products and whether or not they make sense for you and your home. You’ll want to let each company know about any add-ons you might want so they can include them in the total installation cost. Below are some of the more popular options in Vermont.

  • Electric vehicle (EV) chargers: EVs are increasingly popular in the Green Mountain State, which is partially why the public charging infrastructure is so strong in the area.6 Many residents will opt for at-home chargers as well to save money charging with solar power and for convenience.
  • Energy efficient home improvements: VT is one of the greenest states in the country, which means many residents care about sustainability.7 As a result, many solar customers opt to couple panel installations with energy efficiency upgrades for their homes. This helps improve efficiency and also helps offset the unusually high cost of electricity in the area. Some examples include smart thermostats, upgraded insulation, new windows and doors and solar hot water heaters.
  • Solar batteries: Solar batteries are most popular in states that don’t have guaranteed access to NEM, as they provide access to effective net metering. However, Vermont is also one of the states with the highest risk of power outages.8 Solar batteries let you take your solar electric system off-grid, which means you can maintain solar generation and power through a blackout.

Step 3: Signing a Solar Contract in Vermont

Solar Investment Tax CreditAfter you’ve squared away which add-on products you want and have chosen an installer, your next step will be signing a contract. We’ll explain what to look for in your contract and some other considerations during this stage in the sections below.

How Do Solar Warranties Work in Vermont?

One of the first things we recommend you look for in your contract is language about the warranty coverage offered to you. Warranties help protect your solar panel system and property from damage, so they’re crucial when you’re spending $10,000+ on your equipment. There are three types of warranties to look for:

  • Equipment warranties: Equipment warranties protect you from things like manufacturer defects that cause issues with your system. These are typically offered by your panel manufacturer and last for 25 years, on average.
  • Workmanship warranties: Workmanship warranties are provided by your installer in most cases and cover you and your home from damage resulting from poor installation technique. Most don’t cover roof leaks, but some of the best ones do. You may want to opt for one that does cover roof leaks, given that the state sees well in excess of the national average amount of snowfall.9 The industry standard for a workmanship warranty is ten years.
  • Efficiency warranties: Most tier-one panels come with an efficiency warranty, which guarantees that your panels won’t drop below a certain percentage of their starting efficiency over the warranty term. The standard efficiency warranty is for 20 years and guarantees a minimum of 80% efficiency after that time.

When Can I Expect Solar Service to Go Live?

You should expect to wait between two and six months from the time you sign your solar contract to the day your panels are activated in Vermont. There are a few factors that affect how quickly your home solar project will progress, including the following:

  • Permitting timelines and delays from your building department.
  • Delays from your installer if they have a high volume of work.
  • The weather — especially in the winter — can cause long delays if snow or ice makes rooftop solar installation unsafe.
  • Some high-demand equipment — like Tesla Powerwalls — are commonly on back-order and can take weeks or even months to become available and get delivered.

Provided you choose a reputable installer, a rep should let you know if any of the issues above are expected to delay your installation timeline.

Solar Panel Permits in Vermont

All solar power systems in Vermont must be permitted. Building permits and electrical permits for PV equipment installation are governed by local building departments to ensure everything is done according to the building code.

In just about every case, your installer will handle filing for the permits for you, so you generally don’t have to worry about filing paperwork or meeting with the building department. However, you will be responsible for paying for the permit fees, if there are any. Your installer should let you know about any fees on your proposal.

For example, the City of Burlington doesn’t charge anything for solar permit filing, and the application form can be found online along with a solar permitting checklist for a streamlined process.10 The City of Essex also exempts solar permits from fees to make the conversion more affordable, and all applications can be found online.11

Unlike Burlington and Essex, the City of Colchester is one example of a municipality that does charge for solar permits. There’s an $85 base fee plus an $8 fee for every $1,000 in project cost.12 Given the average system price in the state, the total permit fee averages around $220. The application can conveniently be completed online.

You can ask your installer about the local fee for permit application if you live in another municipality, or you can check your proposal to see if the fee is included.

Solar & Utility Interconnection

Interconnection is the term used to describe how your solar array is connected to the electric grid. The process of interconnection governs how energy is passed back and forth between your home and the grid, so it’s mandatory if you plan on taking advantage of net energy metering.

Most utility companies in the state require an application for interconnection. The application usually doesn’t come with a fee, but it’s possible that your provider does charge one. In just about every case, your installer will fill out the interconnection application on your behalf and schedule the inspection that’s required before you get approval to connect to the grid.

We’ll include basic instructions for applying for interconnection for the two largest electric companies in the state below:

  • GMP: The GMP-specific application form can be found and completed online, and there is no charge for the application filing.13
  • VELCO: VELCO’s interconnection is directly governed by the PUC, so there is no utility-specific application form.

There’s an additional application required by the PUC, which costs $300 to apply for and is applicable regardless of which provider you have.14

The process of applying for interconnection and waiting for approval will add a bit to your installation timeline. However, since interconnection gives you access to net energy metering, which is so beneficial in the long run, the extra effort and time are well worth it. NEM will also pay for your application fee many times over.

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

Solar Investment Tax CreditOnce you’ve gotten through all of the above steps, you should be contacted by your panel installer and provided a date of installation.

One of the most common questions at this point is, “do I need to be home for solar panel installation?” The answer is yes. Your installers will need access to your home’s interior at some point to make the connection to your system and complete the installation. They’ll also need access to install any add-on products. You should plan on being home all day.

Solar installation in Vermont will be faster than in many other states because the size of most systems is well below average. You can expect the process to take between three and six hours in most cases.

Your installer might schedule an inspection from your electric company on the day of the installation as well so that the system can be activated right away. Solar inspections take about a half hour in most cases, so this can add a bit to your installation timeframe.

Step 5: Final Inspection for Installed Solar Panels in Vermont

After the installation of all of your equipment is completed, your installer will schedule a final inspection with a building inspector from your local building department. Depending on your inspector and what equipment is installed inside your home, if any, the inspection could be done as a drive-by or require interior access.

The solar company you hired should facilitate scheduling the inspection if access is required, but you will need to be the one meeting with the inspector. There’s no charge for the inspection in most cases, but you could be charged for a re-inspection if you miss the first one.

After the inspector confirms your system is installed properly, they will close out the permits. Open permits can present issues if you try to sell your home in the future, so the inspection is a crucial part of the conversion process. It also helps the building department ensure all construction work is done according to the building code.

At this point, you’ll be responsible for ensuring that your system continues to work as it should. Your installer might provide you with access to a solar monitoring app or website to track production, energy consumption and net exportation. Solar monitoring depends on your manufacturer, though, so not every customer will get this perk.

Step 6: Permission to Operate (PTO) in Vermont

The final step before your system can be turned on is to have your utility company sign off on the connection made to the grid. This requires one last inspection, which could be done on the installation day or shortly thereafter. You’ll finally get permission to operate (PTO), which means your system can be activated and start generating power.

Now is a good time to ask your installation company about a solar monitoring app if you haven’t already gotten access to one. You should also ask where the emergency shut-off switch is and how to use it in the event of an emergency.

If you do run into a problem, like an electrical fire, you should first contact 911 and then report the issue to your power company. We’ll include the emergency contact numbers for some of the more popular energy providers in the state below:

  • Green Mountain Power: 1-888-835-4672
  • Vermont Electric Power Company: 1-802-773-9161

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

Finally, you can sit back and watch your solar savings start to roll in! At this point, the hard work is done, and you can now enjoy all of the benefits your system has to offer.

You should start seeing significant savings on your utility bills, and you can take pride in knowing that your carbon footprint and fossil fuel emissions will be reduced thanks to your renewable energy system. You’ll also see the perks of energy independence, including a much lower per-kWh cost due to pulling power from clean energy sources.

Additionally, you should know that you’ll see the highest return on investment (ROI) if you enjoy the energy savings your panels provide for yourself. However, solar conversion also improves your home value, so you’ll see an upside — around 4.1% of your property value — even if you sell your home after buying panels.15

FAQ: Solar Panels in Vermont

In the following sections, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions we see from Vermonters about the solar conversion process.

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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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