2022 Washington Solar Panels Guide
Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide:
- Pros and cons of solar panels in Washington
- How to find a great solar company
- What you can expect to pay for solar installation
- State incentives and resources
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Going Solar in Washington
Solar energy is a great renewable energy resource that provides power to thousands of homes and businesses throughout the country. But with the cloudy and rainy climate of the Pacific Northwest, you may be wondering if it’s worth going solar in Washington state.
While we believe that solar is a worthwhile investment in most cases, we’re not going to sugarcoat the disadvantages. Here are the pros and cons of installing a solar energy system in the Evergreen State:
|Pros of Solar Panels in Washington||Cons of Solar Panels in Washington|
|You can capitalize on solar incentives like the federal tax credit and Washington’s net metering law that can lower your electricity bill. (We’ll cover more incentives later on).||Washington sees less sunshine year-round than most states, so solar systems won’t produce as much energy here.|
|Washington has a sales tax exemption for solar equipment under 10 kilowatts, leading to an average installation cost savings of about $1,749.||The average cost of solar panels in Washington is slightly above the national average.|
|Multiple studies have shown that adding solar panels increases the property value of a home.||Washington doesn’t have a property tax exemption for solar projects, meaning your property taxes may increase.|
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in Washington?
Based on market research and data from top solar brands, we’ve found the average cost of solar panels in Washington to be $2.69 per watt — slightly higher than the national average of $2.66.
Most homeowners in Washington need a 10-kilowatt (kW) system to offset their energy costs entirely, which means the average cost of going solar in Washington is $26,900 before the federal tax credit, or $19,906 after the federal tax credit is factored in.
Your total cost will vary depending on the size of your system. Solar power system sizes typically range from 7 kW to 13 kW in Washington, which means the price ranges from $18,830 to $34,970 before any tax credits or incentives are applied.
Additionally, the brand of solar panel and inverter will affect the total cost of the project. Click here for more information on the cost of solar panels in Washington.
Find Solar Companies in Washington
These companies passed our rigorous standards by scoring high in categories that we’ve determined define the best solar companies, including warranty length, years in business, variety of services, customer experience, industry credentials and more. If you’d like more information on how we conduct solar reviews, visit our methodology page.
What Types of Solar Panels Should You Install in Washington?
While Washington has sunny summers, it has less sunshine year-round than most other states, with only about 58 cloud-free days per year.1 That means you’ll need to install solar panels with high efficiency to get the most power generation out of your renewable energy system.
There are three basic solar photovoltaic modules: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film. Each type of solar panel has its own pros and cons:
- Monocrystalline: Monocrystalline panels are made from a single, pure crystal of silicon. This allows them to have higher efficiency levels, but they also tend to be more expensive due to a more costly manufacturing process. Because of their high efficiency ratings, monocrystalline solar panels are often the best option for Washington homeowners.
- Polycrystalline: Polycrystalline solar panels are also made of silicon, but in this case, they are assembled from smaller fragments. This means they are often a little less efficient than monocrystalline panels, but they are also a more affordable option.
- Thin-Film: Finally, thin-film solar panels can be made from a variety of ultra-thin materials. Thin-film panels are recommended when you need something that’s lightweight, flexible and portable; they work better for RVs and camping than for homes. Thin-film panels are low in efficiency when compared to the other two options.
Washington’s Incentives For Going Solar
You can save money on your solar panel system by taking advantage of Washington’s solar incentive programs. Below is an outline of some of the major incentives available to solar users in the Evergreen State, but you can read a more in-depth guide on Washington’s solar incentives here.
|Incentive||How it Affects Solar Panels in Washington|
|Federal solar investment tax credit (ITC)||The ITC is a federal government tax credit that allows solar energy system owners to claim a credit equivalent to 26% of their solar system’s costs. The value of the tax incentive is set to reduce to 24% in 2023 and will be phased out for residential systems thereafter.2|
|Net metering||Net metering is an incentive program that allows you earn credits from your utility company through interconnection. Your clean energy system produces electricity and sends it to the grid and, in return, your utility sends you credits. When your solar panels aren’t producing enough energy to power your home, you can use these credits to lower your electricity costs. Net metering is a Washington law, but each utility company has its own program.3|
|Renewable Energy Projects Sales & Use Tax Exemptions||This sales tax exemption means you won’t pay sales tax on your solar equipment or installation, so long as it’s under 10 kW. Since the average sales tax rate in Washington is 6.5%, that’s an average savings of $1,749.4|
|Local solar incentives||A number of counties and utility companies may offer rebates and other incentives for solar panel installation. Check with your local government and power provider to find additional savings opportunities.|
Washington Solar Resources
Installing a solar panel system is a big investment, so many Washington residents choose to take on a loan to help with the upfront costs. Below is a list of some of the most popular solar loan providers in the state of Washington:
- 1st Security
- Celtic Bank
- City of Richland, Washington
- Clark Public Utilities
- Clean Energy Credit Union
- Ensemble by CED
- EnerBank USA
- ezSolarLoan by Community 1st Credit Union
- GreenBiz Financial
- Green Sky Credit
- Home Loan Investment Bank
- Medallion Bank
- Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union
- Sungage Financial
- Sunlight Financial
For more information on ways to pay for your solar panels, check out our solar financing guide.
Washington State Solar Resources
Here are some additional pages offering education and helpful tips about renewable energy in Washington:
- Washington Solar Incentives
- Washington Renewable Energy Incentive Database
- Washington State Energy Office
- Solar Washington (solar-focused nonprofit)
- Washington Renewable Electricity Profile (EIA)
- WA State Solar Policy (SEIA)
History of Solar Energy Policy in Washington
Washington’s first solar policy was enacted back in 1979, when the state implemented the Solar Easements and Rights laws.5 The solar easement policy created a process for property owners to work with their neighbors to make sure their solar panels won’t be obstructed by new construction.
Fast forward to 1998 when Washington established its net metering program for solar electricity. By this time, net metering programs were popping up around the country and were a crucial incentive for homeowners who installed rooftop or solar array systems up to 100 kW. In Washington, residents with home solar systems are compensated at the retail electricity rate for any excess energy their panels produce and send to the grid.6
Nothing would happen to advance solar in Washington again until 2006 when the state set its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goal for all utilities to supply 15% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. Also in 2006, Washington provided an additional financial incentive to make solar more accessible — the Renewable Energy Cost Recovery Incentive Payment, which paid between $0.12 and $1.08 per kilowatt-hour for solar generation for a maximum of 15 years. Unfortunately, that program expired in 2018, but it was a huge success to get more Washington residents to go solar.7
Lastly, Washington introduced its Renewable Energy Sales and Use Tax Exemption in 2009, helping homeowners by eliminating sales or installation tax on home solar systems under 10 kW.8
To date, Washington has installed nearly 300 megawatts of solar, which is enough to power 32,929 homes. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Washington is also a growing community solar market, with more than 30 community solar projects in the state and more than 70 schools that operate on solar power — including the entire Seattle Public School district.9