Washington Solar Panel Buyers Guide (Installation & Efficiency 2023)

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

  • What you can expect to pay for a solar panel system in WA
  • How much energy panels on your Washington home will generate
  • How to save money when converting to clean energy in WA
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How to Get Solar Panels in Washington

The first step to installing solar in WA is to choose a solar company and request a quote. This process typically takes a few days, as the company will need to review one of your recent energy bills, inspect your property for shading and sun availability and take measurements of your roof. Based on this information, the company will design a system for your home, which you’ll need to approve. 

Next, you’ll choose a financing option, including cash purchase, solar loan, solar lease, or power purchase agreement (PPA) but not all options are offered by all installers. Then, permits will be filed, and your installation will be performed. The permits will need to be closed out to complete your solar project.

Going solar in WA is very often a decent investment. Although solar isn’t as valuable in The Evergreen State as it is in other areas in the U.S., most solar arrays in the area pay for themselves — in a time period called the panel payback period. In addition, they provide an average of over $10,000 in energy savings after they pay themselves off.

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What Is the Price of Solar Panel Installation in Washington?

The cost of solar panels in WA averages around $2.69 per watt, which is just above the national average. Most homes in the state need around a 10 kilowatt (kW) system to offset electric bills. At the average cost per watt, that’s a total of $18,830 after the Residential Clean Energy Credit (the applicable federal income tax credit) is considered.

As mentioned above, photovoltaic (PV) systems in WA almost always pay themselves off with energy savings. The average payback period in the area is 16 years. This is well above the national average of 12 years, meaning solar is a bit less valuable in WA than in most other states.

For more information on the price you’ll pay for your system or how to determine the value of solar for your home, you can check out our cost and value guide for solar in WA.

The Best Solar Panel Brands Available in Washington

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports that WA ranks 36th in the country for solar adoption,1 but this number reflects an increase in residential solar installations over the past decade. In response, most of the larger solar manufacturers now offer their products throughout WA.

WA is well known for frequent rainfall and cloudy weather, with just 165 sunny days per year.2 The lack of sunshine means that most residents need to choose high-efficiency panels in order to offset their electric bills.

Below are some of the most popular panel brands installed in WA. All of these are monocrystalline panels that provide excellent energy efficiency.

  • Maxeon (SunPower’s sister company; considered the most efficient and the best suited for WA)
  • Panasonic
  • LG (panels under this brand will no longer be available in the coming months)
  • Tesla
  • REC
  • Silfab
  • Qcells
  • Canadian Solar
  • Trina Solar
  • JA Solar

Is Washington a Good State For Solar Panels?

The lack of sunshine in WA means that solar viability is lower than in other states, and the overall value of solar equipment is less. However, WA is still a great place for many people to convert to solar, and it does end up saving quite a bit of money for most solar customers. Below are some of the factors that make solar a good option in WA.

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  • Above-average energy needs: WA residents consume an average of 969 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per month, which is above the national average.3 Areas where residents consume more energy are naturally a better option for solar conversion because the panels have more consumption to offset. That translates to a greater opportunity to save money, which, of course, helps improve the value of PV systems in the state.
  • Good solar incentives: Washington State has a handful of incentive programs that help reduce the cost of going solar in the area and increase the long-term savings you can enjoy as a result. These incentives include net metering — one of the most crucial perks in the solar industry — and sales tax exemptions. We’ll discuss these and other benefits in a later section.
  • Frequent power outages: WA is prone to power outages and ranks fifth in the nation for the number and duration of blackouts.4 Solar panels alone won’t provide energy through outages because they put techs from the utility company at risk of electrocution when they work on the system. However, coupling your panels with solar batteries to store energy can bring your home off-grid until the power is restored. Given the frequency of blackouts in WA, this is a popular option that makes complete solar power systems more valuable.

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

Solar electricity production varies a lot between systems and locations, even within the same city. There are several reasons for this variation, including the specs of your system and the conditions on and around your specific property. We’ll explain some of the factors that affect your power generation rate below.

  • The panel efficiency: When you install solar equipment, you’ll likely have your choice of several panel brands. One of the primary differences between the options is a metric called the efficiency rating. This number tells you what portion of the sunlight that hits your panels can be used to generate electricity. The highest efficiency is around 22.7%, and anything lower will provide less power in equivalent conditions.
  • How many panels you have installed: In addition to the efficiency of your panels, the number of panels you have on your roof will play a role in your production rates. Installing more panels will always lead to more energy generation in similar conditions. However, you might be limited by the size of your roof and how cost-effective adding panels to your home is.
  • Shading on your roof: In order for solar modules to generate maximum energy, they must receive direct sunlight. Anything that blocks the sun from hitting your panels will cause your production capacity to drop. For example, trees, utility poles, nearby buildings, and other obstructions that cast shadows on your roof during peak sunlight hours can significantly decrease your production. Your installer should assess your roof for shading and design your system accordingly.
  • The direction your roof faces: Maximum panel production also requires intense sunlight, which means your panels should be pointed toward the sun for as much of the day as possible. In the U.S., south-facing roofs are the best for PV systems because they naturally face the sun as it moves through the sky.5 East- and west-facing roofs can also be viable for solar installations, although they won’t provide the same level of production.
  • Weather conditions: The weather can play a role in your production levels as well. Solar generation on cloudy days will naturally be lower than on bright, sunny days. This is an especially important factor to consider in WA, where sunny days occur less frequently than in nearly every other state. Your production can dip about 90% if heavy cloud coverage is expected or as little as 10% in light overcast conditions.

Although all of these factors combine to make estimating your production levels a challenge, you can use averages to get an idea of what you can expect. The chart below includes some rough numbers for energy production for common system sizes in WA.

Solar Power System Size Expected Daily Energy Produced Expected Monthly Energy Produced Expected Annual Energy Produced
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
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

You can also use our solar calculator to get a better idea of how much energy panels on your roof will generate. This tool considers shading on your property and your exact location to determine local weather conditions and sunlight availability. It also estimates what size system you’ll need to offset your energy bills.

Solar Panel Policy History in Washington

WA has only a handful of solar incentives available today, but the state has a rich history of pushing clean energy through incentive programs and rebates.

The state’s pro-solar legislation began in 1979 when it established the solar easements and rights laws. This perk helped establish the right to install equipment and access solar energy for all residents, including those in strict homeowners associations (HOAs).

It wasn’t until over two decades later that the next pro-solar policy — net metering — was established. This is one of the most important perks for solar customers in the U.S. It’s a billing policy that lets you overproduce with your panels. You get credited for all of the excess power and can use the credits to pay down future utility bills.

New electric meters allow for bidirectional energy for net metering
Credit: Rgaudet17 / Pixabay

WA’s net metering policy is a good one, as it credits customers at the retail rate for electricity. This is far better than the avoided-cost rate that many other states have adopted. However, credits in WA only carry forward for a year, and any that are unused are forfeited to your utility company each April.

In 2006, WA set its first Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), mandating that the state produce at least 15% of its power using renewable sources by 2020.

That same year, likely in direct response to the RPS goal, the Washington State University Energy Program started the Renewable Energy System Incentive Program. This was a credit for between $0.12 and $1.08 for every kilowatt produced with a rooftop solar energy system for up to 15 years.

This program was wildly successful and ran out of funding in 2018, three years ahead of the target.

Finally, in 2009, WA began offering renewable energy sales and use tax exemption. This policy waived sales tax on all equipment and installation costs — including panels, inverters, and solar batteries — for up to 10 kW.

This is most valuable in high-tax areas like Seattle and Puget Sound, but it saves a minimum of 6.5% in state sales tax regardless of where in WA you live.6

What Are The Solar Panel Incentives in Washington?

Although some of the above policies have expired, there are still several perks available in WA today. We’ll discuss these briefly below.

  • Net metering: Through interconnection with the electric grid, net metering credits solar customers for all excess energy generated with their panels. The credits can go toward future bills until they expire, which happens at the end of April of each year.
  • Residential Clean Energy Credit: The federal tax credit is applied to your income taxes owed for the year you install your system. The credit amount is equal to 30% of your entire PV system cost. In WA, the credit averages around $8,000.
  • Sales tax exemption: As mentioned above, WA waives sales tax on all photovoltaic equipment. This helps reduce the up-front cost of converting to solar energy.

For more information on these benefit programs, local perks that might be available to you, and other benefits for energy efficiency upgrades you can read through our WA solar incentive guide.

Find a Local Installer in Washington

Data from the Solar Energy Industries Association suggest that there are over 50 local solar installation companies throughout WA, along with national and regional installers. Choosing the best one for you can be a complicated and time-consuming process.

Luckily, we’ve given you a head start by reviewing the top installers throughout the state. You can check out our guide to picking a reputable solar installer in Washington State for more information and company recommendations.

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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
Melissa is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainability studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a nonprofit that’s featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.

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