Wisconsin Solar Panel Buyers Guide [Installation & Efficiency 2022]
Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide to Wisconsin solar panels:
- The average cost of solar panel systems in WI
- How much electricity your panels will produce
- The perks available in WI to reduce the cost of going solar
How to Get Solar Panels in Wisconsin
When you’re ready to begin the process of solar conversion, you can get started by contacting a solar installer in your area. The salesperson you speak with will review your average per-month energy consumption and will set up an appointment to inspect your property for suitability for solar. After that, the company will provide a free quote for a system appropriately sized for your needs.
At this point, the company rep should help you explore solar financing options. In most cases, you can choose between cash purchase, solar loan, solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA). Once you have financing in order, you’ll approve the system design, permits will be pulled and the system will be installed.
Most Wisconsin homeowners find that installing a solar power system is a great investment. Converting to solar energy reduces your carbon footprint and makes you less reliant on fossil fuels, but it also tends to save an average of over $20,000 on energy bills over the lifespan of the panels — and that’s after the panels have paid for themselves with energy savings.
All Energy Solar
Sun Badger Solar
What Is the Price of Solar Panel Installation in Wisconsin?
The typical cost for solar equipment in Wisconsin — $2.60 per watt — is a bit below the national average. Most Wisconsinites have low energy needs and only require a 7 kilowatt (kW) solar system to offset them. That puts the average all-in cost equipment cost in WI at just $12,740 after the Residential Clean Energy Credit is taken into account.
Solar energy systems almost always pay for themselves in a time period called the solar panel payback period. The average time for this in the U.S. is 12 years, but residents of The Badger State see a payback period of just ten years.
You can check out our guide to solar costs in WI for more cost information and tips on how to calculate your system total.
The Best Solar Panel Brands Available in Wisconsin
The local solar industry in Wisconsin is quite developed, despite the state ranking only 26th in the country for solar adoption.1 Most of the major panel manufacturers available in the U.S. make their products available in Wisconsin, so residents are spoiled for choice when it comes to equipment.
WI residents only see around 188 sunny days per year, which is well below the national average.2 With so little sun, many solar customers in the area choose to install high-efficiency panels, like those from Maxeon/SunPower.
Below is a short list of some of the most popular panel brands that Wisconsinites install.
- Maxeon (previously SunPower)
- LG (solar panels by LG are soon to be discontinued)
- Trina Solar
- Canadian Solar
Is Wisconsin a Good State for Solar Panels?
Wisconsin isn’t the ideal location for solar conversion, but it’s still considered a great place to install photovoltaic (PV) equipment. Several factors make solar a lucrative investment in the Badger State, including:
- Low equipment costs: As mentioned above, WI residents pay an average of $2.60 per watt for solar equipment — below the U.S. average of $2.66. A lower cost for equipment means a lower barrier to entry into clean energy. Coupled with the need for smaller systems as discussed below, the lower equipment cost puts the all-in cost of solar equipment significantly lower in WI than in many other states.
- Low energy needs: WI property owners consume an average of 694 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each month. This is well below the national average of 891 kWh, putting WI at 13th in the country for the lowest energy needs.3 Areas like WI that use below-average amounts of energy need smaller systems to offset consumption. That makes the cost of solar adoption even more accessible and affordable.
- Above-average electricity rates: While WI residents use less electricity than average, they pay more for it. The average energy cost in the state is 14.32 cents per kWh, compared to the U.S. average of 13.15 cents. Higher energy prices mean that each kWh your panels generate saves you more money.
- Good benefits for converting to solar: Finally, WI promotes renewable energy by maintaining quite a few solar perks to make equipment less expensive and to boost long-term savings. We’ll discuss the specific perks available in the area in greater depth later on in this article.
How Much Energy Can I Get From Solar Panels in Wisconsin?
One of the first things most residents want to know when considering solar is how much energy their panels will generate. A primary reason you need a professional installer to assess your home and design a system is that production rates vary so wildly from property to property and are challenging to estimate.
There are several factors that can influence how much solar electricity your system produces in WI, including:
- The orientation of your home: According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), homes with roofs that face south in North America are the best candidates for solar panels.4 This is because they point toward the path of the sun in the sky, which means they receive the most direct sunlight. More direct sun means a greater level of energy generation.
- Shading on your roof: One of the main reasons your solar installer will inspect your home is to determine whether or not your roof is shaded at any point during the day. Tree coverage, nearby buildings and even things like utility poles casting shadows on your roof reduce the amount of sun that would hit your solar panels. Interrupted sunlight means lower production.
- Your panels’ efficiency rating: The panel brand you install will determine the energy efficiency of your system. Different brands can vary quite a lot in their efficiency rating, and the more efficient your panels are, the more sunlight that hits them they can absorb and convert to electricity. Even the most efficient panels are less than 25% efficient, so this factor is a crucial one to consider.
- How many panels you have on your home: The number of panels you have on your home determines the size of your system and how much energy you produce. Larger systems with more panels will always provide more energy if all other factors are equal. Each additional panel you install provides an average of around 100 extra kWh per month.
- The weather: Finally, the weather in your area can cause panel production to change from day to day. Cloudy days can drop generation by up to 90%. Average weather conditions are always considered when sizing your system.
Although it’s challenging to get an accurate estimate for panel production without completing a thorough property assessment, the chart below includes average production rates for WI residents. You can use this to get an idea of what to expect from your system.
|Solar Power System Size||Expected Daily Energy Produced||Expected Monthly Energy Produced||Expected Annual Energy Produced|
|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|
|10 kW||33.3 kWh||1,000 kWh||12,000 kWh|
For a more personalized estimate based on your specific property, you can use our solar calculator to estimate what panels on your roof will cost.
Solar Panel Policy History in Wisconsin
Wisconsin missed the pro-solar legislation push that occurred in many other states in the midwest in the 1970s, but it jumped on the bandwagon in the early 1980s.
1982, especially, was a big year for solar policy in WI. First, the state passed solar rights laws, which gave all property owners the right to install and enjoy solar.
This wasn’t a financial perk like most of the others we’ll mention below, but it did prevent homeowners associations (HOAs) and other strict governing bodies from prohibiting solar conversion.
That same year, WI began its net metering program. This policy usually ranks as the most beneficial for solar customers, as it helps them offset utility bills and maximize long-term savings.
The policy in WI mandated net metering for systems up to 20 kW, which encompasses nearly all home systems. It doesn’t require that utility companies offer the credits at the retail rate for electricity, but most do. All accrued credits over $25 are cashed out to the homeowner.
In 1999, WI set its first Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goal. The goal was for at least 10% of the state’s electricity to be generated via renewable energy sources. There was no carve-out for solar.
Since meeting that goal, the governor of WI has set a new goal of being entirely emission-free by 2050 — a lofty and worthy target.
Also in 1999, WI introduced the Focus On Energy (FOE) solar program. This was a public benefits fund that was funded by small, unavoidable charges added to each ratepayer’s electric bill.
The fund has been used to provide a solar rebate of $600 per kW installed up to 4 kW, or a maximum $2,400. It’s also provided benefits for large-scale solar projects — including community solar farms — via the Renewable Energy Competitive Incentive Program.
What Are The Solar Panel Incentives in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin residents have access to quite a few incentives that reduce the up-front cost of solar and provide additional long-term savings. Overall, these help make solar well worth the investment for most homeowners in the area. We’ll discuss the available perks in WI below.
- Residential Clean Energy Credit: This tax credit is offered by the federal government to all WI property owners. It provides a credit to your income tax burden for 30% of your entire solar system cost. In WI, the average credit is around $5,460, making it the most appealing tax credit available in the state.
- Sales tax exemption: In an effort to bring down the up-front cost of converting to solar, WI waives sales tax on all solar PV equipment. That includes panels, inverters and solar batteries.
- Property tax exemption: Normally, a home improvement that bumps up your home value will also cause an increase in your taxes. Installing solar equipment is expected to raise your property value by around 4.1%, but the property tax exemption prevents that value bump from affecting your taxes.5
- Net metering: Through interconnection with the electric grid, this policy lets you accrue credits for all excess energy production, which happens on days when your solar production outpaces your energy consumption. You’ll get checks for your excess energy after reaching $25 in credits. This can help pay off future energy bills or reduce your panel payback period.
- Focus On Energy (FOE) program: This program currently provides a rebate of up to $500, with an additional $500 available in some zip codes, to bring down the solar array installation cost. It also provides perks for large-scale commercial solar projects that total in the megawatts (MW).
For more information on these benefits or to see if there are additional perks available on a more local level, you can check out our guide to Wisconsin solar incentives.
Find a Local Installer in Wisconsin
One of your most important decisions when making the switch to solar energy is the company that will handle the solar PV system installation. This will affect your warranty coverage, your total system cost and the level of customer service you receive, among other things.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), there are more than 60 installers to choose from in WI.6 Below, we’ll include links to lists of the top solar companies in major cities across The Badger State.
If you’re looking for more general recommendations or need companies outside of these major cities, you can also check out our guide to choosing a solar installer in Wisconsin.