West Virginia Solar Panel Buyers Guide [Installation & Efficiency 2022]
Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide to West Virginia solar panels:
- The average price of residential solar in WV
- Whether or not solar is worth it in WV
- Programs and incentives West Virginians can take advantage of to make investing in solar more affordable
How to Get Solar Panels in West Virginia
Before you schedule an in-home consultation with a solar installation company, make sure you’re prepared with a recent utility bill. The tech that performs your home inspection will need it to determine how much energy you’re using — a factor that goes into the configuration and pricing of your solar system. The company rep will ask some questions about your solar system preferences and measure your property during the visit.
Your system will then be designed to meet your energy needs, and permits will be pulled for the installation. Once they’re approved, your system will be installed and activated. Before commissioning your system, you’ll have to make payment — in full with cash or the first installment of a loan, lease or power purchase agreement (PPA).
Converting to solar in WV is almost always beneficial. Installing a photovoltaic (PV) system will reduce your carbon footprint, but it will also save you money on energy bills. The average system in the area saves homeowners an additional $25,000 over the lifespan of the system after it has paid for itself.
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What Is the Price of Solar Panel Installation in West Virginia?
The overall price to install a solar energy array in WV will depend on the size of the system that suits your needs, the brand and type of equipment you choose and whether you want optional upgrades like battery storage for energy independence or an electric vehicle charging station.
Typically, solar systems in WV cost between $14,784 and $25,872, with an average of $20,328 after the Residential Clean Energy Credit is accounted for. The above estimates assume a cost per watt of $2.64 and a system size requirement of 11 kilowatts (kW), both of which are typical for WV.
While the up-front cost for solar in WV might seem steep, keep in mind that the money you’ll save over time will eventually pay for the system and then you go on to save you thousands more in energy costs. It takes about 13 years for PV panels to pay for themselves in WV, which is just above the national average.
For a more detailed look at the installation cost of solar panels in WV, you can check out our guide to solar prices in WV.
The Best Solar Panel Brands Available in West Virginia
Despite lagging behind its neighbor states in solar adoption, WV has a surprisingly solid network of solar companies that carry most of the industry’s top brands.
It’s important for WV residents to choose the most efficient photovoltaic (PV) panels they can afford since the state has below-average annual sunshine — just 164 days per year compared with the 205-day nationwide average.1 SunPower, Tesla, and Panasonic are generally considered the best panel brands for efficiency, making them an excellent choice for residents of The Mountain State.
Here is a list of some of the most popular solar brands in WV:
- SunPower (most energy-efficient panels on the market — now sold under the Maxeon brand name)
- Canadian Solar
- JA Solar
- Mission Solar
- LG (soon exiting the solar industry)
- Trina Solar
Keep in mind that the above list is not exhaustive, so don’t be surprised if some solar providers offer equipment from other companies.
Is West Virginia a Good State For Solar Panels?
WV is a great state for solar with one major caveat. It’s one of the country’s primary coal-producing states, which means that solar electric power is viewed with disdain by a significant portion of the local population. With that said, below are the main reasons why West Virginia is still considered a good state for solar:
- High electric bills: West Virginians pay average electricity rates. However, they see average monthly utility bills of around $124.09 per month, which is above the U.S. average.2 This means that West Virginians have more capacity for savings than residents of other states, on average. More potential savings mean your panels are inherently more valuable.
- Affordable solar equipment: The average cost per watt for solar equipment in WV is around $2.64, which is just under the national average. This translates to slightly lower equipment costs than in most of the country, which means you get more bang for your buck when going solar in WV.
- Above-average energy usage: WV residents use an average of 1,050 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per month, which is well above the U.S. average of 893 kWh.3 Once again, this means that West Virginians have more to gain by converting their homes to solar power. Areas with above-average energy needs benefit more from solar conversion because there is more consumption to offset with clean energy.
- Access to incentive programs: West Virginians have access to several competitive solar incentive programs provided by both the federal and state governments. These help to make your equipment more affordable and your long-term savings greater. We’ll discuss the specific tax incentives and other perks available later on.
- Relatively mild weather: WV’s general lack of extreme weather events like hurricanes and tornadoes make it safer for solar compared to other regions because these types of events risk damaging your solar system. Installing solar in a state like WV that’s low risk for dramatic weather makes it easier to stomach the high up-front costs because you’ll likely avoid paying for expensive repairs down the road.
How Much Energy Can I Get From Solar Panels in West Virginia?
Despite the comparatively high number of rainy and cloudy days West Virginians experience, WV gets more than enough sunshine for solar energy systems to be a good investment. However, the amount of energy your panels produce depends on several factors, including:
- The equipment you choose: High-efficiency panels produce more electricity from less sunlight than lower-efficiency ones. In a cloudy state like WV, purchasing the most efficient photovoltaic panels you can afford is a good idea. SunPower and Tesla are generally considered to be the most efficient brands on the market today, and they’ll give you greater electricity production capacity than most other brands.
- Your roof’s orientation: In the northern hemisphere, south-facing roofs provide solar systems with the best angle for receiving direct sunlight for the longest duration. If your home doesn’t have a south-facing roof, you can still benefit from installing rooftop panels, although you might need a larger system to compensate for the lower production rates.
- How much sunlight your property receives: If you have trees or other features on your property that shade your roof, your panels won’t be able to collect as much sunlight, reducing their overall production. Homeowners with shady roofs can purchase more panels to help produce more energy or consider a ground mount system if they have the space.
- Your system’s capacity: Larger systems always produce more energy, which is helpful for a not-so-sunny state like WV. The statewide average solar system is 11 kW, but people with higher utility bills or particularly shady roofs may require larger systems for greater levels of production.
- The weather: Cloudy days are a solar panel system’s arch-enemy. Clouds and rain have a dramatic effect on how much energy your system produces, so don’t be alarmed if your system’s production drops precipitously when the weather turns sour.
With the many variables that determine how much energy your solar system will produce, it’s hard to wrap your head around it all. To make things a little easier, the table below provides some general production estimates for common system sizes in WV:
|Solar Power System Size||Expected Daily Energy Generation||Expected Monthly Energy Generation||Expected Annual Energy Generation|
|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|
|14 kW||46.6 kWh||1,400 kWh||16,800 kWh|
You can also check out our solar calculator to see how much energy PV panels would produce on your roof. This tool takes local weather conditions and shading on your property into consideration to provide an accurate estimate.
Solar Panel Policy History in West Virginia
Historically, WV has not been a solar-friendly state. As of this writing, it’s one of the lowest-ranking states in terms of installed solar capacity and trails its neighbors Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).4
Many people attribute West Virginia’s solar foot-dragging to its heavy reliance on the coal industry. As of 2016, 95% of the state’s energy production came from coal, outstripping the next highest coal-producing state, Kentucky, by nearly 15 percentage points.5
West Virginia’s measly 6 megawatts (MW) of installed solar capacity wasn’t high enough to register on the state’s energy source breakdown and production from solar was lower than that from natural gas, other renewable energy sources like wind, and nuclear power.
Things have improved slightly since 2016, with West Virginia’s total solar installed capacity rising to 23 MW. The pessimistic view is that WV will continue to be behind the times when it comes to solar production.
A more optimistic take is that the WV solar industry is poised to take full advantage of solar’s increased popularity in 2022 and embrace the country’s move towards renewable energy production.
Even while WV continues to depend on coal more than its neighbors, there are several policies in place at the state level that make switching to solar an attractive option for WV’s residents.
First — and most importantly for financial reasons — is that West Virginians can take advantage of the Residential Clean Energy Credit to claim 30% of their solar system costs against the federal income taxes they owe.
This perk makes it much easier for homeowners to install solar since it offsets a significant fraction of the installation costs associated with purchasing panels.
Second, in 2007, West Virginia’s state government mandated net metering policies. These require the state’s utility companies to allow their customers to sell any excess energy they produce via rooftop solar back to the grid.
While net metering is currently protected under state law, in 2015 the West Virginia state legislature proposed repealing the state’s Alternative and Renewable Portfolio Standard, a move that included provisions for removing the state’s net metering protections.
Luckily, the action failed and West Virginians in all municipalities retained access to such programs, thanks largely to the work of solar proponents and nonprofit solar organizations.
In 2012, the WV solar rights laws were passed. These protect homeowners’ right to install solar systems and their access to sunlight during peak hours.6
These laws prevent any regulatory body — including homeowners associations — from limiting anyone’s ability to install solar systems. The laws also prevent any structure, including other homes or commercial buildings, from blocking your access to sunlight.
The future of solar in WV is uncertain, although Senate Bill 583, which became effective in 2020, makes it possible for the state’s utility companies to own and operate solar systems up to 250 MW. This would make community solar a much more accessible option in WV.
The goal of SB 583 and other state legislation is to incentivize WV power companies to invest in solar energy. Ultimately, this should lead to a decrease in the state’s carbon footprint and dependence on fossil fuels.
While it’s unclear whether WV will introduce state-level policies to help its residents convert to solar, bills like SB 583 are steps in the right direction. As the prevalence of solar advocates and solar nonprofits increases, it will be harder for solar opponents to block new pro-solar laws.
What Are the Solar Panel Incentives in West Virginia?
Unfortunately, WV doesn’t offer much in the way of state solar rebates. However, residents of The Mountain State can take advantage of a few solar incentives and enjoy solar rights protection under the state’s current legal stance on solar and clean energy, as described below:
- Net metering: West Virginia’s state legislature guarantees the ability to sell energy to the grid, making it possible for solar customers to take advantage of any excess energy their solar systems produce. There is no minimum credit rate for energy sold back to the grid, unfortunately.
- Residential Clean Energy Credit: Residents of WV can claim 30% of the cost of their solar systems to reduce their federal income tax burden. This helps bring down the cost of going solar, and it is available to all WV property owners.
- Solar rights and easements: WV’s solar rights and easement laws guarantee that all homeowners have the right to install and enjoy the benefits of solar equipment.
WV does not offer its residents property tax or sales tax exemptions. This means that you’ll have to pay applicable sales tax on solar equipment and will need to include the cost of increased property taxes when you’re budgeting for switching to solar.
Find a Local Installer in West Virginia
Choosing a solar installer is a big decision, and one that can have a significant impact on the warranty coverage you get, the durability of the equipment available to you and more. With a wide selection of providers to choose from, your decision can be a difficult one.
Below, we’ll include links to reviews of some of the best solar companies in major cities throughout WV.
For more general recommendations in other cities in your area, you can check out our guide to picking a reputable solar installer in WV.