Is Solar Worth It in West Virginia? (2022 Homeowner's Guide)
Here’s a quick overview of solar viability in West Virginia:
- West Virginia ranks 48th in the country for solar installations.*
- The average cost of electricity is 11.80 cents per kilowatt-hour.**
- The average solar payback period is 13 years.***
- Homeowners are eligible for net metering and the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC)
- The average homeowner saves $48,933 over the lifetime of their solar system.***
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West Virginians pay an average of $29,040 for an 11-kilowatt solar panel system, which is the average size required to offset energy needs in the area. While this is a high upfront cost, most homeowners still find that solar panels are worth it because of the high energy consumption throughout the state. WV residents use an average of 1,051 kilowatt-hours each month, while the national average sits much lower at 893 kWh. This comes out to a typical savings of $48,933 over the lifespan of the panels. In this guide, we’ll be discussing everything you need to know to figure out what your photovoltaic system will save you over time. We’ll also include some information that’s crucial to know before converting your home to this renewable energy source.
How To Figure Out if Solar Panels are Worth It in West Virginia
While going solar is a worthwhile investment for most homeowners in West Virginia, it’s not right for everyone. There are quite a few things you’ll need to consider to decide if a solar panel system will benefit you and your home and pay for itself over time. We’ll discuss the most significant factors to consider below.
What’s Your Home Electricity Consumption?
Solar energy systems are sized based primarily on your monthly energy needs. Most West Virginia residents use far more electricity than homeowners throughout the country, with an average monthly consumption of 1,051 kilowatt-hours. Solar panels are generally considered a good investment if you have a minimum consumption of 500 kWh. As such, solar conversion is worth it from an energy consumption perspective for nearly every West Virginia resident. You can check your monthly consumption by reviewing your past energy bills. Most bills will include a six-month or year-long consumption average.
How Much Is It To Go Solar in West Virginia?
The total to install solar panels in WV will vary widely depending on several factors. The most crucial things to consider are your home’s energy consumption, shading on your property and the size and energy efficiency of your home. Most residents pay between $21,120 and $36,960 before the federal tax credit (ITC) or between $15,629 and $27,350 after the credit. The average sits around $21,490 after the ITC. Solar panels provide more value in areas with higher electricity rates, so while paying nearly $30,000 to go solar in the Mountain State might seem like a lot, the fact that the average monthly energy bill is so much higher than the national average means solar will be a worthwhile investment for most people in the state.
What’s the Payback Period for Solar in West Virginia?
When you purchase or finance solar panels, they typically pay for themselves and then afford additional savings after they’re paid for. The time it takes to offset the total solar PV system cost is referred to as the solar panel payback period. The average payback period in WV is around 13 years, which is slightly above the national average. Most homeowners in the area will pay off the system in 10 to 16 years. After that point, the reduction in your energy bill will just be pure savings. It’s best to use a solar calculator to determine what your estimated payback period will be. If you come up with a period longer than 16 years, you’ll still likely save money in the long run, but it will take you longer to see a return, and the overall return on investment will be lower.
What Are Average Buy-Back Rates in West Virginia?
Most states have an electricity buy-back program or net metering program that incentivizes solar conversion. These policies allow you to overproduce energy with your panels and sell the excess electricity to your utility company to reduce your utility bills. To reach its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goals, West Virginia requires that all utilities purchase excess power, but the rates at which they do so can vary. You should check the net metering program offered by your electricity provider before signing anything. If your electric company buys back energy at the full retail price, solar panels will benefit you far more than most homeowners. If you get a below-retail or “avoided cost” rate, you might need to supplement your panels with a solar battery system for maximum savings. Adding battery storage will cost more upfront but can improve your return on investment over time.
How Much Sun Does Your Roof Receive?
Solar panels are most efficient when they receive direct sunlight, which means the amount of sun your roof gets will play a role in how worth it panels are for you. West Virginians enjoy just 164 sunny days, on average, while the national average is 205. With less sunlight than most states, you’ll want to be particularly careful about calculating your expected return on investment. There are individual factors to consider to this end as well, including natural shading on your property, buildings or other construction that obstructs sunlight and the direction your roof faces. Homeowners who have no shading and south- or west-facing roofs will benefit most from solar panels in WV.
What’s the Climate for Solar in West Virginia?
Thankfully, extreme weather is one of the few things that most West Virginians don’t need to consider when going solar. Although precipitation levels are high in the state and cloudy days are prevalent, the rain and snow can help keep your panels clean and at peak efficiency for the half of the year that is sunny. Although West Virginia is ranked 48th in the country in terms of solar adoption, this clean energy source is becoming more and more popular as the industry grows. Home solar installations have continued to increase over the past decade, and they jumped by about 300% in 2021 alone.3 As solar becomes more prevalent in WV, the costs will go down, and the value of panels will increase.
Benefits of Solar Energy in West Virginia
Homeowners who convert to solar energy in West Virginia will be met with a number of benefits, including savings, state solar incentives and more. We’ll discuss these benefits below to help you better understand how going solar will affect your monthly electricity costs and your impact on the environment.
Electricity Bill Savings
Most people understand that installing solar panels — as long as you acquire them with cash or a loan — will reduce monthly energy costs significantly. Most residents pay around $124.09 per month for electricity, which is above the national average. With the help of net metering and the ability to eliminate your electric bills, you could save about $1,489 per year on electricity if you can offset your consumption entirely. Over the expected panel lifespan of 25+ years, that’s a typical savings of $48,933! Not only can going solar drastically reduce your energy spending and deliver massive savings over time, but it can also help you budget more effectively, as you’ll essentially be locking in your energy costs for the lifespan of your solar power system. This is especially important, as electricity rates have historically risen and are expected to continue that trend.
Lower Taxes & Access to Other Incentives
Adopting solar energy is incentivized by the federal government and the state government in West Virginia, so you’ll receive some tax incentives and other benefits when you convert. Most notably, you’ll get access to the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC), which is a credit to your federal income tax liability for the year your system is installed. It’s for 26% of your system cost, too, which averages out to $7,550 in West Virginia. Other state incentives include mandated net metering and West Virginia Solar Rights Laws, which guarantee you access to solar panels and unimpeded sunlight during peak hours.
Home Resale Value Increase
One of the more appealing benefits of going solar for most homeowners is the bump in property value the panels provide. Based on data from Zillow, solar panels will increase home value by approximately 4.1%.4 In West Virginia, where the average home value is $129,659, that’s a typical bump in value of $5,316.5 This value jump is only expected if you purchase your panels outright or finance them. A lease or power purchase agreement (PPA) will not provide the same benefit.
Clean, Renewable Energy
Of course, there are non-financial benefits to going solar as well. Most notably, converting to solar means you’ll be less reliant on fossil fuels, so you will reduce your carbon footprint and help fight air pollution and water pollution. You will also be your own source of energy, giving you energy independence from the power providers and their unavoidable electricity costs.
What to Look Out For When Considering Solar in West Virginia
Even if you do find that going solar is a good investment for your West Virginia home, there are still some things you’ll need to consider before making the move to clean energy. We’ll discuss everything else you should think about below.
The upfront cost of solar panels will always be a crucial factor. Installation costs can vary quite a bit based on your monthly energy consumption, the equipment brands you install, the pieces of equipment you choose for your home solar project and more. It’s important to remember that, although the typical price in WV is high, the panels will very likely pay for themselves and then save you money over time if you buy or finance them.
As mentioned above, you should use a solar calculator or contact a reputable solar installer in your area to estimate your solar panel payback period. The average homeowner in WV sees their system pay itself off in about 13 years on average or between 10 and 16 years. If your payback period is longer than 16 years, it will take you longer than average to see a return on your investment, and your overall savings will be lower.
Net Metering Policies in West Virginia
Net metering is a huge benefit of going solar in West Virginia, but the policy varies between electricity providers. You’ll benefit far more from a net metering program with a retail buy-back rate than you would from one with an avoided cost or wholesale rate. All net metering programs are beneficial, but you should contact your utility company to confirm the policy before committing. Remember that you can opt to install a solar battery to help keep electricity costs low if your net metering program is less than ideal.
Pending Policies & Changes to Incentives
The solar industry — especially in West Virginia — is changing and expanding rapidly, which means policies, programs and incentives can change at any time. New incentives could pop up, and additional rebates might become available, so check for what’s most recent before going solar. However, we don’t recommend waiting for a better incentive to come along because the current ones will very likely save you money in the meantime.
Weather & Climate in West Virginia
Solar panels function best closest to the equator, where the sunlight is intense and abundant. However, states further north can still get great efficiency and energy production. Even in the cold WV winter, panels can maintain decent efficiency, especially because electricity flows more rapidly in the cold. Some West Virginians worry that the prevalent cloudy days and precipitation in the state will mean solar panels won’t be worth it, but most find that they still are. While cloudy days do lead to decreased panel efficiency, rain can naturally clean dirt and debris off of your panels to increase efficiency when the sun shines. Plus, the state still receives enough sunlight annually to provide an average lifetime energy savings of over $40,000.
Companies Pushing Solar Leases or PPAs
Finally, you should be careful when choosing a West Virginia solar panel installation company to handle your conversion. With solar adoption increasing wildly in the last few years, there are some less reliable and disingenuous companies popping up that you should avoid. In many cases, these companies offer “free panels” that aren’t really free or push solar leases or power purchase agreements (PPAs) over solar financing. These options are never as beneficial as they seem, and they’re not recommended over a solar loan or cash purchase. Unfortunately, there have been reports throughout West Virginia of solar companies claiming to be affiliated with local power companies but aren’t or offering deals that seem too good to be true, and often are. We strongly recommend going with a reputable, pre-vetted solar installer to ensure the best experience possible.
Wrap Up: Is Solar Worth it in West Virginia?
Most homeowners in West Virginia find that going solar is abundantly worth it, with a typical panel payback period of just 13 years and lifetime energy savings of $48,933 after the system has paid for itself. With that being said, solar is not for everyone, so you should consider your monthly energy consumption, shading on your property, the direction your roof faces, and more before committing to this renewable energy source. Once you determine if solar is right for you, you should consider your upfront costs, your financing options, and your financial situation. This will help determine if the payback period and return on investment will make the panels worth your money in the long run. We strongly recommend getting in touch with a vetted solar company in your area to figure out if solar is right for you and your best option for paying for the system.
Frequently Asked Questions
The EcoWatch team regularly gets questions about the benefits of going solar and whether panels are worth it from West Virginians. Below are some of the questions we see most frequently, along with our responses.
On average, a solar panel system in West Virginia will take around 13 years to pay for itself, with most systems providing a panel payback period of between 10 and 16 years. You can use a solar calculator or contact a reliable solar installer in your area to figure out how long it will take a system on your property to pay itself off and start delivering savings.
In most cases, yes, solar panels will save you money in West Virginia. Given the net metering policy in WV, it might take a bit longer to see actual savings than throughout the rest of the country. If you purchase your panels, the average savings over the lifetime of the equipment in WV is $48,933. Financing your panels will cost more based on your interest rate, so savings will be slightly lower. Entering into a solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA) will deliver far fewer savings or even no savings over time.
Yes! If you purchase or finance your panels, solar conversion will increase your home value in West Virginia. Based on estimates from Zillow, the typical bump in value is around 4.1% following installation, which averages out to around a $5,316 property value increase. It’s important to note that a solar lease or a power purchase agreement (PPA) will not provide the same benefit.
Yes, permits are required to install solar panels in West Virginia. Your local permitting agency requires permits to ensure that your home can support your rooftop solar panels and that the connection to the grid is done safely. Most reputable solar installers in the area will tackle all permitting for you.
You can install your own solar panels in West Virginia. However, DIY solar panel installation is not recommended. The process is fairly complicated, and any mistakes could cost you thousands of dollars and put you at risk of severe injury. We recommend leaving panel installation to the professionals.