Gainesville Solar – Everything You Need to Know
Information about Solar Panels Gainesville, Fl
In 2011, the sheer quantity of solar panels residents and businesses of Gainesville, FL had installed made national news. The number of solar installations was three times as high as the US national average and higher even than solar-friendly countries like Japan and France. No doubt this spike in popularity was due in part to GRU’s (Gainesville Regional Utilities) very popular solar feed-in tariff program which provided incredible financial incentives for solar electricity pushed back into the grid by their solar customers.
While the feed-in tariff is now defunct, homeowners in the Gainesville area can still benefit from other financial incentives like tax credits, tax exemptions, and net metering programs. These incentives, coupled with Florida’s sunny skies, makes going solar in Gainesville a great decision!
For a broader state overview, see our Florida solar page.
#1 Are Solar Panels Worth it in Gainesville?
* Note that these are estimated values for informational purposes only, and do not take into account the full complexity of all financial projections. They also only apply to cash purchases, which means your numbers will be different if you lease your system or pay for it with a loan (factoring in interest). Also note that we are not financial advisors, so this information should not be construed as financial advice.
Gainesville homeowners contemplating solar have a lot to be happy about – great net metering regulations, legal protection from potentially pesky HOAs, and numerous tax incentives. With these great incentives, purchasing solar in the Gainesville area can save you nearly $13,000 over the first 25 years of the installation!
There are, however, some serious gaps in Florida’s solar incentives. Unlike other solar-friendly states such as Oregon and California, there are no upfront rebates for Florida homeowners going solar. This means that it takes longer to break even on your investment and your overall savings are lower than they could be. It could be worse though - solar homeowners in many of Florida’s neighboring states aren’t quite as lucky. Gainesville homeowners can still save huge amounts over the life of their installation!
#2 Options for Buying Solar Panels in Gainesville, FL
Gainesville residents can see a high return on their investment – if chosen wisely. Your financing method greatly affects how much savings you’ll see.
For an average-sized installation of 5 kilowatts (about 20 panels), homeowners in Gainesville who purchase their solar installation outright can generally see savings of around $12,755, after applying the 30% federal tax credit, at the end of the 25 year expected life of the installation. We calculated these savings by finding the difference between the cost to go solar and the amount you would spend if you continued to purchase electricity from your utility over the next 25 years.
As the owner of the installation you are also eligible to receive the state-wide sales tax exemption, property tax exclusion, and net metering incentives (see sections on tax incentives below for more info), which drop your total installation cost even further.
Purchasing a solar installation is a fairly simple transaction: you pay a solar company the full cost upfront, they install your system, and you reap the benefits of clean, renewable energy produced right on your roof. As the owner of the installation, you are responsible for monitoring your system’s electricity production to ensure its working properly and to fix or replace any malfunctioning equipment.
As with any purchase, you’ll always save more money purchasing your solar installation with cash in hand. However, if that’s not an option (like for most of us), loans provide an excellent opportunity to reap the benefits of solar energy without breaking the bank!
Homeowners who finance through loans also see substantial savings, but lower than with a cash purchase. With a 5% interest loan repaid over 15 years, you can save around $5,726 over 25 years. Significantly less than cash purchase, but nothing to scoff at!
Savings from loans can vary dramatically though due to varying interest rates, installation sizes, financial incentives, and utility rates, so be sure to do your homework before making any decisions.
Credit unions, banks, and dedicated solar loan companies all offer loans for solar installations, so be sure to ask around for the best deal. Solar companies typically have a preferred lender they work with, so ask your installer what loans offerings are available.
Property Assesed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing
PACE financing is a relative newcomer to the solar financing world. Originating in California in the late 2000s, PACE for residential solar is slowly being introduced throughout the US. Florida is an early adopter of this exciting new financing mechanism, which is great news for Gainesville homeowners,
Through the PACE program, local governments in the Gainesville area have partnered with the Florida PACE Funding Agency to offer loans to homeowners for solar installations and energy efficiency projects which homeowners repay through an assessment on their annual property tax bill.
#3 Gainesville, FL Solar Policy Information
In the last 10 years, the state of Florida has adopted some wonderful policies to encourage businesses and homeowners to install solar.
Renewable Portfolio Standard
Unlike many solar-friendly states, Florida has yet to adopt any renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which is basically a fancy name for when a state sets a goal that a certain percentage of all electricity in the state must come from renewable energy like solar and wind.
Some states go even further, setting mandates that a certain percentage of that renewable energy must come from solar, or even distributed solar (meaning solar ‘distributed’ across residential and commercial property, not a large solar farm owned by the utility). Until Florida sets RPS goals, the local solar industry will continue to lag behind those in other states.
Florida’s average electricity price of $0.1130 per kilowatt-hour puts the state just below the national average price of $0.1275. It’s certainly not the nation’s lowest prices (Louisiana at $0.916 wears that crown), but it’s far from New York’s $0.1775 per kWh or Hawaii’s astonishing $0.2848! Electricity prices are a huge factor in estimating your potential savings going solar.
The higher your utility charges per kWh, the more money you stand to save going solar. While Florida’s utility rates are lower than most, you can still see thousands of dollars in savings, especially when all the financial incentives are taken into account.
Investor-owned utilities like FPL and Duke are required by state law to offer homeowners net metering credits for any excess electricity they produce that is put back into the grid. A fantastic program, these credits are worth the full retail value you pay for your electricity. For example, if you pay your utility $0.11 per kilowatt-hour, you are paid $0.11 per kilowatt-hour for all the electricity your solar installation produces and that you don’t use.
Electric cooperatives and municipal utilities – including GRU (Gainesville Regional Utilities) are required to offer some form of net metering, but they’re allowed more flexibility in how to go about it. Thankfully though, GRU has taken a cue from the investor-owned utilities and offers very similar net metering incentives!
If you are a GRU customer, you receive full retail credit for all your excess electricity on your next monthly bill and if you have any credits left over at the end of the year, GRU will pay you for those credits at their avoided cost (basically, what they would pay for the same amount of electricity, usually around $0.02 to $0.03 per kilowatt-hour).
More: Net Metering
In 2012, Florida adopted interconnection standards to streamline the utility approval process to connect your solar installation to the utility grid. The process is tailored to the size of your solar installation, with three tiers:
- Tier 1: Installations under 10 kilowatts (equal to about 40 solar panels). Besides the very biggest installations, most homeowners fall into this category. State law guarantees that homeowners don’t have to pay any interconnection study fees and ensures a fast approval process.
- Tier 2: Installations between 10 and 100 kilowatts. Homeowners with larger installations fall into this category. The approval process is the same as Tier 1, but Tier 2 installations are required to have an additional safety disconnect switch for an additional measure of security.
- Tier 3: Installations between 100 kilowatts and 2 megawatts. This tier is reserved for large-scale commercial and industrial solar installations.
If you live in a neighborhood with a Homeowners Association (HOA), you might be a little worried about receiving approval for your solar installation – especially if you are the pioneer installing the first solar in your neighborhood! Since 1978, the state of Florida has guaranteed homeowners the right to install solar on their home.
HOAs, covenants, and deeds can’t block your solar installation. They can request that your solar panels are installed on the back portion of the roof, hidden from street view, but only if it doesn’t affect electricity production. So if you were worried about your HOA, you can move forward knowing that the state of Florida has your back!
#4 Financial Incentives, Rebates, and Tax Credits for Going Solar
Gainesville homeowners are eligible for many tax incentives to drop the total installation cost of going solar!
Federal Tax Credit
By far the best financial incentive available for going solar, the 30% federal tax credit is available to homeowners who purchase their installation with cash, loan, or PACE financing. The tax credit was originally planned to phase out in 2016, but congress extended the credit until 2019, when it begins to continually drop until 2022, at which time it is completely phased out.
The federal tax credit is so easy it’s a no brainer. You purchase a solar installation and the federal government provides a dollar-for-dollar credit equal to 30% of the total installation cost. All you have to do is apply for the incentive the next time you file your taxes!
Solar Property Tax Exemption
The state of Florida provides solar homeowners with even more tax benefits! When you go solar, you can also claim the state-wide property tax exclusion, allowing you to calculate your property taxes based on the value of the home before going solar! For example, let’s say your home is worth $200,000 and you install a $19,000 solar installation on your roof, you’d still be taxed at only $200,000!
Solar Equipment Tax Exemption
The state of Florida allows you to purchase all the equipment related to your solar installation tax free. Considering the typical state sales tax is 6%, this state-wide solar tax exemption allows homeowners installing an average-sized solar installation to save around $400!
If you’d like to dig even more on local incentives and rebates, check out the DSIRE database.
What to Do Next?
While you won’t save as much as homeowners in extremely solar-friendly states like Oregon or California, if you take advantage of all the tax incentives and net metering available in the Gainesville area and choose your financing wisely, you’ll soon be enjoying clean energy and extra cash in your pocket for years to come.
Going solar in Gainesville can save you thousands over the life of the installation – but be sure to get actual estimates from a handful of qualified installers before moving forward.
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