Tag Archives for " state specifics "

What are the Top Solar Companies in Arizona?

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Top 10 solar companies in Arizona

With a state average of 300 days of sunshine throughout the year, the number of  solar installations in Arizona are growing so quickly that APS (the state’s largest utility) has been struggling to keep up with all the approvals homeowners submit to connect their panels to the grid. And there are now dozens of solar companies popping up in the state, each looking to serve the rapidly expanding solar market. Of course, not all are up to the task of being one of the top solar companies in Arizona.

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The Complete Guide to Flagstaff Solar

flagstaff-solar

Information about Solar Panels in Flagstaff, Arizona

If you’re considering going solar and you live in or around Flagstaff, Arizona, you’ve come to the right place.

Whether you are wondering about your local utility’s policy, installation costs, or financing, keep reading. We have the answers to all Flagstaff solar installations below!

This post has been developed especially about solar in Flagstaff, AZ, for residents that are served by the electric utility Arizona Public Service (APS). If that doesn’t apply to you, you can still check out the Arizona solar energy state page to learn more about solar in your state.

If you’re looking for a simple yes or no as to whether you should install solar in the Flagstaff area, the answer is definitely ‘yes’, similar to the rest of the state. The sunny weather, cost of electricity, and relatively solar-friendly policies make it no surprise that Arizona has the third-highest installed solar capacity of any state in the US. Read on to find out more!

#1 Overall Solar Grade

B
Overall Grade
9 years Avg. Payback Time (For Cash Purchase)
10.5 % Estimate IRR (Return on your investment on cash purchase over 25 years)
$28,574 Your Net Profit Over 25 Years (Cash Purchase)

* 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.

#2 Options for Buying Solar Panels in Flagstaff, Arizona

Residents of Flagstaff have various options for paying for their solar installation. We look at the three available options: cash, leases, and loans.

Cash Upfront

The simplest option to purchase solar panels in Flagstaff, AZ, is with cash upfront. While this isn’t possible for all homeowners, it will allow you to utilize all tax exemptions and credits, and it offers the largest return on your investment over time. Let’s explore how much this option might cost you, and the benefits you’d see over the lifetime of the system.

Most average rooftop solar systems run about 5 kilowatts (kW) in size. At a state average installation cost of $3.26 per watt, a system of this size in Arizona will cost about $16,283 to purchase and install. If that sounds like too much money, just wait!

Factoring in the 30% Federal tax credit, you can subtract $4,885 from that total and you can also receive a $1,000 tax credit from the state. Unfortunately, you won’t find incentives provided by APS or the local Flagstaff government for solar panels like you might in some other regions (though they do have incentives for solar water heaters and other energy efficiency initiatives).

So with the tax credits factored in, the total cash upfront cost looks more like $10,398.

How long will it take for this expense to pay off? If you pay upfront, 5kW of solar panels should pay for themselves after 10 years or so. Once they pay themselves off, all of your electricity savings can be considered profit – and you could see as much as $28,574 in total income over the life of the system!

Bottom Line: Your return on the investment will come out to about 10.5%, which beats most stock market choices we make. Sounds like a good deal to us.

Leases

An alternate option to paying cash is to enter a contract to lease the panels from a solar installation company. The company will install the panels on your roof and the panels will have the same effects on your electric bill as a cash-purchased solar system, but you won’t own them outright.

This is very similar to the idea of leasing a car, where you will pay a set monthly amount for a period of years, and either purchase the system outright at the end of the lease, continue the lease on a year-by-year basis, or get rid of (uninstall) the system. If you’re worried you’ll have to move before the end of your lease, it is possible to transfer it to new homeowners, but you need to arrange the transfer with the installing company and the buyers beforehand.

Leases cost less out of pocket in the beginning, but don’t provide you with a lot of the same long-term financial rewards as a cash or loan purchase. If the terms of your lease are financed properly, you should save more money on your electric bill each month than you pay toward the lease, which would net you a small monthly profit. The amount you save on your electric bill should grow over time too, as utility rates go up but your lease rate is locked in.

If you’re interested in learning more about solar leases, APS has information and advice for homeowners under their service.

Bottom Line: A worthwhile option if you cannot afford cash upfront, a solar lease will save you money on your bill, and this saving will grow over time as utility rates increases.

More: Solar Leases

Loans

If you don’t have enough cash on hand to purchase upfront, but don’t like the idea of a lease, the third option – taking out a loan for solar – may be the right one for you! Using a loan to purchase a solar system will still allow you to take advantage of tax credits and tax exemptions, while not requiring you to pull too much money out of your bank account at once.

How would the finances of a solar loan compare to the finances of a cash purchase? What would this actually look like for your bank account? Let’s revisit the sample purchase from the ‘cash’ section, where a 5kW system would run you $16,283. If you take out a loan for that much money at 5% interest on a 15-year term (you can calculate some different terms and interest rates too, if you want), in the first year of owning the system:

  • You will get $4,884 back for your federal 30% tax credit.
  • You will get $1,000 back for your state tax credit.
  • You will save about $1,011 on utilities ($84 a month!) your first year (and over $2,000 annually by 22nd year!)
  • You will spend $129 per month paying your loan.

As utility rates go up each year, your savings also increase and at the end of 25 years, you’ll see a net profit of $21,679.

Bottom Line: The return on your investment won’t be quite as large as it would be in a cash upfront scenario, but you are still looking at a very healthy long-term investment!

More: Solar Loans

#3 Flagstaff Solar Policy Information

While you might hear a lot about the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency when it comes to energy and utilities, the reality is most of the policy is driven by the states. And Arizona has adopted some great solar policies.

downtown-flagstaff

Different states have different climates (weather and politics), energy prices, and varying levels of solar feasibility, so Arizona designed its state policy around these realities. The state government develops rules around interconnection, the quantity of energy that utilities must get from renewable sources, and how households can send energy back to the grid.

You’ll read about several policies created in the past decade, but very recently, state policy has taken a turn. The state has been in conflict with utilities – yes, that includes APS – and recently compromised to allow for new increases in electricity rates (you can read more information from Greentech Media and Utility Dive, if you’re interested). This is something you’ll need to keep an eye out for in the coming months and years, but read on for an assessment of current policy!

Renewable Portfolio Standard

One way that states encourage utilities (and businesses and residents!) to utilize renewable energy sources is with a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). This document, common across the country, mandates the amount of energy produced in the state that has to come from sources like wind, solar, biomass, hydroelectricity, or other renewable forms of energy.

The Arizona RPS breaks down renewable energy requirements like this (with a target date of 2025): 15% of the state’s total energy must be renewable, 30% of THAT should come from ‘distributed’ sources like homes or businesses, and half of THAT should come from residential energy sources (like solar on your roof!). That essentially means that Arizona is looking to get at least 2.25% of its electricity from residential solar or wind.

More: Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)

Electricity Prices

Let’s not kid around – electricity prices are a major reason many people start thinking about solar, especially as those costs get higher and higher. Having solar at home helps you avoid those costs, which will only increase as time goes on! As we mentioned, you can expect rates to rise at a rate of about 3% per year.

The average price per kilowatt hour (kWh) (if you’re wondering what the difference between kW and kWh is, check out this explanation) through APS in Flagstaff is about 11.96 cents. At that price, according to the National Renewable Energy Lab’s online solar calculator, a 5 kW solar system would save you $1,015 on your electric bill in its first year!

Net Metering

One of the most complicated and least understood parts of solar policy is ‘net metering’. This term comes from the way that electricity feeds in and out of your home to the grid – it flows into your home from the grid when you need it, and excess flows out of your home to the grid if your panels are producing more energy than you need to use! With solar, you’ll typically export energy during the day when it is sunny, and use energy in the evening or at night when your panels aren’t producing any.

What net metering policy usually governs is how much money (if any) the utility will pay you for the electricity that you produce and export from your home. Arizona drafted their policy in 2009, and it required companies like APS to pay you the ‘retail rate’ for that energy, which was pretty simple: if you paid 10 cents per kWh for electricity, you would also GET paid 10 cents per kWh for electricity you sold back. This money is seen annually on your final yearly bill.

But, like other renewable energy laws in the state, this policy also came under fire from utility companies and recently resulted in a vote to end the current net metering pricing. Utilities are moving to replace the retail rate with a new ‘Resource Comparison Proxy’ price, which will be lower than the retail rate. As of March 2017, we still don’t know what those rates will be, so keep an eye out! The initial new price should be guaranteed to you for the first 10 years after you install solar panels, so we can make new calculations soon.

Regardless of these changes, solar will still be a good call in Arizona, but some calculations will change, like the number of years it takes to fully pay off the panels.

More: Net Metering

Interconnection Rules

Using rooftop solar doesn’t mean ‘going off the grid’ – in many places you legally must connect your system to the utility grid to comply with law. Plus, you can’t take advantage of net metering if you aren’t hooked up!

Interconnection in Arizona is not officially set by the state, but by utilities. The state created a guidance document, but APS sets the rules, which can be read on their website. Your installer should be familiar with these rules, but make sure to do a bit of research and talk to your installer about interconnection rules before starting your project.

#4 Financial Incentives, Rebates, and Tax Credits for Going Solar

While some utilities in Arizona and across the country offer incentives or rebates for solar systems, APS no longer does. The City of Flagstaff does have some energy efficiency rebates, but none are solar-related. However, there are still great incentives at the national and state level that will decrease the upfront cost of solar panels on your roof.

Federal Tax Credit

Your federal tax credit for residential solar will net you a credit for 30% of the money you spent to buy and install a system at your home (remember that upfront cost of about $16K? You can subtract almost $5K from that!). This was passed in 2008, but the amount is set to start phasing down in 2019, so you should make sure to use it while it is still this great of a deal!

This credit, and the state credit mentioned below, are not tax write-offs or exemptions, they are a cash credit you’ll get when you file your taxes. This is a straightforward way for the federal government to incentivize you to go solar, but it can only be used if you purchase the system with cash upfront or via a loan.

More: Solar Federal Tax Credit

State Tax Credit

Arizona has a similarly structured credit specifically for solar, that runs to the tune of a 25% credit on the cost of installations on your state income taxes. This credit is available to any household that installs solar, and maxes out at $1,000. So when you add this credit to the amount you get back from the federal government, it makes the upfront cost a lot less intimidating.

Property Tax Exemption

Are you worried that installing solar panels will make you subject to higher property taxes when your house is appraised? Arizona took care of that with their Energy Equipment Property Tax Exemption, which states that renewable energy equipment (your solar panels!) is not factored into home appraisals when calculating property tax.

So, when it comes to taxation, you get a pretty good deal when you install solar!

General Increase in Home Value

Despite not being factored into appraisals, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that solar installations increase home value in the states they studied, including Oregon, California, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania and Maryland (they didn’t look at Arizona unfortunately, though chances are the results would be very similar). If you take your house with solar and an identical house without solar, your house should have an approximately $4 per watt advantage (since we’ve been talking in kW, that is $4K per kW).

So using 5 kW as an average example, installing solar panels can help you sell your home for $20,000 more than you would otherwise!

When you look at all of the financial factors, you can drop your total cost to go solar through awesome rebates, save incremental amounts of money every month through lower electricity bills, and make a lot of money on the other end when selling your home.

More: Buyers Will Pay More for Solar Homes

If you’d like to dig even more on local incentives and rebates, check out the DSIRE database.

What to Do Next?

Now that you’ve learned all about solar in Flagstaff, AZ, you should start looking around and contacting installers! We recommend always talking to multiple installers to make sure you get a good understanding of all of your options. You can also get more information from APS, and check out any installers that they recommend.

Let us know if you have any more questions, and come back and let us know if this information helps you to go solar in Flagstaff, AZ!

Image Credits from Flickr under CC License - 1, 2

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What is the Average Electricity Bill in Los Angeles?

average-electricity-bill-los-angeles

What’s the average electricity bill in Los Angeles and how do you make it more affordable?

When it comes to your electricity bill, do you know how much you are spending per month on powering your home or business in Los Angeles? Did you know that there are several different factors that influence how much your monthly electric bill will rise or decline? That’s right – you can make your electricity bill more affordable in many different ways.

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Installing Solar Panels Gainesville, FL

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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.

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Solar Panels in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

solar-panels-fort-lauderdale-e

Information about Buying and Installing Solar Panels in Fort Lauderdale

With sunny skies and numerous solar installers, using solar panels in Fort Lauderdale is a great idea. It’s even home to Advanced Green Technologies, the largest solar installer in the state (though SolarCity will take over this title as they begin in operations there).

If you’re a homeowner in the Fort Lauderdale area, there are a handful of financial incentives –-including the 30% federal tax credit and net metering -- that make going solar a great decision. While Fort Lauderdale homeowners won't save as much money as those in solar-friendly states like California or Oregon (where homeowners can enjoy upfront rebates from their utilities and electricity rates are high), you can still save of dollars by installing Fort Lauderdale solar panels!

For a broader state overview, see our Florida Solar page.

#1 Overall Solar Grade

C+
Overall Grade
12 years Avg. Payback Time (For Cash Purchase)
3.4 % Estimate IRR (Return on your investment on cash purchase over 25 years)
$17,844 Your Net Profit Over 25 Years (Cash Purchase)

* 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.

​Going solar in Fort Lauderdale can allow homeowners to save nearly $18,000 over the life of the solar installation. The state of Florida in recent years has adopted many policies to encourage growth in the solar industry and ensure homeowners can install solar easily and quickly. However the lack of financial incentives such as upfront rebates - as well as moderately priced electricity - hinders solar growth in the sunshine state.

#2 Options for Buying Solar Panels in Fort Lauderdale

For an average-sized installation of 5 kilowatts (about 20 panels), homeowners who purchase a solar installation in the Fort Lauderdale area can expect to save around $17,844 over the 25 year expected life of the installation. These savings are calculated by comparing the cost of going solar to the cost of continuing to purchase electricity from the utility over the next 25 years.

Homeowners who finance through loans realize a lower return on investment. With a 5% interest loan, you can save around $10,815 over 25 years. Significantly less than cash purchase, but almost $11,000 is nothing to scoff at! Savings from loans can vary dramatically though due to many factors including the interest rate, size of your installation, financial incentives, and utility rates.

So no matter what financing you choose, rest assured you’ll be saving thousands of dollars over the next 25 years!

Cash upfront

As we saw above, purchasing your solar installation outright provides a faster financial payback than financing your installation with a loan.

The process for purchasing a solar installation is fairly simple and similar to any other home improvement project. You pay the installer the full cost of the installation upfront, which for many is not an easy task, as solar installations are quite expensive. As the solar owner of the installation, you are eligible to receive all financial incentives including net metering credits and the tax incentives, which seriously decreases your total investment.

You are also responsible for monitoring and maintaining operation of your installation. This isn’t too much to worry about, as manufacturers provide long-term warranties for both inverters and solar panels If a piece of equipment does malfunction, it will likely still be covered under the product warranty.

Loan

You’ll save less with loans than with a cash purchase, but they provide one clear advantage over cash purchases. With loans, homeowners do not need to provide the huge initial capital to pay for the solar installation in its entirety. Homeowners simply work with a bank, credit union, or dedicated solar loan provider who pays for the installation up front and the homeowner pays back with interest in small monthly increments.

The financial savings you’ll see with a solar loan depends on the interest rate, loan term, and any applicable fees. For our savings calculations in the section above, we assumed a 5 percent interest rate over a 12 year loan term. A lower interest rate will provide even more long term savings and a higher interest rate will lead to much lower savings.

With this in mind, if you are looking to finance your solar installation with a loan be sure to talk with several loan companies to ensure you receive the best possible arrangement. Solar installers often have a preferred lender that can provide competitive interest rates, so be sure to ask potential installers what financing is available through them.

Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing in Fort Lauderdale

Through PACE financing, local governments foot the bill for homeowners to install solar and other renewable and efficiency measures. Homeowners then repay the debt through an assessment on their annual property tax bill. PACE financing typically guarantees low-interest rates and longer loan terms, allowing homeowners to enjoy smaller payments each month.

One major difference between PACE financing and loans is that, unlike loans, PACE financing is connected to the property, not the homeowner. This allows you to easily move to a new location without worrying about transferring a solar loan to the new owner or paying off the loan in full before selling the home.

The city of Fort Lauderdale is currently working with two organizations to offer PACE financing:

PACE financing is a great option for homeowners lack the cash for a full upfront purchase and are contemplating moving in the next 5 to 15 years.

Bottom Line: If you are looking to finance your solar installation with a loan, be sure to talk with several loan companies to ensure you receive the best possible arrangement.

More: Solar Loans

#3 Fort Lauderdale Solar Policy Information

Over the last 10 years, the state of Florida has enacted several policies to make going solar an easy and profitable experience.

Renewable Portfolio Standard

Many pro-solar states have adopted what’s known as renewable portfolio standards, which basically mandate that a certain percentage of all electricity used in the state must come from renewable sources. Colorado, New Jersey, and California, for example, have all adopted renewable portfolio standards – typically requiring that 10 to 30 percent of all electricity come from renewable energy by 2020 or 2030. These mandates push the electricity industry to adopt and encourage growth in the renewables industry, something utilities would otherwise likely avoid.

Unfortunately, Florida has yet to adopt any state-wide renewable portfolio standards- a huge gap in their otherwise solid solar policy portfolio. However, Fort Lauderdale has stepped up to the plate themselves and set fairly high efficiency and renewable standards (PDF download) themselves for their city!

By 2020, they plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent as well as source 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the same year. The city is focusing on both government and community buildings. As of publication of the above report, the city was still assessing how to implement these goals.

More: Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)

Electricity Prices

Electricity prices affect you financial savings going solar: the higher electricity prices are, the more money you can save going solar. In most of life, low electricity prices are a good thing, but with solar higher utility prices equals higher savings!

The average utility rate in Florida hovers around $0.1130 per kWh. Compared to the national average of $0.1275 per kWh, Florida sees fairly low rates; cheaper than Alabama’s electricity ($0.1229) though higher than Georgia ($0.1093). Don’t worry too much though. While you won’t save as much as homeowners in New York ($0.1775 per kWh!) or California ($0.1797 per kWh), going solar in Fort Lauderdale is still quite profitable!

Net Metering

The state of Florida requires investor-owned utilities like FPL and Duke-Progress to offer residential customers net metering credits for any excess electricity their solar installation produces and which goes into the electricity grid to be used elsewhere. Utilities credit customer accounts for the full retail cost of the excess electricity. So, for example, if your electricity rate is $0.11 per kilowatt-hour and your solar installation produces an extra 50 kilowatt-hours in a month, you will receive credit for $5.50 the following month.

If you have any credits left over at the end of the year, the utility will pay you for that excess electricity at avoided cost, which is the amount they would pay for the same amount of electricity (usually around $0.02 to $0.03 per kilowatt-hour).

More: Net Metering

Interconnection Rules

The state of Florida recently passed regulations to make the process of connecting solar installations to the utility grid faster and easier for homeowners and businesses. The law set standards for the interconnection process based on the size of the solar installation:

  • Tier 1: Installations under 10 kilowatts (equal to about 40 solar panels). Most homeowners fall under this category. The law guarantees that homeowners don’t have to pay any application or interconnection fees, hopefully leading to an easy, speedy approval!
  • Tier 2: Installations between 10 and 100 kilowatts. Homeowners with a large solar installation fall into this category. The only real difference between tear one and her 2 is that tear to installations require an additional eternal safety disconnect switch, and safety requirements among many utilities.
  • Tier 3: installations between 100 kilowatts and 2 megawatts. These regulations only apply to large scale commercial and industrial installations.

Solar Access Rights and Homeowners Associations

The state of Florida guarantees homeowners the right to go solar – Homeowners Associations (HOAs) or any other similar organizations can’t bar solar in their neighborhoods. Associations can request solar panels be installed on the back side of the house where they are hidden from street view, but only if placing the panels there doesn’t affect electricity production. If you’re worried about your cantankerous HOA, you can move forward knowing you have the right to go solar!

#4 Financial Incentives, Rebates, and Tax Credits 

There are currently no rebates available for Fort Lauderdale area solar. In the past however, the City of Fort Lauderdale has offered rebates to residents installing solar panels, so it’s worth reaching out for up to date information on what incentives or services they offer.

While rebates are sparse for Fort Lauderdale homeowners, there are many tax incentives that make going solar a bit more lucrative.

Federal Tax Credit

The 30% federal tax credit is available to homeowners across the country who install solar through a cash purchase or loan (the owner of the installation is eligible for the incentive). The credit originally phased out in 2016, but was extended until 2019, when it drops to 26% until 2021, and 22% until 2022, when it is completely phased out.

The federal tax credit is a fantastic deal – install solar panels and the federal government will allow you a dollar-for-dollar credit worth 30% of the total installation cost. Simply claim the credit the next time you file your taxes. One sweet deal!

More: Solar Federal Tax Credit

Property Tax Exemption

When you install solar panels, you are also eligible for the state-wide property tax exclusion, which allows homeowners in Florida to pay property taxes on the value of their property without accounting for the solar installation. So, for example, if you installed a $12,000 solar installation on your $120,000 home, you’d continue to pay property taxes for $120,000 – not $132,000!

Sales Tax Exemption

Fort Lauderdale homeowners can take advantage of the state-wide solar tax exemption for all solar equipment installed on their home. With a sales tax rate of 6%, this exemption can save homeowners around $400 for an average-sized solar installation!

General Increase in Home Value

A 2015 study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab found that solar installations in Florida increase a home’s value between $2.30/watt and $3.11/watt (p.15 of the report). Researchers only looked at homeowner-owned installations (so no leases, PPAs, or loans) and found similar increases among both new and existing construction. So for an average-sized 5.6 kilowatt installation, home value can increase at least $13,000 for Florida solar!

What to do next?

Going solar in Fort Lauderdale is a great way to save money while contributing to a healthier environment. To see the most financial savings possible – especially if you decide to finance your installation through a loan – be sure to discuss with several different installers what options are available, equipment and warranties, and savings estimates. And after the installation is complete, don’t forget to apply for those tax incentives!

Image Credit via Flickr under CC License 

Central Florida Solar Panels

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Information about Central Florida Solar

Note on area covered: This article focuses on going solar in the Central Florida area, including Tampa, Ocala, and Titusville. Utilities in this area include FPL, Duke-Progress, and TECO. If you are interested in going solar in Orlando, check out our dedicated solar in Orlando page.

Central Florida sees great sunshine and clear weather for much of the year – a perfect place for solar! If you’re wondering whether it makes sense to go solar in the area, or how to go solar, you’re in luck! We’ve done the heavy lifting for you and created this guide to central Florida solar! This is your one-stop-shop for learning about what financing is available for your solar installation, what kind of financial savings you can expect going solar, relevant solar policy, and financial incentives.

For a broader state overview, see our Florida solar state page.

#1 Overall Solar Grade

B-
Overall Grade
12 years Avg. Payback Time (For Cash Purchase)
3.4 % Estimate IRR (Return on your investment on cash purchase over 25 years)
$17,844 Your Net Profit Over 25 Years (Cash Purchase)

* 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.

Going solar in central Florida is a great investment – if you do it right. Beyond a couple tax exemptions and a fantastic net metering policy, the state offers very few incentives for homeowners going solar. Adding even more difficulty to the state’s solar industry, Florida is one of only a few states that specifically outlaws third-party ownership of solar installations, meaning the leases and PPAs that have spurred the growth of the solar industry are simply not an option to Florida homeowners.

However, by smartly choosing your financing and taking advantage of all the federal and state tax breaks and net metering incentives, you can save upwards of $18,000 for an average-sized installation! Not too shabby!

#2 Options for Buying Solar Panels in Central Florida

Several components –like installation size and utility rates – affect your rate of return, but your chosen financing type plays one of the largest roles. As in any situation in life, cash is king and you’ll always save the most with a cash purchase. That being said, even though the savings are substantially lower, solar loans offer good bang for the buck and you’ll still save thousands over the long run!

Cash upfront

For the best return on your investment, you can’t go wrong with cash upfront. For an average-sized installation of 5 kilowatts, homeowners can expect to save around $17,844 over 25 years, with a payback time of 12 years!

To find these figures, we looked at the estimated installation prices from several reputable sources, including the National Renewable Energy Lab, and found an average of $3.32 per watt (which mean a full system price of $16,600). After accounting for the 30% federal tax credit (subtract $4980), we then compared the total cost to what you would pay the utility over the next 25 years if you never installed solar. The difference between the two costs is your total savings.

Purchasing solar in cash is by and large the easiest, simplest transaction when going solar. You provide the entire payment upfront and the solar company installs the system. They’ll typically set up a monitoring system as well so you can see how much electricity your solar panels are producing and calculate your yearly savings as well.

As the sole owner of the installation, you are eligible for all tax incentives, including the 30% federal tax credit, and net metering credits as well.  You’re responsible for monitoring and maintaining your installation. You’ll need to periodically check your solar installation’s production to make sure there hasn’t been a significant or immediate drop over the last month or two, signifying a panel or equipment malfunction. Both panels and inverters have long term warranties, but any additional repair costs come out of your own pocket. With that in mind, solar installations are fairly simple and have no moving parts, so maintenance and repair work is minimal to nonexistent.

Maintaining and monitoring your system is certainly something to be aware of, but nothing to worry about! In fact, you’ll be so excited about producing your own electricity that you’ll be checking your production far more than you’ll even need to!

Loan

central-florida-solar-loan

If you don’t have the funds for a cash purchase, be sure to look into loans for your solar installation. Savings vary greatly by interest rate. As a benchmark for you to compare your own loan to, we assessed a 12 year solar loan with 5% interest and found a total savings of $10,815 after 25 years.

As you can see, your total savings with a loan is about 60% of a cash deal. Your loan’s term and fees also play a hand in your financial savings, so it pays to shop around and see what a few different lenders are offering. Solar loans can be a great deal – if you choose the right one. Financial savings from loan-financed solar is hugely dependent on interest rates, loan length, the loan structure, and any fees.

As we saw, homeowners who go solar with a 5% loan can save over $10k over the life of the installation. Pretty good! If we increase that interest rate to 7%– on the high side – total net profit after 25 years drops down to $7,587. The savings are still there, but it’s just 40% of the financial savings you’d seen if you’d gone cash! So remember, if you go loan, be sure to read through the agreement and talk to a few different lenders!

As with a cash purchase, you the homeowner are eligible for all financial incentives, but are also responsible for maintenance and monitoring as well.

More: Solar Loans

PACE Financing

Although the state of Florida doesn’t allow leases or power purchase agreements, there is actually a 3rd financing option beyond cash and loans for central Florida homeowners. PACE financing is only available to homeowners in a handful of states, including Florida. PACE stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy and the program is just that. Local governments foot the bill for renewable energy projects, including solar, and homeowners repay the ‘loan’ through an assessment on their annual property tax bill.

PACE financing is very similar to a loan, but typically offers very low interest rates and longer terms. The biggest difference between loans and PACE financing is that, unlike loans which are connected to the individual, PACE is connected to the property. This means that, if you move, you don’t need to pay off the loan or switch the loan over to the new homeowner, they simply move in and continue to pay off the financing on their property tax bills.

#3 Central Florida Solar Policy Information

The state of Florida has some excellent policies set up to encourage the growth of solar in the state.

Renewable Portfolio Standard

Many states have passed goals that a specific portion of their electricity must come from renewable energy by a certain time. California, for example, passed legislation in 2002 that one-third of all electricity from the three large investor-owned utilities in the state must come from renewable sources by 2020. RPS goals drive utilities to push renewable energy. When coupled with rebates and other financial incentives for homeowners and business who go solar, RPS goals spur serious growth in states’ solar industries. Without RPS goals, utilities have no real immediate reason to adopt renewable energy sources themselves or encourage its adoption amongst its customers.

Florida has yet to adopt any RPS goals and it’s actually quite surprising how large the solar industry is in the state without these goals. The state should really contemplate adopting RPS if they’re serious about renewable energy in the state. Without these goals, the solar industry will continue to muddle along, instead of booming like in other states.

More: Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)

Electricity Prices

Florida’s typical utility rate of $0.1139 per kilowatt-hour hovers right in the middle of regional and nationwide averages. It’s about half a cent ($0.005) less than the regional average of $0.1186 and over a cent less than the national average of $0.1287 (as of September 2016). It’s safe to say electricity prices in Florida are…. average.

The price utilities charge for electricity plays a huge role in solar savings. The higher electricity prices are, the more money you can save by avoiding those utility costs through going solar. That’s why homeowners in Hawaii are lining up for solar, the average electricity price is $0.2784 – the highest in the country! That’s some serious potential savings.

However, you don’t have to have astronomical utility rates to save money going solar. Colorado and Utah, both of which have huge amounts of solar, see average rates of $0.1278 and $0.1128 respectively. If Colorado homeowners can save money going solar, you can too!

Net Metering

The state of Florida took a huge leap forward when it passed legislation in 2008 requiring investor-owned utilities (like Duke-Progress and FPL) to offer net metering incentives to homeowners going solar. Great job Florida!

And in fact, it’s a fantastic net metering program. It ensures that utilities give homeowners full retail credit for all excess electricity they produce. The credits are applied to your next monthly bill and roll over month to month. If you have any credits left over at the end of the year, they pay you the avoided cost of your excess electricity. Basically, they pay you what it would’ve cost them to generate that electricity – usually around $0.03/kWh. Not too much, but money is money!

As a municipal utility, TECO is under different regulations, but homeowners under this utility are in luck, as TECO also offer net metering credits worth the full retail rate! You can read more about TECO’s net metering on its website.

More: Net Metering

Interconnection Rules

Along with net metering legislation, Florida also passed interconnection standards in 2008 that guarantee homeowners a smooth and easy process to receive approval from their utility to connect their installation to the electricity grid. The legislation created three tiers for the interconnection approval process, based on installation size. Most homes fall into Tier 1, which is for installations under 10 kilowatts. In this tier, homeowners aren’t required to pay any application fees and interconnection studies aren’t required. The process is fast and simple.

If your installation is larger than 10 kilowatts, you’ll fall into Tier 2. This tier is very similar to Tier 1, but your installation will require an external safety disconnect switch as an additional safety precaution. Not a huge deal, but it will be an additional piece of hardware on the outside of your home.

Tier 3 is for solar installations over 1 megawatt, which is typically only large commercial projects.

Homeowners Associations

Homeowners Associations (HOAs) in some states are known to have caused headaches for residents wanting to go solar. Some don’t like the look of solar panels and so try to block installations. Others have made the process long and drawn out to discourage solar.

Florida’s done a great job mitigating some of these issues by passing a law making it illegal for HOAs to disallow solar installations. HOAs can request homeowners to move solar panels to the back portion of the roof so they aren’t visible from the street, but only if the move doesn’t affect the installation’s production.

If you’re going solar and are worried about your somewhat cantankerous HOA, worry no longer! By all means work with your HOA and try to solve any issues amiably, but in the end, know that you’ve got the right to install solar on your roof!

#4 Financial Incentives, Rebates, and Tax Credits 

Central Florida homeowners are eligible to receive tax credits, tax exemptions, and possibly a cash rebate (depending on your area) for their solar installation!

Federal Tax Credit

The federal government offers a 30% tax credit for the total cost of your installation. As this is a full-on credit – not a deduction – it’s a 30% dollar-for-dollar discount on your total installation price. As the owner of the installation, you apply for the credit on your next tax return. This tax credit was extended to the end of 2019, when it drops to 26% until 2021, the 22% until 2022.

More: Solar Federal Tax Credit

Local Rebates

Many states require utilities or state-wide efficiency programs to offer financial rebates to customers going solar. Unfortunately, such is not the case in Florida and there is no state-wide rebate for solar installations. In fact, central Florida is home to the only solar rebate in the entire state!

The City of Longwood offers rebates for solar as well as other renewable and efficiency projects worth 10% of the total project cost, up to $500. This pales in comparison to rebates in other states like Oregon, where solar homeowners are eligible for thousands of dollars. But, if you live in the city of Longwood, that’s cash in your pocket! Great job Longwood!

Property Tax Exemption

If you go solar anywhere in the state of Florida, you are exempt from paying additional property taxes for the value of your solar installation! So, for example, if your home is worth $120,000 and you install a $15,000 solar installation, you can continue to only pay property taxes on the $120,000 value of your home, not the actual $135,000 value that the solar installation adds!

Sales Tax Exemption

All the equipment you purchase for your solar installation is exempt from state sales tax, which is typically 6%. Homeowners who take advantage of this tax exemption can save around $400 for an average-sized installation!

If you’re wondering if going solar in central Florida is right for you, go for it! You stand to save tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your installation. But as with any investment, be sure to review all the savings estimates your installer gives you to make sure it’s worthwhile. This is especially true if you are financing through a loan or PACE, as the interest rate, fees, and loan term seriously affect the savings you’ll see. Once installed, as you enjoy the Florida sunshine, you’ll know that you’re also producing clean, cheap electricity for yourself! What could be better? But before all this, be sure to speak with a qualified installer to get a customized estimate for your home!

General Increase in Home Value

More: Buyers Will Pay More for Solar Homes

If you’d like to dig even more on local incentives and rebates, check out the DSIRE database.

Image Credits under CC license from Wikipedia

Solar in Phoenix, AZ

solar-phoenix

To give you a running start with Phoenix solar, we've compiled this handy guide.

Going solar in Phoenix is a great choice, as there are a lot of solid incentives for those of you looking to jump into the solar market. A state that offers favorable rebates, state tax policies, and a utility company that offers incentives to their customers, combine into worthwhile savings for anyone paying cash or taking out a loan for their solar panel system.

For a broader overview see our Arizona Solar page.​

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Florida Solar – Going Solar in the Sunshine State

florida-solar

Thinking of installing solar in sunny Florida? 

You’re not alone! The state ranked 17th in the most solar installed in the US in 2015. Not too bad considering Florida lacks many of the incentives that heavily discount the cost of going solar. However, the state sees excellent weather for producing your own renewable energy and homeowners can take advantage of numerous tax incentives to save even more money going solar!

If you’re looking for information on going solar in specific cities in Florida, check out our articles on Going Solar in Orlando, Going Solar in Central Florida, Going Solar in Gainesville, and Going Solar in Ft Lauderdale.

#1 Overall Solar Grade: Florida

C
Overall Grade
12 years Avg. Payback Time (With Cash Purchase)
3.41 % Estimate IRR (Return on your investment on cash purchase over 25 years)
$17,422.51 Your Net Profit Over 25 Years (Cash Purchase)

Florida has some excellent policies to both encourage the growth of the solar industry and make going solar as easy as possible for homeowners. Unfortunately though, financial incentives like rebates are a huge hole in the state’s solar outlook and their general lack of financial incentives has plagued the solar industry in the state for years. Florida solar is buoyed up a bit by the state sales tax exemption and property tax exclusion and Florida homeowners are also eligible for the 30% federal tax credit as well.

The financial savings is still lower than other states with pro-solar policies, you can still save thousands of dollars going solar in Florida!

* 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). 

#2 Options for buying solar panels in Florida

Florida homeowners have plenty of excellent options to own their own solar installation, from cash upfront to PACE financing. Really it’s just a matter of deciding which financing type most suits your needs. Each has their own drawbacks and benefits.

Cash upfront

Ah, the cash purchase. No matter what you’re buying – a solar installation, a car, a private plane – you can pretty much rest assured that you’re making the most financially responsible decision if you can simply purchase the item outright. It’s simple and cost-effective. No interest rate, no loan fees, no annual rate increases (like with solar leases). However, you need a pretty big sack of money saved up to buy something as big as a solar installation. After applying the 30% federal tax credit, an average-sized (5 kilowatt) installation in Florida runs about $11,600. Many of us simply don’t have that kind of change just lying around. Thankfully, there are some excellent alternatives available to Florida homeowners! Take a look below to learn more.

If you can afford it, outright ownership of your solar installation comes with some definite perks. First, you’ll see a better return on your investment than with a loan or lease. Secondly, as the sole owner of the installation, you are eligible to receive all available financial incentives, including the federal tax credit, state sales tax exemption, and state property tax exclusion. These tax incentives drop your installation price by over 30%! That’s a sweet deal! Keep in mind though that with ownership comes the responsibility to maintain, repair, and monitor your installation. Solar is fairly hands-off. There are no moving parts, and major equipment like the panels and inverter comes with long-term warranties, so maintenance responsibility isn’t really something you should worry about. It’s just something you need to be aware of.

Leases

Leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) are two very popular types of third-party ownership for residential solar. With leases and PPAs, solar installers provide the initial funds to install the solar system and homeowners are required to pay little to no upfront costs. To the homeowner, leases and PPAs look very similar – you pay little upfront and then pay off the installation in monthly increments over 20 years.

The state of Florida is one of the very few states in the United States that outlaws third-party ownership of solar. Utilities are the only businesses that are legally allowed to sell electricity.

Legalizing solar leases was one positive piece of Amendment 1, the solar amendment that was thankfully voted down by Florida residents during the 2016 election. Why, you ask? Most in the solar industry agree that legalizing solar leases would be a huge step forward for the state’s solar, but the amendment also included provisions backed by utilities that would’ve allowed them to charge solar customer more money. The solar industry ultimately breathed a sigh of relief when the amendment didn’t pass.

More: Solar Leases

Loan

Loans are becoming increasingly popular to finance residential solar installations. They give the benefits of ownership (higher financial savings than with leases and eligibility for financial incentives) while not requiring the high initial investment. The financial savings of a loan-financed solar installation depends greatly on the size and total cost of the installation as well as the loan details like interest rate, fees, and loan term.

Banks, credit unions, third party solar financiers, and even utility companies will offer loans for solar installations. Oftentimes solar installers will have a preferred lender they work with, so if you’re interested in taking out a loan for your solar installation, go ahead and start talking to a few different installers to see what options are available in your area.

There are also a handful of utilities throughout Florida that offer solar loans with low interest rates, including:

  • The City of Tallahassee Utilities offers 5% interest loans up to $20,000 to residential customers for a variety of renewable and efficiency measures, including solar installations, home insulation, and high-efficiency air conditioners.
  • The City of Lauderhilll’s Revolving Loan Program mainly provides small loans for high-efficiency appliances like dishwashers and washing machines, but solar installations are eligible as well. The maximum loan amount is capped at just $2500 – likely lower than your solar installation’s total cost – but the loans are interest free for the first two years! If you live in the area and are eligible for the loan, take advantage of this incredible offer from the city to at least partially pay for your installation.
  • The Solar and Energy Loan Fund, a non-profit solar and energy efficiency financier, has partnered with the Orlando Utilities Commission, St. Lucie County, and the City of Orlando to offer unsecured loans to local residents for solar installations. Interest rates range from 7% to 9.5% and the loan can last between 3 and 7 years. These interest rates are fairly high, so make sure the financial savings are there before signing the agreement.

More: Solar Loans

PACE Financing

PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing is a fairly new –and exciting – way to finance solar installations that is currently available to Florida homeowners in certain cities. Through PACE, local governments provide financing for solar installations for homeowners and/or businesses, who then repay the installation costs through assessments on their annual property tax bills.

The city of Berkeley, CA, began the first solar PACE program in the 2000s, but unfortunately this financing type has been mired in controversy since it began, mostly revolving around property liens and who would be paid first – the PACE financing or the home loan- if a homeowner defaults on her mortgage. The struggle culminated in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac publishing a notice refusing to issue mortgages to homes involved in the PACE program.

Since that tumultuous time though, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have jumped on board the PACE train and have agreed to work with homeowners with PACE financing as long as certain criteria are met. With these roadblocks cleared, PACE has grown across the country and Florida is one of the first adopters for residential solar!

PACE financing offers some really excellent advantages to homeowners. First, there is no large upfront payment required like a cash purchase. Secondly, unlike a lease or loan that is tied to the homeowner, PACE financing is tied to the home address, so the trouble of transferring a lease or PPA agreement to a new homeowner (which can sometimes get messy), is a non-issue! The local government typically ensures low interest rates and long terms, so going solar is easy and cost-effective.

To offer PACE financing, local governments partner with organizations that provide funding and can run the program on their behalf. There are currently three PACE organizations in Florida, each working in different areas:

  • Residents in the certain cities in the counties below can secure PACE financing through The Ygrene Energy Fund and their local government. Be sure to check Ygrene’s website to see if your city is on the list!
    • Alachua County
    • Broward County
    • Charlotte County
    • Marion County
    • Miami-Dade County
    • Orange County
    • Palm Beach County
    • Pasco County
  • The Florida PACE Funding Agency, an organization originally created to facilitate PACE financing in the Kissimmee area, has grown in size and now runs PACE programs throughout Florida, including:
    • Fort Meyers area
    • Fort Lauderdale area
    • Ocala area
    • Gainesville area
    • Pensacola area
  • RenewPACE also offers PACE financing through local governments to homeowners in certain cities in the following counties.
    • Alachua County
    • Broward County
    • Charlotte County
    • Indian River County
    • Levy County County
    • Martin County County
    • Miami-Dade County
    • Orange County
    • Palm Beach County
    • Pasco County

Comparison of Savings for Different Financing

We’ve compared the financial savings from the different financing options to help you decide what makes the most sense for you. Using Florida-specific industry averages for cost, we compare the savings between financing with full cash upfront and through loans.

How We Find our Savings

We looked at financial savings of an average-sized 5 kilowatt installation over a 25 year period. To compare the cost of going solar to utility rates, we used the state average of $0.1139 per kilowatt-hour with an annual increase of 3.5%. We also assumed a 0.08% decrease in the production of the solar panels each year, to account for degradation of the panel components (a standard allowance, as solar panels produce a little less electricity each year they are installed).

For our financial savings calculations with a solar loan, we used 12 year term with 5% interest, a fairly standard loan agreement for solar.

Total Savings: $10,000 to $18,000

First off, no matter the financing type, you can save $10,000 to $18,000 over 25 years by going solar in Florida! If you’re looking for the absolute best savings, cash upfront is the way you’ll want to go. For an average-sized installation, you can expect to save about $17,844 over 25 years!

If you don’t have enough cash to fork out for a solar installation, you can still almost $11,000 with a solar loan. Keep in mind though that when financing with a loan the total financial savings will vary by interest rates. Higher interest rates will see lower savings. At the end of the day though, even with a higher interest rate, you’ll still be realizing thousands of dollars in savings – all with no upfront payment!

Payback Time: 12 to 18 years

Payback time is the amount of time it takes to recoup your investment. In the solar industry, a payback time of 5 to 10 years is considered excellent to very good, and 10 to 15 years is considered average. Over 15 years is quite a long time to wait to recoup your investment….

For cash purchase, payback time for Florida solar hovers around 12 years. Certainly not the best, but the longer payback is no surprise considering the real lack of any financial rebates to decrease the total cost of installations.

With a 5% loan, the payback period jumps to 18 years. That seems like a long time – and admittedly it is – but once the installation is paid off, you’ll be enjoying your renewable, no-cost electricity!

#3 Solar Policy Information

Florida has some very supportive policies for residential solar. In fact, they’re some of the best in the southeast, if not some of the best in the country! On top of all this, the state sees sunny skies perfect for producing good, clean energy. It’s no wonder SolarCity, the largest solar installer in the country, just decided to start working in the state in December 2016.

Net Metering

Florida has fantastic net metering policies that are very similar to other pro-solar states. The law, passed at the same time as the interconnection guidelines, requires investor-owned utilities to offer customers net metering incentives for residential solar installations by providing full retail credit for any excess electricity produced by the installation. Homeowners accumulate net metering credits over the course of the month and the credits roll over month to month. At the end of 12 months, homeowners can cash out their credits at the utility’s avoided cost, which is typically based on what the utility pays for the electricity they produce. This is usually only a fraction of retail cost, but, hey, cash is cash!

The best part about these net metering incentives? They’ll be around a long time, as the law makes no provision to phase out the incentives as more people install solar (a common tactic in other states). So no matter how many people install, these incentives will always be in place!

Through passing these net metering rules, the state of Florida allows you to save even more money over the life of your installation.

More: Net Metering

Interconnection Rules

The State Ensures an Easy Interconnection Process

Interconnection is the process to connect your solar installation to the electricity grid, usually involving an application to and approval from the utility. As you can imagine with utilities involved, this is sometimes a slow and arduous process for homeowners. Utilities need to keep tabs on how much electricity is going into the grid so they can better plan for the future and ensure their infrastructure isn’t overburdened (and potentially cause blackouts). To this end, pretty much every homeowners across the country, regardless of the state they live in, must receive approval to connect to their installation to the utility grid. In some states, there is a long, long wait before your installation can get up and running – a few years ago, Maryland homeowners going solar had to wait more than 2 ½ months for approval from their utility Pepco!

Solar Access Rights in Florida

Over the past 5 years, solar access rights have become an increasingly important issue across the country. More and more situations have popped up where solar homeowners have had to defend their right to go solar and even their right to sunlight.

Sound crazy? Well, imagine that you want to install solar panels on your roof, but your Homeowners Association doesn’t like the look of rooftop solar and denies approval for your installation? What recourse do you have to continue moving forward?

Imagine still yourself in a situation where you just spent $15,000 on beautiful new solar panels. The next day, your neighbor, unaware of your solar panels, plants trees that block the sunlight from hitting your panels and your energy production drops to almost nothing in an instant! What do you do? Ask her to remove the trees? What if she says no? Sue? Call the police? What if you installed your panels while the trees were just little saplings, but 10 years later they’re shading your installation and your production drops?

All of these situations have been experienced by homeowners across the country and many pro-solar states, seeing renewable energy as more important than the aesthetics of a neighborhood, have passed laws protecting solar installations as well as access to sunlight.

In 1978 (and amended a couple times since then), Florida passed a law making it illegal for HOAs to block approval of rooftop solar installations. This is great news for Florida homeowners. In other states, homeowners aren’t so lucky and HOAs can deny rooftop solar. The Florida solar law does allow HOAs to request that homeowners move panels from a visible front portion of the house to the back if, and only if, the change doesn’t affect the installations’ energy production – a fairly standard allowance in other states as well. If you’re going solar in Florida, no need to worry about your HOA. Some can be finicky or picky, but in the end they cannot block your solar installation!

Shading issues on the other hand, are a bit more nuanced. There are currently no laws in Florida protecting the ‘right to sunshine’ for solar homeowners. If your neighbor plants a tree that blocks sunlight from hitting your solar panels, even if they planted the tree after you installed your solar system, you have little legal recourse to make them trim or remove the offending trees. Florida courts typically sides with whoever is acting in accordance with state property rights, so if your neighbor isn’t doing anything illegal on his property (planting trees is legal, after all), there’s not much you can do about the shading since it’s his legal right to plant trees on his property.

Other states have solar access laws protecting the ‘right to sunshine’ for solar homeowners. After a 2008 lawsuit in northern California, state lawmakers passed regulation giving solar homeowners the power to force neighbors to cut or trim trees shading their installation if the trees were planted after the panels were installed.

The best course of action for Florida homeowners going solar is to intelligently plan were to install solar panels, taking into account the height of any nearby trees over the next 20 years. Just as important, having good relationships with neighbors allows you to find solutions peacefully and amiably if any issues arise. For more information on solar access laws, check out our article Stop Shading My Solar Panels! Solar Access Rights in the US.

Renewable Portfolio Standards

Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) are an important driving undercurrent of solar adoption and lawmakers in many states like California and New Jersey have adopted RPSs, which set a goal for how much energy in the state must come from renewable sources by a certain date. Colorado, for example, set a mandate in 2004 that 30% of all electricity generated by investor-owned utilities must come from renewable sources by 2020. Hawaii has set a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2045! RPS mandates force utilities to adopt and encourage renewable energy much faster than they would otherwise do naturally.

Unfortunately Florida has yet to adopt any RPS goals for any sort of renewable energy. It’s actual quite amazing the solar industry is so large in the state without these mandates! If they really want to push the solar industry forward, Florida needs to look into adopting mandates like so many other states have. RPSs encourage the solar industry to expand and drive forward, which can lead to lower prices for homeowners as installers become larger, more efficient, and more streamlined.

The state of Florida has setup some great policies to encourage homeowners to go solar in the state. These policies ensure a quick installation process as well as fantastic net metering rates. Remember though that policy is just one part of the equation. Read on to learn about solar incentives in Florida.

Thankfully, in 2008 the state of Florida passed interconnection rules that make it easy for homeowners to apply for and receive interconnection approval. The state created a three tiered system, based on the size of the installation, with each tier having its own interconnection rules:

  • Tier 1: Solar Installations under 10 kilowatts. Unless your installation is extremely large, most homeowners fall into this category. The application process is straightforward – homeowners aren’t required to pay application fees and no study is needed to assess the impact the installation will have on the electrical grid (large scale solar installations typically require this assessment).
  • Tier 2: Installations between 10 kW and 1 MW. Homeowners installing large systems on their roof will likely fall into this tier. As a safety precaution, the state requires installations larger than 10 KW to have an external safety disconnect installed along with the rest of their installation – a requirement that can be found in other states as well.
  • Tier 3: Systems over 1 MW. These are mainly large-scale commercial installations. Most homeowners don’t have the need or space for an installation this large.

All installations must be inspected by the city or county for safety – an extremely common requirement across the country.

These tiers only apply to investor-owned utilities like FPL and Duke-Progress. The law does require municipal utilities and electric cooperatives to offer standardized net metering and interconnection, but doesn’t explicitly address how these organizations should go about this process. No matter your utility, if you’re looking to go solar in Florida, the interconnection process should be easy, simple, and relatively fast.

#4 Financial Incentives, Rebates, and Tax Credits 

Florida has some excellent policies to encourage the growth of solar, including streamlined interconnection processes as well as guaranteed net metering incentives for customers of investor-owned utilities like FPL.

Unfortunately, all those great steps forward are weighed down by the state’s serious lack of financial incentives for solar. While Florida does offer a sales tax exemption and property tax exclusion for roof top solar, the state doesn’t offer any rebates themselves nor do they mandate utilities to offer them, as in other solar-friendly states like California and Oregon.

If you’re looking to go solar in Florida, you’ll have to eke out as much savings as possible, though with the 30% federal tax credit that’s not too hard.

Federal Tax Credit

All homeowners across the country who install solar are eligible for the federal residential renewable energy tax credit. This tax credit is equal to 30% of the total installation cost and goes to the owner of the installation (so if a homeowner leases the installation or finances through a power-purchase agreement, the credit goes to the installer-though they usually pass these savings on indirectly through a decrease in homeowners’ monthly bills). Originally the tax credit was supposed to phase out at the end of 2016, but lawmakers extended the credit to the end of 2019, which then decreases to 26% until 2021, and 22% until 2022.

Unlike tax deductions, tax credits are a dollar-for-dollar reduction, so in essence homeowners who purchase their installation through cash or loan enjoy a 30% discount on their installation! Homeowners apply for the credit when you fill out your next tax return.

Florida Solar Rebates (or lack thereof)

Seeing the importance of encouraging growth in solar, many states mandate that utilities, or at least investor-owned utilities (as opposed to municipal utilities or cooperatives) must offer some form of financial rebate to homeowners going solar.

For example Energy Trust of Oregon, the state-wide organization that provides rebates for renewables and energy efficiency, offers up to $0.60 per watt to residential customers of local investor-owned utilities (the organization is funded through fees on customers’ bills of local investor-owned utilities).

Through Energize Connecticut, an organization similar to Energy Trust of Oregon, Connecticut homeowners going solar can receive rebates equal to $0.40 to $0.51 per watt for going solar.

These incentives add up to a lot of savings for homeowners. Even at $0.40/watt –the lower end of the spectrum- a homeowner installing an average-sized 5 kilowatt system knocks $2000 of her total installation cost!

For all those homeowners in Florida though, you’re unfortunately not so lucky. There’s currently no state-wide solar rebate program. In fact, there’s only one solar rebate program in all of Florida! This goes to the City of Longwood, which provides rebates for a variety of efficiency and renewable energy upgrades to homeowners. Through the Raising Energy Efficiency Program, the city provides 10% of the project cost, up to $500.

That’s a fraction of the rebates in other solar-friendly states, but we still give mad props to the City of Longwood for being a shining beacon in an otherwise dark state (at least in regards to solar rebates). And as a bonus, homeowners can apply for this rebate once a year, so if you want to install efficiency upgrades after your solar (or vice-versa), go for it!

Sales Tax Exemption for Florida Solar

One thing Florida has done right in regards to solar incentives is the sales tax exemption, which allows homeowners to save hundreds of dollars at the outset of the installation.

Passed in 1997 as a three-year financial incentive, legislatures made the bill permanent in 2005. The exemption is for the hardware and equipment for the solar installation (so labor costs aren’t exempt), including the solar panels and inverter, but also the mounting hardware, electrical conduit, wiring, and even the nuts and bolts. In the future, as solar with storage becomes more common, solar batteries are also exempt from the purchase! The state publishes a list of installation components that are sales tax exempt as well as a form that homeowners can show their installer to document the exemption.

The state typically charges a 6% sales tax, so you can see big savings when you take advantage of this incentive! According to the National Renewable Energy Lab’s 2016 benchmark of costs in the solar industry, in an average-sized installation of 5.6kW the cost of the solar panels, inverter, and hardware equal about $1.25 per watt, totaling $7000. So, in this example, the sales tax exemption would save homeowners $420! (6% of $7000)

Property Tax Exclusion for Florida Solar

In the same vein as the sales tax exemption, the state also provides a property tax exclusion for 100% of the added value a solar, wind, or geothermal installation brings to the property. As an example, if your home is worth $140,000 and you install a $20,000 solar system on your roof, your property tax is still only based on $140,000, not the total $160,000 value of your property.

Compared to the sales tax exemption, this is a relatively new incentive, with the state legislature only passing the bill in 2013. The value of this tax exclusion obviously depends on the size of your installation as well as the market value of your home, but stands to save homeowners quite a bit of money.

Even with Florida’s poor record in regards to solar incentives, homeowners can still knock thousands of dollars off the initial price of the installation by taking advantage of all the federal and state tax credits, exemptions, and exclusions.

Consensus

Going solar in Florida is a smart choice to save money and contribute to a healthier environment, but you need to make sound decisions towards financing to ensure you see the financial savings you expect. Choose your financing wisely and take advantage of every tax incentive you’re eligible for! If you do that, you’ll be sitting pretty with a beautiful solar system that helps both the planet and your wallet!

Photo Credit: Flickr via CC License

What are the Best Solar Companies in California?

best-solar-companies-california

The Golden state is a fantastic place for going solar power – but how do you choose among best solar companies in California?

With such a high popularity, it should be no surprise that there are hundreds of solar installers in the state, all vying for your business. Whilst this means you’re spoilt for choice, it also means it can be hard to pick someone out of the crowd. We’ve taken a look at the available options, to try and help you find the best solar panel companies in California.

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Solar Panels in Austin, TX

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To help you get started with solar panels in Austin, we’ve created this handy overview.

Read on about the basics of installing solar panels, financing options, and the financial incentives available.

Austin might be the most solar friendly city in the whole state of Texas. The local utility, Austin Energy, is well known across the country for leading the way on utility programs that encourage its customer to take up energy efficiency and renewable energy.

For solar installations, the utility provides upfront rebates as well as net metering - a rarity in the state – which allows homeowners to knock thousands of dollars off their total installation price.

For a broader state overview, see our Texas Solar Energy page.

Overall Solar Grade: Austin Texas

5 / 10
Overall Grade
10 years Avg. Payback Time (Cash, Including Austin Energy Rebate)
8.43 % Estimate IRR (Return on your investment on cash purchase over 25 years)
$20,555.32 Your Net Profit Over 25 Years (Cash Purchase)

* 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). This estimate was made for a 5kW solar array for a homeowner using Austin Energy.

Options for buying solar panels in Austin

Like homeowners in most states, Austin residents have a few options available to finance their solar installation. Each option has its own benefits and drawbacks and homeowners can choose between a lower cost installation or a more hands-off, convenient approach.

Cash upfront

Homeowners who purchase their installation outright typically stand to see the highest savings over the life of their installation. As the owner of the solar system, they are eligible to receive all rebates and tax credits, but homeowners will have to shoulder up an estimated $18,000 in cash at the very beginning – no small peanuts. As the sole owner, homeowners are responsible for all maintenance, monitoring, and repair over the life of the installation.

If that kind of dough sounds unobtainable or the idea of replacing a solar panel doesn’t appeal to you, take a look at the next option.

Leases

Since 2009, solar leases and power purchase agreements (which are not allowed in Austin Energy territory) have become the dominant financing option for residential solar panels across the country, accounting for around 70% of all installations in 2014. With a lease, you won’t save as much over the life of the solar installation as with a cash purchase, but the ease of the installation and little upfront capital required more than make up for the smaller savings.

With a lease, the solar company installs the system for little to no money down and the homeowner pays off the installation in small monthly increments over a 20-year agreement. As the actual owner of the installation, the solar company (not the homeowner) is eligible to receive most financial incentives, including the federal tax credit, though they usually account for these savings in your monthly bill. As the owner, though, the solar company is responsible for all maintenance and repair. So if you’re looking for an easy installation but still want to save thousands of dollars, you can’t go wrong with a lease.

More: Solar Leases

Loan

Taking out loans to pay for solar installations is becoming increasingly popular and some think that in the next 5 years it will be the dominant financing mechanism.

For solar installations, homeowners take out a loan with a bank, credit union, or dedicated solar loan company to initially pay for the installation, then pay the loan back (with interest) over an agreed upon amount of time, typically between 5 and 20 years. Unlike leases, loans enable homeowners to own the solar installation so they receive all rebates and tax credits. However, as with cash upfront ownership, they are also responsible for all maintenance and repair over the life of the installation.

Austin Energy has partnered with Velocity Credit Union to offer low-cost financing for solar installations and energy efficiency improvements.

More: Solar Loans

Financial Incentives Available to Austin Residents

Homeowners in Austin, TX, are eligible for some of the best solar incentives in the state, sponsored mostly by Austin Energy.

Net metering

For solar homeowners, Austin Energy provides net metering, an extremely rare incentive in Texas, as the state doesn’t require utilities to offer net metering (as with most states with a high amount of solar). The utility provides $0.11 per kilowatt-hour for all excess electricity produced by your solar installation and fed back into the grid. Credits are applied to customers’ bills and carried over month to month.

More: Net Metering

Upfront rebate

Austin Energy also provides an upfront rebate to customers going solar with an Austin Energy-approved installer. To be eligible for the rebate, homeowners must be the owner of the installation, so homeowners who lease systems aren’t eligible. The rebate is currently set at $0.70 per watt installed which for an average size system of 5.6 kW adds up to almost $4000!

This rebate program was designed to encourage local residents to adopt solar technology by overcoming the main obstacle to going solar – the high cost. So as more people install solar and costs continue to drop, the rebate phases out. When the program began, homeowners installing solar received $1 per watt. The rebate is currently at $0.70 per watt and will drop to $0.50/watt before dropping off completely after 14 cumulative MW is installed through the program.

Federal tax credit

Homeowners installing solar nationwide are eligible for the federal 30% renewable energy tax credit, which is expected to drop to 26% by 2019 and 22% by 2022. The tax credit goes to the owner of the installation, so if your system is leased, this incentive goes to your solar installer. Unlike deductions, tax credits have a dollar-to-dollar monetary value, so in essence, you’re getting a 30% discount on your installation!

Property tax exemption

To add to all the financial incentives, the state of Texas offers a property tax exemption for the additional value a solar installation brings to your home. So, for example, if your home is worth $100,000 and you install a $20,000 solar system, you are only taxed on $100,000, not $120,000.

With all of the credits, rebates and exemptions available, the final cost of your solar installation can possibly drop by 50%!

Tiered Rates Mean Big Savings

To encourage residents to use less energy, Austin Energy uses a tiered rate system. As you use more energy in a month (measured in kilowatt-hours), you pay more per kilowatt-hour. For the first 500 kilowatt-hours (kWh), the utility charges $0.03/kWh in the summer. From 500 to 1000 kWh, the price increases to $0.08/kWh and all the way to $0.11/kWh after 1500 kWh!

By producing your own electricity, you decrease the amount of electricity you purchase from the utility, meaning you stay at the lower tier prices, saving you big bucks over the next 20 years!

What to do next?

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With tax credits and rebates set to expire and installation costs at an all-time low, the time has never been better to install solar in the Austin area!

For more information, look over our Solar FAQ and peruse our article Solar Loans: Everything You Need to Know to help choose the financing solution that best fit your needs.

Once you’re ready, get the ball rolling by getting a solar estimate and reaching out to contractors.

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