Installing Solar Panels in Washington State

Installing Solar Panels In Washington State

Solar panels have grown in popularity recently across the Pacific Northwest because they produce clean, affordable energy. As concern about high electricity costs and climate change increases, solar panels provide a practical solution for Washington homeowners.

Solar Installation

What solar panels should I install in Washington?

There are numerous factors to consider that vary widely between different Washington State solar panels. Some of the premium solar panels on the market come with a 25-year warranty, which helps protect your solar investment. Also, the efficiency of solar modules can vary between about 15% and 22%. 

At Smart Solar Energy, we primarily install Silfab Elite, Hanhwa Q-Cells QPeak Duo, and Panasonic Evervolt solar panels. These panels all include an industry-leading 25-year warranty and are between 20.1% and 21.4% efficient, depending on the module.

If you want a solar panel that was manufactured in North America, the Silfab Elite is an excellent choice because the panels are manufactured in Washington State. If you want a high-efficiency solar panel with an excellent power performance guarantee for 25 years, the Panasonic Evervolt is a smart option. If you want to install an affordable panel and reduce the upfront cost of going solar, the Silfab Elite and the Q-Cells QPeak Duo are about 30% less expensive than the Panasonic Evervolt panels.

monocrystalline solar panel

What are the available Washington State solar incentives?

There are various incentives available in Washington that reduce the total cost of purchasing a new solar power system and make solar system ownership more lucrative.

Net Metering Incentive Washington State

All the utility companies in Washington are required to offer net metering, also known as net energy billing. That means that customers of Puget Sound Energy, Clark Public Utilities, Northwest Natural Gas, Pacific Power, and Cascade Natural Gas are all eligible to receive utility bill credits for the surplus solar power they supply to the electricity grid.

So, if you install solar panels and they are generating more electricity than your home is consuming, your system will feed the extra energy back into the utility grid. Then, when your home needs more electricity than your PV panels generate, you will draw power from the grid. 

This means your home will have electricity 24/7, even in cloudy weather and at night. Net metering means you will receive credits on your utility bills for any extra that isn’t needed in the home. However, credits expire at the end of each one-year period. That means you won’t get additional value from oversizing your solar system.

For this reason, we take solar system sizing very seriously at Smart Solar Energy. Our design team knows how to maximize utility bill savings while minimizing your solar investment. We use historical weather data and past electricity consumption to properly size your solar power system.

Electric meter

Federal Solar Tax Credit for Washington Homeowners

In addition, there is a federal solar tax credit available to Washington residents that reduces the total cost of a solar energy system. If you install your solar panel system in 2022, it will reduce the total cost of your PV panels by 26%. If you go solar in 2023, the tax credit is worth 22% of the entire system cost. However, if you install your solar panels in 2024 and beyond, the tax credit will have expired. 

The solar tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in taxes owed to the IRS. That means a $15,000 solar power system is eligible for a $3,900 solar tax credit. Tax credits are more valuable than a write-off because it results in more significant monetary savings.

To take advantage of the federal solar tax credit, you must have an adequate tax liability with the federal government. Also, there are some criteria. For example, you must install the solar panels on your primary or secondary residence and own and not lease the solar power system. Speak with a tax expert to ensure you can take advantage of this exceptional opportunity.

Washington State Solar Sales Tax Exemption

In addition, Washington State offers a solar sales tax exemption. This incentive means you won’t need to pay any sales tax on your system. For example, if your solar energy system costs $15,000 and the sales tax would normally be 8%, you would save $1,200. This sales tax exemption was enacted in 2019 and includes equipment and installation costs. 

Solar homeowners need to fill out a Buyer’s Retail Sales Tax Exemption form to qualify. In addition, the solar system must be under 100 kilowatts AC, and the solar contractor must meet specific requirements. The solar tax exemption is in effect until December 2029 for residential solar systems under 100 kilowatts AC. 

Is it possible to join a community solar farm in Washington State?

Community solar projects expand access to clean energy and allow project subscribers like households, businesses, and nonprofits to enjoy some of the benefits of solar energy without having a system on-site. In most states, one community solar project powers hundreds or thousands of homes and businesses. In particular, community solar farms are especially appealing for renters and people who cannot make the upfront investment in a solar system. 

solar farm

Typically, members subscribe to a specific project and can cancel with advanced notice. Members of community solar farms typically receive two energy bills a month. One is from the solar farm and another from the electric utility company for any remaining power that the solar farm didn’t cover and for the transmission and distribution fees. Combined, the two bills typically are a bit lower than before the household joined the community solar farm.

However, certain states have policies that encourage community solar development while others do not. Currently, Washington’s community solar market is extremely limited, so community solar farms are not widespread in the state. Therefore, joining a community solar farm is not a good option for most Washington households. However, there have been efforts to pass legislation, so this could change at some point in the future.

Is it better to lease or own solar panels in Washington State?

There are two primary options for going solar: buy your solar panels or lease them (similar to entering a power purchase agreement). At Smart Solar Energy, we like to help our customers maximize their solar energy savings, which happens when homeowners buy their solar panels instead of leasing them.

Disadvantages of Solar Leases

If you lease your panels in Washington, you won’t be eligible for the majority of the solar incentives available to you. Instead, the solar installation company can claim the solar incentives. If you lease your panels, you must make ongoing payments to the solar installation company, reducing your savings. If you buy your solar energy system, it will pay for itself in savings. The payback period is the time it takes for this to happen. Once it does, you can power your home with free solar energy. 

Many homeowners that lease their systems have issues later on when they want to sell their homes. If the new owners don’t want to take over the lease, the homeowner needs to pay off the lease or else find another buyer. Also, there may be credit requirements for the new homebuyer to take over the solar lease, so all potential homebuyers may not qualify.

Advantages of Solar Leases

If you lease your solar panels, you are not responsible for completing repairs on the system. By contrast, the solar system owner is responsible. However, Smart Solar Energy provides an industry-leading 25-year labor and service warranty. That means if any of your solar equipment fails over that 25-year period, we will fix it free of charge.

One of the biggest perks of leasing your solar panels is that most solar companies offer $0 out of pocket  options. However, many Smart Solar Energy customers can get $0 out of pocket financing with a solar loan to buy their solar systems.

Alternative Option: Solar Loans

Depending on the length of the loan and your savings, the loan payments on your solar loan are often less than the utility bill savings. When this happens, your solar system is cash flow positive from day 1.

At Smart Solar Energy, we partner with local credit unions to obtain a solar loan. Loan companies typically require a minimum credit score of 660. Our customers usually have a 12-year loan term with a 2.99% interest rate. If preferred, we can help arrange a loan with a longer term, resulting in lower monthly payments, but for a longer period. 

Our loan partners provide a fixed interest rate and no prepayment penalty. And the interest on these loans is tax-deductible, which can help lower your tax liability with the IRS. We recommend speaking with a tax expert to ensure you can take advantage of this potential tax deduction.

Can solar panels power my entire home in Washington?

Yes, in many cases, solar panels can produce all the power your home uses throughout the year. However, this is not true for all Washington properties. For example, if your home is heavily shaded, especially in the middle of the day, you might not produce 100% of your electricity. 

Home with solar panels

The average home in the United States consumes about 10,715-kilowatt hours of electricity annually. If your house consumes a lot more than is typical and your roof space is limited, it might be harder to produce all of your own power. For example, it might be more challenging if your home is all electric and has an electric heating system, water heater, range, and an electric vehicle. 

However, installing a solar panel system that generates 80% of your electricity is a huge step in the right direction. Your solar panels will dramatically lower your electricity bills and carbon footprint while significantly increasing your home value.

The solar design experts at Smart Solar Energy are skilled in designing solar systems that maximize your utility bill savings. If your roof is shaded, we might be able to install your solar panels on a garage roof, or even a ground mount if there is some space in your yard.

Is Washington State too cloudy for solar panels?

Although Western Washington, including Vancouver, Olympia, and Battleground, is well known for its cloudy weather, installing a solar system is still a good option for homeowners. Your solar panel system will generate more power on sunny days, but it will also produce some power on cloudy days. In fact, there are more than 29,000 solar systems already installed in Washington, and that number increases daily.

Cloudy

Solar panels are more affordable than ever, and the efficiency of the solar panels on the market has increased significantly in the last decade. This makes powering your home with clean, solar energy more affordable and practical than ever. 

Are solar panels a smart financial investment in Washington?

Yes, installing solar panels will dramatically decrease your utility bill for 25 to 30 years, which is the design life of a standard solar system. Solar energy is a low-risk investment. As electricity prices increase, so will your solar energy savings. That means that with utility company rate hikes, your power bill savings will continue to grow.

Paying a bill

Yes, installing solar panels will dramatically decrease your utility bill for 25 to 30 years, which is the design life of a standard solar system. Solar energy is a low-risk investment. As electricity prices increase, so will your solar energy savings. That means that with utility company rate hikes, your power bill savings will continue to grow.

Have solar system prices fallen in Washington State?

Yes, solar system prices have fallen 50% over the last decade. That means installing a solar panel system for your home is more affordable than ever. Some homeowners have decided to wait until solar panel prices go even lower, but the overall price of solar has started to stabilized now, so it isn’t cost-effective to continue waiting.

Solar panels have gained popularity in the Pacific Northwest, particularly in Washington, due to their ability to generate clean and affordable energy. As concerns about high electricity costs and climate change rise, solar panels offer a practical solution for homeowners in the state. Smart Solar Energy, a leading solar installation company, recommends Silfab Elite, Hanhwa Q-Cells QPeak Duo, and Panasonic Evervolt solar panels, all equipped with a 25-year warranty and efficiency ranging from 20.1% to 21.4%. Washington State provides various incentives, including net metering, a federal solar tax credit, and a solar sales tax exemption, making solar power more accessible and cost-effective. Although community solar projects are limited in Washington, the state offers options for homeowners to either buy or lease solar panels, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Despite Washington’s reputation for cloudy weather, solar panels remain a viable and smart financial investment, with falling system prices and the federal solar tax credit making 2022 an opportune time to embrace solar energy.

With the federal solar tax credit in effect for Washington State residents, now is a great time to go solar. In fact, this incentive will taper down in 2023 before it ends at the end of 2023 for residential solar PV systems. Therefore, 2022 is an excellent time to go solar and to start saving on energy bills.

installation
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