When I tell people I’m part of the solar energy industry, I frequently hear that they’ve been considering solar adoption for their own home or business. When I ask what’s been holding them back, too often the answer is money. Even though people understand that solar is a great investment with a positive impact on property value and utility costs, they sometimes hesitate to start a project because of fears about financing.
At Solar Design Studio, we understand that solar financing can seem complex and unattainable - but I always assure interested parties to learn more about the options that are available. The truth is that solar adoption is well within reach for most Americans, even here in the Midwest. The price of solar technology has fallen significantly over the last several years without sacrificing quality or efficiency, and with financing options including low-cost loans and tax credits and exemptions, it’s now easier than ever before to invest in solar energy. Let’s take a closer look at the options available to solar consumers today:
Historically Low Solar Installation Costs
Earlier this summer, EnergySage explored the cost of solar panels in the US in 2017. You may be surprised to learn that they found prices in 2017 to be an impressive 9 percent lower than in 2016. This is because as solar technology continues to develop, manufacturers are able to create better and more efficient PV panels at less cost to the consumer.
Because solar costs vary from state to state (as do many solar incentives) due to factors including the cost of electricity, EnergySage undertook research that would allow them to compare the average cost per watt of a solar installation in states in every region of the country. They found that while costs vary, “solar panel cost is low and affordable across the board” in 2017. In addition, they discovered that the top 10 US states in installed solar capacity actually have higher than average solar installation costs, indicating that “solar isn’t only worth it in the regions of the United States where costs are extremely low.”
Significant Tax Credits Available
While taking advantage of historically low costs for PV panels, consumers across the country can also benefit from the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), a federal credit that has been extended through 2021. As the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports, the ITC is a 30 percent tax credit for solar systems on both residential and commercial properties.
Established as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the ITC “allows the homeowner to apply the credit to his/her personal income taxes” when they “purchase solar systems outright and have them installed on their homes.” Businesses that purchase solar installations can claim the credit as long as they install, develop, or finance the solar project. At the current 30 percent rate, the ITC has an enormous impact on solar project costs for those who purchase PV systems for their home or business. However, solar adopters looking to take advantage of this tax credit should act soon - the ITC “steps down to 26 percent in 2020 and 22 percent in 2021,” after which it will remain at a fixed 10 percent for commercial entities.
These tax credits are one reason that experts suggest buying, rather than leasing, a solar energy system. Purchasing solar technology provides the greatest return on investment for a solar energy system in terms of property value and long-term utility costs, while leasing may be an attractive option for those seeking a simple way to reduce energy bills.
Tax Exemptions Available by State
Federal tax credits can be supplemented with various tax exemptions put in place by state or local governments to encourage solar adoption. These may include both property tax and sales tax exemptions and usually apply to both residential and commercial installations. There are currently 38 states that offer property tax exemptions, and 29 that offer sales tax exemptions.
Various state and local governments have developed their own guidelines and qualifications for these exemptions, so it’s best to research your local options in advance of beginning an installation.
DSIRE, or the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, offers a searchable database to consumers seeking information about local exemptions and other incentives.
For those who prefer not to purchase solar panels outright, there are financing programs for energy improvements to homes, commercial, and even agricultural buildings. The foremost of these, Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Programs, allow property owners to secure 100 percent funding for energy improvements by leveraging equity in their property. PACE repayment periods are long-term, sometimes extending for up to 20 years. In some cases, this allows homeowners to save more through reduced energy costs than they are paying annually for their energy improvements!
Solar Design Studio Can Help!
With deep experience in solar design, installation, and financing, Solar Design Studio has earned the expertise that allows us to help our clients with every stage of their solar project. We work from the ground up to maximize the energy and financial returns of each project we undertake, and we bring decades of experience to the table to create success.
If you’ve been dreaming of a solar project of your own but find questions about financing holding you back, reach out to us today to leverage our expertise towards making your dream a reality!