How to Use the Solar Calculator
The best way to learn about local rebates, your home’s energy potential, and your eventual return on investment is to use our ModSun Solar Cost Calculator (see above). Enter your home address in the box, then click Check My Roof. You’ll get an instant picture of your roof’s productivity, your average energy expenses, and installation costs in your area—whether you decide to buy or loan. We’ll also provide system size recommendations and information about rebates and incentives you may be eligible for. Just select More Info under each purchasing strategy to learn more, and then connect with a solar pro.
Solar Power in Alabama
A popularly quoted industry statistic relates that Alabama ranks eighth in a list of states that could stand to benefit from more residential solar installations. Unfortunately, however, as one of only four states not offering net-metering, a popular incentive that meters household energy use against generation, Alabama still has yet to realize that potential. Residents turning to solar in this state can expect high energy productivity, but low returns from the state and local governments, as well as area utilities, and attitudes from local leaders that range from the apathetic to the downright hostile.
Still, if you’re looking to power your house with solar and you live in the Yellowhammer state, all is not lost. With large-scale solar installations set to come online soon at Anniston Army Depot and Fort Rucker, the future is slowly but surely starting to look brighter for Alabamians who hope to integrate solar energy into their current utility scheme. Here’s what you’ll need to know to bring solar to the rooftop of your Alabama home today.
Productivity of Solar in Alabama
Alabama ranks high in solar potential–with a sun index of 0.89, it comes in tied for thirteenth most potentially productive state in the country. Long summer days and high temperatures position this state for very high solar production–with around an average of five sun hours a day, it falls higher than the US average for what’s known as insolation value–essentially the strength of the solar radiation over time. Unfortunately, solar installations in this fruitful area remain low, mainly due to the lack of state- and utility-sponsored incentives.
Solar Popularity in Alabama
Installation numbers for Alabama lag far behind national averages–according to AL.com, the final total falls somewhere around 60 households, an infinitesimally tiny fraction of the state’s 1.2 million homes. That’s because residents who choose to go solar in this state don’t have the option of credit for excess energy generated by PV systems, and in fact may face extra charges, though small, for generating power on their property. Generally, residents in the northern regions have an easier time securing rebates and locating qualified installers; in the south, where area utilities charge solar residents fees for feeding into the grid, there are few, if any, companies that offer solar installations.
Alabama Average Residential Electricity Use and Cost
With some of the hottest summer temperatures in the US, Alabama AC units see their fair share of use, and that translates to energy consumption. In fact, electricity use rates in Alabama are much higher than the national average–in 2011, The Yellowhammer State used 6,870 kWh of power, compared to the per capita average of 4,566 for the country as a whole. And while Alabamians enjoy slightly lower energy costs than the majority of the nation (11.1 cents per kWh, compared to 12 cents nationally), that price difference doesn’t really make up for the extra energy consumed. Given this information, it’s likely that many Alabama residents could benefit from a solar installation that could offset the cost of extra energy expenditures, regardless of the availability of rebates in the area.
Installing Solar in Alabama
With residential interest low, finding a qualified installer in Alabama can be challenging. If you’re interested in joining the few but proud residents with a solar array installed on their rooftops, your best bet may be to look to local companies–larger installers like SolarCity do not offer services here because there are few tax incentives on offer. That also means you may have to take the plunge and pay for panels yourself, rather than relying on a leasing service like a Power Purchase Agreement like the ones provided by larger companies.
You can expect to pay anywhere between $20,000 for a very minimal system to upwards of $35,000 for a very large installation. However, rather than paying upfront, a local installation company or bank may be able to offer you a loan if you qualify. There are a handful of smaller businesses sprinkled throughout the state, particularly in the North near Huntsville and Birmingham, that can do the job for you.
Alabama State Support
As one of the few states in the US not offering net-metering to its residents, Alabama’s lukewarm support definitely translates to installation numbers–industry estimates peg Alabama solar capacity at a mere two megawatts, ranking it 44th in the country. Unlike neighboring Georgia, which has enacted massive statewide policies supporting solar installations and encouraged residents to consider changes to their energy generation, incentives in Alabama are few and far between. In fact, Alabama Power even charges consumers a monthly feed in tariff of $5.00, further discouraging residents from making the leap to solar power. Alabama’s Public Services Commissioner has been very outspoken about his opposition to the Clean Power Plan; however, his commission has recently approved several large-scale solar projects to be constructed across the state. And with other resistant states like Mississippi finally adopting net metering as official state policy, it’s likely that solar power will grow, albeit slowly, throughout the state, hopefully in time for residents to take full advantage of federal returns and rebates.
That lower support also means that residents here can’t expect to be protected by legislation regulating installation companies, equipment standards, or prohibitive clauses from local ordinances and homeowner association regulations, which may in turn make installation processes difficult if not impossible. Generally, these protections follow a unified move by the government to encourage solar power in the state–something Alabama is still warming to. Residents here can expect an interesting future ahead as solar growth in the rest of the country propels this energy strategy to the forefront of the national consciousness. So if you’re still making up your mind whether or not to go solar, be sure to keep watching the state government for developments.
Alabama Solar Incentives
Alabama is one of the few states in the country not offering net-metering, and there is currently no statewide tax credit to speak of, either. However, residents are still eligible for the national Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, which returns taxpayers 30 percent of the price of their system. To qualify, over half of the residency’s energy must be generated using solar equipment. Residents seeking the tax credit can apply using IRS form 5695.
Meanwhile, for those residents seeking more immediate payment assistance, a state loan program known as Alabama Saves, sponsored by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, and privately funded by several independent banks, provides lending options for Alabama households looking to install solar on their properties. For more information, contact the program administrators to get started.
Alabama Local Solar Incentives
Just because the state hasn’t showered solar residents with support doesn’t mean there’s no assistance available for Alabama residents hoping to begin generating power in their own homes. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Green Power Providers program pays residents through local utility providers for every kilowatt hour of solar power they generate, rather than metering against their usage. And many city utilities in Alabama participate–residents in Athens, Huntsville, Decatur, and Florence are all eligible, as are many others. Generally, this option is only available to Alabamians in the northern part of the state; southern areas served by Alabama Power cannot currently participate, and this utility does not offer its own separate incentive.