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 Nebraska
Nebraskans, with their acres and acres of corn and cattle, are used to counting on the sun to energize their homes and support their finances. Now, sun-soaked Nebraska homes have the potential to use the sun in a brand new way—as an energy alternative that can power households across the Cornhusker State.
While solar energy is just starting to grow in this state, Nebraska already offers many incentives to make solar systems much more affordable to its residents. This state is nestled in a very productive area for solar energy, meaning there’s a lot of potential on the horizon for solar power throughout the region. This guide will take you through the basics of solar installations in your state—from installation productivity to the details of rebate programs and incentives available in your area.
Nebraska’s Solar Productivity
Nebraska’s location in the heart of the Great Plains makes it rife with solar potential. In fact, when the National Renewable Energy Laboratory investigated the states for their UV index and solar energy abilities, they found that conditions in most parts of the state would generate a reliable average 5 to 5.5 kilowatts of solar energy daily—with production even higher in the south and western regions. Nebraska’s UV index number was 0.89, placing it high amongst the states for solar potential, coming in at 13th in the nation, tied with Alabama.
Popularity of Solar in Nebraska
Nebraska’s solar energy era has yet to dawn—at the end of 2015, the state stood 48th in the nation for installed solar capacity, with just a mere 1 megawatt of solar power installed, enough to power just 250 of the state’s homes. However, new utility-scale installations are expected online before the end of 2016, which could ratchet up solar energy capacity enormously in the coming years. As in most places, solar is just in its infancy in the Cornhusker State, and with more pressure to find alternative energy sources, combined with the dropping price of solar panels, it may make for an interesting future for solar energy in this area.
Average Nebraska Residential Electricity Use and Cost
In some ways, Nebraskans get the worst of both worlds—lows plunging down to an average 13 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, combined with scorching 86 degree highs in the summer keep Nebraskans heating and cooling costs high. Those HVAC expenses translate to energy consumption—Nebraska used just over 10,000 million kilowatt hours in 2014, according to the US Energy Information Association. Thankfully, Nebraskans aren’t saddled with excessive energy prices. Residents here pay a mere 9 cents per kilowatt hour, on average, compared to the national average of 12 cents per kilowatt. Even so, electricity consumption numbers have been on a steady rise over the past few decades, predicting a pricey future for residential energy, unless those costs are mitigated by some sort of alternative, like the one offered by solar power.
Installing Solar in Nebraska
There are just a handful of solar installers working throughout Nebraska, and most of them are based in and around Omaha and Lincoln. Residents in the Northern and Western reaches of the state may have to go farther to access solar manufacturers, sellers, and installers; however, the solar boom predicted for most states should likely be accompanied by a wider range of installers available for the average resident. Nebraska residents must use a local installer at the moment—large national chains like Sungevity are not in operation in this area, meaning that alternative purchasing strategies, like solar leases, may be harder to acquire.
Nebraska State Solar Support
Solar power is heating up in the Cornhusker State. While wind power has been the dominating force in renewable energy, the state is on track to install 3.6 megawatts in 2016, when a large community solar farm outside of Lincoln goes live—that will more than triple Nebraska’s solar power capacity from its 1 megawatts online at the beginning of this year. Although solar power is just beginning to take off, some solar advocates in the state believe that Nebraska’s small, far-flung network of rural utility providers makes it perfect for smaller solar farms, rather than large costly wind installations.
While some have criticized the state’s net metering and incentive policies for taking a lukewarm stance on solar power, compared to other nearby states, Nebraska’s offerings are actually quite robust, and a direct production credit has been discussed, a tariff that would offer homeowners money for every kilowatt hour of solar power generated. While that incentive has yet to be passed, its discussion alone is a sign that solar is beginning to take off in this state, and that homeowners here will be well-supported by the local government and area utilities when they choose to install solar power in their homes.
Nebraska State Solar Incentives
Nebraska’s state incentives for solar households may not be plentiful as some would like, but in some ways, a few robust incentives is better than a wide range of different programs, as it makes it simpler to sort through those options to find the ones that apply to your household, and get the maximum amount of money from the state government and local utilities. Here are the details of those programs:
Dollars and Energy Savings Loans: The Nebraska Department of Energy offers residents a low interest loan program to use towards the purchase of solar energy systems and solar powered devices, like solar space heaters and water heaters. The loan amounts are capped at $14,000 for solar heating and water heaters, and $125,000 for solar PV systems. Loan terms range between 3 to 15 years, with interest rates between 2.5 and 5 percent. Minimum monthly payments are set at $25 for appliances and $50 for other purchases. Visit the program website for more information.
Personal Renewable Energy Tax Credit: Solar PV and solar thermal electric systems qualify for a production-based tax credit, worth $0.0005 per kilowatt hour, for a period of ten years after installation.
Net Metering: Like many states in the nation, Nebraska requires its utilities to offer net metering, an incentive that credits solar-powered homeowners for the energy the return to the grid. Excess credits are worth the utility’s avoided cost rate—the base amount the utility would have paid to generate that energy themselves—and can be rolled over and applied to the customer’s next month bill. Utilities are not required to offer net metering once the total amount of credits matches 1 percent of the utility’s peak average monthly load.
Nebraska residents who purchase solar energy systems for their rooftops may also be eligible for a national tax rebate, as well. The federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit is worth up to 30 percent of system costs, and is returned to homeowners on their tax returns. To qualify, a system must be large enough to generate at least half of a home’s energy needs. To get the incentive, complete IRS form 5695 on your federal income taxes.
Nebraska’s Local Solar Incentives
Additionally, Nebraska residents served by certain utilities are eligible for rebates through their energy provider, as well, which can help those customers save money when they purchase their own solar energy equipment.
Lincoln Electric System Renewable Energy Rebate: Customers served by Lincoln Electric System are eligible for an incentive when they purchase solar-power equipment for their homes. The amount of the rebate varies depending upon both the size of the system and its orientation and operation method—for southern-facing systems, that amount is $375 for each kilowatt of nameplate capacity; for western-facing systems, it is $475 for each kilowatt of nameplate capacity; for tracking solar systems (those that move according to the sun’s orientation in the sky), it is $475 for each kilowatt of nameplate capacity.