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 Oregon
Cheers to you, Oregonians! When it comes to solar power, your state is making waves and pushing the standard forward for all other parts of the U.S. This is particularly true in Portland where a recent decision has set a mandate on new construction dictating that all new buildings come equipped with solar panels.
However, all throughout the Beaver State residents take advantage of robust state programs and local utility incentives, funded by electric bill surcharges, that help make solar electric and water heating more affordable than ever. Of course, when you’re parsing through that many programs and options, it can be difficult to determine which programs apply to your home’s needs—and which to bypass. This guide will walk you through the basics of solar installation in Oregon, covering everything from panel productivity to a list of incentives available in your area. Read on to get started.
Solar Productivity in Oregon
Land of tall coniferous trees, craggy coastal shores, dense rain forests and tough, terse desert areas—Oregon’s geography is about as diverse as they come. And that means solar productivity in this state varies vastly as well, with much higher UV intensity coming out of the southeastern part of the state, the arid desert lands that cover that corridor. So, although the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that Oregon had a UV index level of 0.67, ranking it second lowest among the U.S. states for overall solar intensity, there are many places in the state that may comfortably receive an average 6 kilowatt hours of solar power a day. Your panel’s productivity will vary widely depending upon their size and your location within the state, but no matter where in Oregon you hang your hat, you can definitely save a lot on your utility bills when you opt to install solar power in your home.
Popularity of Solar in Oregon
In 2015, Oregon added another 30 megawatts of solar power to its capacity, placing it 19th in the nation that year for solar energy growth. With just over 100 megawatts of solar power installed overall, there’s plenty of room for Oregon residents to grow into their state legislature’s lofty plans for renewable energy, and the time to make that conversion may be nearing, as solar panel prices finally have dropped low enough to make them a competitive alternative to traditional energy.
Average Oregon Residential Electricity Use and Cost
Like much of the northwest, Oregon households get a good deal on electricity—at 9.4 cents on average for each kilowatt hour, residents in The Beaver State pay almost a full three cents less than the rest of the U.S. However, Oregonians don’t exactly lead the charge when it comes to energy efficiency—they consumed, on average, around 930 kilowatt hours per household a month, and that’s more than much of the rest of the U.S.Those high usage numbers could definitely be offset by some supplemental energy, and that’s just what you’ll get when you install solar power in your home.
Installing Solar in Oregon
There are around 150 solar companies operating in Oregon, most of which are based on the west coast of the state. Large national chains like SolarCity also install in the area, meaning that if you’d like to take advantage of those companies’ alternative purchasing strategies, such as solar leases, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.
Oregon State Solar Support
Usually the charge to convert to solar power is led by area lawmakers, in an effort to convince homeowners to adopt alternative energy in their homes. However, in Oregon, that effort comes directly from voters, who have, time after time, voted to support solar power incentives in their area. In fact, in 1981, voters even ratified a constitutional amendment that created the Oregon Department of Energy’s State Energy Loan Program, which now helps establish small-scale renewable projects, like solar installations, throughout the area. Additionally, residents of this state support solar projects not only on their ballots, but also through their dollars and cents—a fund called the Energy Trust of Oregon is generated directly from surcharges collected from customers of the largest electric companies and natural gas providers in the state. The money collected for the trust is applied toward small-scale solar projects in the Beaver State.
Additionally, Oregon’s renewable portfolio standard, the name for a state’s renewable energy goals, is aggressive, to say the least. The state’s prerogative is to receive at least half of its energy from renewable sources by 2040, making it one of the most progressive standards in the country. With Oregon’s bountiful list of solar incentives and programs, it’s safe to say that when it comes to solar power Oregon is ready to bring on the sun.
Oregon State Solar Incentives
Oregon’s state legislation is practically bursting with incentives and programs, funded by statewide trusts levied from surcharges placed on utility payer’s bills. Here are the basics of those programs:
Renewable Energy Systems Exemption: Solar energy systems tend to boost property values on the homes where they’re installed, which will definitely build your home equity, but also costs an arm and a leg when it comes time to pay the property taxes. In Oregon, however, by state statute solar residents are exempt from paying additional taxes added by the installation of solar energy equipment.
State Energy Loan Program: Homeowners in Oregon can apply for a low interest loan, administered through the Oregon Department of Energy, with loans typically starting at $200,000. Terms and interest rates vary. Details about the program are available here.
Solar Volumetric Incentive and Payments Program: All net-metered systems are eligible for production-based incentives paid by the homeowner’s local utility. The rates vary and are determined at the time that your installation goes live, at which point the utility is obligated to purchase all power coming from the system for 15 years. In May of 2015 the going rate was between $0.20 and $0.35 per kilowatt hour.
Net Metering: All public utilities in Oregon, except for Idaho Power, are required to offer customers net metering, an incentive that credits solar homeowners for excess energy they return to the grid. That rate is set at 0.5 percent of the utility’s historic single-hour peak load. Credits can be purchased by the utility at avoided cost, essentially the marginal cost that the utility would spend to produce a comparable amount of energy, or customers can apply credits towards their next utility bill or roll them over for 12 months.
Residential Energy Tax Credit: The Oregon Department of Energy offers residents who install solar energy systems or purchase and use solar heating or water heating devices in their homes a tax credit on their state income taxes. The rates of the rebates are as follows: $1.70 per watt for solar energy systems, $0.20 per saved kilowatt hour for solar pool heating, $0.60 per saved kilowatt hour for solar space heating, and $2 per kilowatt hour saved for solar hot water heating. There is a maximum incentive of $6,000 for solar PV and $2,500 or 50 percent of the device cost for solar water heating.
Solar Electric Incentive Program: Pacific Power and Portland General Electric Company customers who install solar electric systems on their properties are eligible for a rebate from the utility, worth $0.70/ per watt, up to $7,000 for Pacific Power customers, and $0.55 per watt, up to $5,500 for Portland General Electric Company customers.
Energy Conservation Personal Tax Credits for Small Premium Projects: The Oregon Department of Energy offers residents small tax credits, worth up to $7,000, for the installation of energy efficiency devices, including solar water heaters.
Furthermore, solar households in Oregon can apply for a national rebate that offers residents 30 percent of the cost of their equipment. That incentive, known as the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit credits homeowners for solar energy systems on their income taxes, as long as the system can generate enough energy to cover over half of the home’s electricity demand. To see if you qualify, return IRS form 5695.
Oregon Local Solar Incentives
Many of Oregon’s most lucrative incentive programs are offered through regional utilities. These include rebates and production-based incentives, as well as low-interest loans towards the purchase of solar equipment, that make going solar easier than ever in your area. Here’s a list of those programs:
Ashland Electric Utility Residential Energy Efficiency Loan Program: City of Ashland residents can apply for a zero interest loan to use towards the purchase of solar water heating equipment, worth up to $7,500. Repayment terms vary. Visit the program website for more information.
Ashland Electric Utility Bright Way to Heat Water Rebate: Meanwhile, residents who purchase solar water heating equipment outright may be eligible for a utility rebate worth $0.40 time annual kilowatt hour savings, which usually works out to be between $800 to $1000.
Ashland Electric Utility Bright Way to Heat Water Loan: Those residents serviced by Ashland Electric Utility who can’t afford to purchase solar water heating devices outright can opt for the utility’s zero percent interest loan program, which allows homeowners to repay their device costs through their electricity bills.
Ashland Electric Utility Photovoltaic Rebate Program: Low-income households that opt to install solar power in their homes may be helped by a rebate program offered by Ashland’s Conservation Division, worth $0.50 per watt, up to $7,500. See the utility website for more information.
Ashland Electric Net Metering Program: Ashland Electric offers its own net metering program that credits solar energy providers at 1.25 times the highest residential rate block.
Lane Electric Cooperative Residential Energy Efficiency Loan Programs: Homeowners serviced by Lane Electric Coop are eligible for a zero interest loan to use towards the purchase of energy efficiency equipment, including solar photovoltaic systems. The loan amount and terms may vary. Visit the program website for more details.
Lane Electric Cooperative Residential Efficiency Rebate Program: Residents serviced by Lane Electric Coop who purchase solar hot water heaters or solar electric equipment outright are eligible for a rebate, worth $500 for solar water heaters and $0.50 per watt for solar PV, up to $2,000 maximum.
Lane Electric Cooperative Residential and Commercial Weatherization and Energy Efficiency Program: Customers serviced by this utility can apply for a rebate for energy efficiency equipment, including the installation of solar hot water heaters. The rebate is worth $500 for solar devices.
Eugene Water and Electric Board Solar Electric Program: Eugene residents with solar installations on their homes are also eligible for a system-size-based incentive, worth $0.40 per watt, up to $2,500. Systems must be smaller than 25 kilowatts and participate in net metering in order to qualify.
Eugene Water and Electric Board Net Metering Program: Solar households serviced by the Eugene Water and Electric Board are eligible for the utility’s own net metering program, which pays residents for excess energy they return to the grid at a rate of $0.0311 per kilowatt hour. Credits can be rolled over indefinitely and applied to a later utility bill.
Central Lincoln People’s Utility District Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program: This energy efficiency program pays residents in the Central Lincoln People’s Utility District $800 for solar thermal electric systems and $500 per kilowatt, up to $2,000, for solar electric systems. The program’s website is available here.
City of Portland Streamlined Building Permits for Residential Solar Systems: While not a monetary incentive, residents of Portland can save time completing solar installations using the city’s expedited permitting process for solar equipment.
Emerald People’s Utility District Solar Electric Program: Residents living in the Emerald People’s Utility District that choose to install solar PV systems are eligible for an incentive worth $0.75 per watt, up to $3,500. Systems must be sized smaller than 25 kilowatts in order to qualify. For more information, visit the utility district website.
Consumers Power Solar Energy System Rebate: Customers serviced by Consumers Power Incorporated are eligible for a rebate for installing solar electric systems or solar hot water heaters in their homes. The maximum rebate is $500 for solar hot water heaters and $3,000 for solar PV.
Salem Electric Solar Water Heater Rebate: Salem Electric customers who purchase and install solar hot water heaters qualify for a rebate worth $600 for eligible devices.
Salem Electric Photovoltaic Rebate Program: Salem Electric also offers its customers a rebate for the installation of solar energy systems, worth $600 for the first 3 kilowatts of system capacity, and $300 per kilowatt after that, with a maximum incentive of 50 percent of installation costs or $4,800.