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 Rhode Island
Don’t let your state’s size or northern location fool you, Rhode Islanders—The Ocean State’s government offers some very generous incentives and smart loan programs to support solar households within its boundaries. Rhode Islanders pay for many of these directly from their own pockets—surcharges levied on consumer energy bills help keep funding robust for renewable projects throughout the area.
If you’d like to get back some of the money you’ve put in, you can do so by purchasing and installing a solar power system in your home, and collecting some of the state’s bounteous rebate and tariff offerings. So what are you waiting for? Here’s everything you need to know to get started with solar power in your state.
Solar Productivity in Rhode Island
Rhode Island may not exactly be the paramount of sun-toasted perfection, but it’s definitely still got a lot going for it in terms of solar productivity. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, an organization that tested and ranked the states according to their UV levels and solar potential, found that Rhode Island came in at 0.82 (on a scale between 0 and 2) for solar intensity, placing it near the end of the list of states for solar intensity. However, those rankings aside, their calculations also found that Rhode Islanders can expect average-sized solar installations in their area to produce a regular 4.5 to 5 kilowatt hours daily—an amount that can definitely help mitigate the state’s high energy costs.
Popularity of Solar in Rhode Island
For such a small state, Rhode Island is definitely having a big impact in terms of solar power—in 2015 the state added 4.5 megawatts to its almost 13 megawatts of solar energy, according to industry estimates. Additionally, of those new solar installations almost half of them were residential projects, making solar power a household name in the area. In Rhode Island it’s homeowners and not commercial or government building that are driving the state’s switch to solar.
Average Rhode Island Residential Electricity Use and Cost
Rhode Islanders spent quite a bit more than the average American for electricity—2011 prices in The Ocean State, for instance, came in at a costly 2.9 cents per kilowatt hour above the national average. That may not sound like a lot, but considering that Rhode Island households used, on average, nearly 600 kilowatt hours per month in 2014, you can see how even a marginal difference can really add up. Meanwhile, they’re also consuming more and more electricity a year—up to about 10,500 million Btus in 2014—and while electricity costs may have dropped a bit in the recent past, long term expenses are predicted to rise exponentially, particularly as nonrenewable sources grow scarcer.
Installing Solar in Rhode Island
Industry estimates peg the number of solar installers operating in the state at around 10 different companies, most of them based in Providence and surrounding cities. Meanwhile, residents here can also choose to go an alternative route, and select to install with a national solar chain like Sungevity, opening them up to purchasing strategies like solar leases, where the company pockets rebates and incentives in return for savings on your energy bill and a zero-down lease for equipment. No matter how you choose to install, however, take care when selecting a local contractor—in Rhode Island all installers must be legally licensed to operate, holding a Renewable Energy Professional Certificate from the Department of Labor and Training.
Rhode Island Solar State Support
The truest measure of a state’s support for solar power tends to be whether or not it has enacted a renewable portfolio standard—a set of goals dictating the amount of state energy that must be obtained from renewable sources in the near future. Rhode Island has set forth just such a standard, an edict that requires 14.5 percent of energy to come from renewables by 2019. However, it’s also enacted an additional measure—a surcharge appended to utility customers’ bills, set at $0.0023 per kilowatt hour, that is fed directly into a fund to support the proliferation of clean energy projects throughout the state. That’s taken some of the pressure off of utilities to pay for area solar power incentives, keeping net metering less contentious in this area than in neighboring states. Rhode Island is also one of the few states in the U.S. without a single coal plant, meaning this area has a long reputation for championing cleaner alternative energy sources, a trend that seems set to continue, especially as solar panels become more and more affordable for your average household.
Rhode Island State Solar Incentives
In addition to net metering, the Rhode Island state government, area utilities, and state small business resources provide a network of different incentives for solar homeowners in the region, providing a very generous platform indeed for households here to save on solar installations:
National Grid EnergyWise Financing Program: Low-income homeowners in Rhode Island may be eligible for an energy efficiency incentive that they can use towards the purchase of solar water heaters. The loan is offered at 0 percent financing, for a period of 84 months. Loan amounts are between $200 to $2,000. To qualify, you must have a home energy audit performed on your home. Call (888) 633-7947 for more information.
Residential Solar Energy Property Tax Exemption: Solar energy systems and heating devices tend to raise the property values of the homes where they’re installed. To offset these additional property taxes, Rhode Island offers its residents a property tax exemption for any municipal taxes levied by the installation of solar equipment, such as solar PV, solar water heaters, and solar space heaters.
Net Metering: Rhode Island does offer residents net metering, an incentive that credits grid-connected solar households for excess energy returned to the utility. However, to qualify for this incentive in the state the system must be sized less than 5 megawatts total capacity and be powerful enough to provide 100 percent of a home’s energy demand. For two utilities, Block Island Power Company and Pascoag Utility District, there is an aggregate cap set at 3 percent of the individual utility’s peak load, meaning once your system has returned that amount of energy, you will receive no additional credit from these utilities. For other area utilities, there is no cap. Credits can be rolled over onto your next bill or purchased by the utility.
Renewable Energy Products Sales and Use Tax Exemption: Solar energy systems, including inverters, as well as solar space heating, water heating, and pool heating devices, are eligible for a 100 percent sales tax exemption when purchased in the state of Rhode Island. Considering that your average solar system will run you between $25,000 to $35,000, that can represent a significant savings.
Small-scale Solar Grants: The Commerce Corporation of Rhode Island, a small business lending and educational service in the smallest state, offers a small-scale grant for the installation of solar PV arrays and solar hot water heaters, worth either $1.15 per watt for solar PV or 25 percent of device costs for solar water heaters, up to $10,000 and $5,000, respectively. To learn more about the program and request a project, visit the corporation’s website.
Renewable Energy Growth and SolarWise Program: This is a production based incentive, generally known as a feed-in tariff, that pays solar residents by the amount of energy they return to the grid. The rates vary depending upon the solar energy system’s capacity size, and there are four categories: Small scale solar projects, up to 25 kilowatts; medium scale solar projects, 25 kilowatts to 250 kilowatts; commercial scale solar projects, 250 kilowatts to 1 megawatts; large scale solar projects, 1 megawatt to 5 megawatts. Residents are also eligible for additional incentives if they install solar PV in addition to making further energy efficiency improvements throughout their home. That incentive is known as the SolarWise program and additional details about its requirements can be found here.
Energy Revolving Loan Fund: The Rhode Island Economic Development Cooperation offers state residents low interest loans toward the purchase of solar energy equipment and solar powered devices like solar space heaters and water heaters. Loan interest rates range between 1 and 3 percent, with terms set between 5 to 10 years.
Additionally, almost every Rhode Island household that installs solar is eligible for a national solar incentive as well, known as the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. That rebate returns homeowners up to 30 percent of the costs of purchasing their equipment, as long as the system can generate enough power to cover over half of the home’s energy needs. To see if you qualify, return IRS form 5695 along with your federal income taxes.
Rhode Island Local Solar Incentives
Generally, all of Rhode Island’s incentives are managed at the state level, rather than through local governments or utilities. That means there’s lots of consistency in this state, providing the same levels of access to almost all residents across the board.