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 Vermont
All across Vermont, solar power is putting the “green” in the Green Mountain State—installations increased almost 100 percent in 2015, thanks in part to generous incentives that make Vermont one of the most lucrative states for clean energy.
If you choose to install solar power in your Vermont home, you can expect to take advantage of bucketloads of state incentives: production-based rebates, utility credits and payment systems, tax exemptions, permitting expediting and more, that will take the headache (and financial sting) out of erecting your own solar array. Meanwhile, you stand to save significantly on Vermont’s soaring energy prices, which should help even out elevated winter energy costs and cure the winter heating blues. To get started, let’s take a look at some of the ins and outs of residential solar in your state.
Solar Productivity in Vermont
In 2006, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory calculated the average solar potential for each state using what’s known as the UV index—a scale that rates an area’s solar intensity. Predictably, Vermont fell fairly low on that ranking—with a solar index level of 0.77, there were just three states with less solar potential. However, what may surprise you is what NREL found in terms of average kilowatt hours for the area. Throughout most of Vermont, you can expect an average solar energy system to generate around 4 to 4.5 kilowatt hours of power a day (in very northern reaches of the state, that number is slightly less—around 3.5 to 4 hours a day). Considering that the average household uses about 30 kilowatt hours a day, that amount represents a pretty significant energy savings.
Popularity of Solar in Vermont
Owing to the state government’s generous incentives and Vermont resident’s reputation for independent, green thinking, solar power is a booming business in the area. In 2015, for instance, there were 43 megawatts of solar power installed, ranking the Green Mountain State 15th in the U.S. for installations that year, according to industry estimates. But Vermont still has a long way to go to reach its full potential—overall solar capacity hovers at 107 megawatts, placing it 23rd amongst the states.
Average Vermont Residential Electricity Use and Cost
Unfortunately, Vermont residents pay dearly for the energy they use—at just over 16 cents per kilowatt on average for electricity, they shell out 133 percent of the national average. Meanwhile energy usage here is also on the rise. In fact, Vermonters now consume around a million more Btus per person than they did in 2006. Cold winter temperatures guarantee that residents here will always consume quite a bit of energy for heating, but don’t let those average lows fool you—the state still has plenty of potential for solar power, and residents can definitely use the sun’s energy to offset high wintertime electricity demands.
Installing Solar in Vermont
According to industry data, there are over 70 companies working to install solar panels on Vermont homes, so you have plenty of options if you do decide solar is right for your household. Those contractors will need to abide by Vermont’s permitting and interconnection standards for solar, so you’ll want to make sure you’re selecting an experienced and qualified company for the job. Meanwhile in Vermont, you can also opt to install with large national chains like Sungevity, who offer solar leases that can help if you cannot purchase equipment outright.
Vermont State Solar Support
Many states have set renewable portfolio standards for themselves—goals for how much energy they hope to receive from renewable energy sources in the near future—and Vermont is no different. However unlike in some other states, where RPS standards come without a clear plan for encouraging residents and businesses to make the crossover to solar power, Vermont puts its money where its mouth is. The state has passed a wide range of solar energy incentives to make renewable energy more inexpensive than ever for its residents.
However, like in many states throughout the U.S., as the number of homeowners opting for solar grows, utilities who pay for solar incentives are beginning to pressure lawmakers to reconsider solar programs. That same trend is evident in Vermont, where net metering, a popular incentive that pays residents for excess solar power, has recently been brought forth in a public hearing for revising. All of that means that time may be of the essence if you hope to maximize your savings through government incentives, as some programs may not be available in the near future.
Vermont State Solar Incentives
Vermont’s legislation is chock full of solar incentives, including tax exemptions, production-based rebates, and payment and crediting programs that all convert your excess power to real dollar values. There are also some incentives, like expediting permitting, that while not being a financial benefit it will stand to save you a lot of hassle all things considered. Here are some of the most noteworthy:
Net Metering: Vermont’s state solar incentives boasts a robust net metering program, which credits residents for energy they return to the grid at 15 percent of the utility’s peak demand price in 1996 or during the current calendar year (whichever amount is greatest). The homeowner can roll credits over for 12 calendar months, and can opt to own their credits or grant ownership to the utility.
Renewable Energy Systems Sales Tax Exemption: In Vermont, homeowners that purchase solar energy systems and solar powered devices like solar space heaters and water heaters are exempt from paying all sales taxes at the time of purchase. With your average solar power system coming in at a hefty $25,000 to $35,000 before incentives, that represents a savings of several hundred dollars.
Property Tax Exemption: Installing solar energy systems and solar devices in a home tends to bump up its property values, which is great for your equity, but not so great for your wallet when it comes time to pay property taxes. Fortunately, in the state of Vermont, you are exempt for paying all additional property taxes associated with the installation of solar powered devices and energy generation systems, meaning you get all the benefit on your valuation without any of the extra expense.
Small-Scale Renewable Energy Incentive Program: A rebate is offered to Vermonters who install solar hot water heating in their homes, worth $0.40 per kilowatt hour, up to $3,000.
Uniform Capacity Tax and Exemption for Solar: All solar systems are not only exempt from extra property taxes, they’re also exempted from the state’s education property taxes, as long as the system capacity is under 50 kilowatts. For systems 50 kilowatts and larger, a uniform tax of $4 per kilowatt is levied, increasing the tax savings for solar equipment enormously.
Expedited Permitting Process for Solar Photovoltaic Systems: Sometimes your free time is worth more than anything money can buy. While not a monetary incentive, perse, you will save time in Vermont getting your new solar equipment permitted, as all solar energy systems are expedited through the process above other projects. Under this law, your utility only has ten days to raise any issues with your system’s model, connection, and location before the equipment is deemed issued, meaning the installation can be legally completed.
Feed-in Tariff: Solar energy providers in Vermont are offered yet another incentive for the power they generate, a feed-in tariff, which requires utilities to pay for all excess renewable energy returned to the grid via a long-term contract—for solar, the contract length is 25 years, and in 2016, the price cap for solar PV systems was $0.13 per kilowatt hours.
Meanwhile, Vermonters who choose to go solar are also eligible for a national incentive managed through residents’ federal tax returns—the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. This rebate returns homeowners 30 percent of their solar energy equipment costs, provided that said equipment is powerful enough to generate over 50 percent of the home’s energy. To apply for the incentive, complete IRS form 5695 on your federal income taxes.
Local Vermont Solar Incentives
While most solar programs in Vermont are managed at the state level, there is just one listed in the Department of Energy’s Database of State Incentives that returns solar residents additional money at the local level for installing PV systems in their homes:
Green Mountain Power Solar Power: Residents served by Green Mountain Power are eligible for a production-based incentive for solar energy generation. The rate per kilowatt varies depending on the capacity size of your system: for systems 15 kilowatts and lower, it is $0.053 per kilowatt hour, and for systems larger than 15 kilowatts, it is $0.043 per kilowatt hour. That’s in addition to the net metering guidelines set forth by the state, making residents served by GMP eligible for some powerful incentives.