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 Washington State
From the bustling metropolis of Seattle to the craggy Cascade mountains, Washington state offers something for everyone. In particular, this state boasts a progressive stance on renewable energy, with legislation that’s packed with residential programs, all aimed at mitigating the costs and expenses associated with owning your own solar energy system.
Of course, when there are so many programs to choose from, it pays to know the ins and outs of each available incentive—that way you’ll be sure you’re getting the best possible deal for your system. Here’s a brief guide to those programs, along with information about solar installations in your area, to get you acquainted with Washington’s solar powered future.
Washington’s Solar Productivity
No, Washington state does not exactly have a reputation for sunny, cloudless skies, but that doesn’t mean you should write this state off when it comes to assessing its solar potential. If you live in the Evergreen State, then you know that its topography is very diverse indeed, meaning that not all parts of the state receive the same levels of sunlight. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory calculated the solar intensity of all fifty states and found that while the coastal regions of Washington receive just enough sunlight to produce an average 3 to 4.0 kilowatt hours of solar power a day, installations located farther south, especially those east of the Cascades, might generate higher averages—a regular 5 to 5.5 hours a day, a total that puts those regions on par with sunnier southern states in the east.
Popularity of Solar in Washington
There is currently enough solar installed in Washington state to power over 6,000 homes, thanks largely to the 26 megawatts that were installed in 2015, boosting the state’s total capacity by almost 50 percent. That’s a tremendous amount of growth in a short time—in the Evergreen State, as in much of the U.S., solar power is finally coming into its own, and with panel prices falling rapidly, a hot future is predicted for the industry as the decade draws to a close. That means you stand to benefit enormously if you install now, while incentives are still available. As solar becomes more and more popular, many helpful programs may be depleted or restructured entirely.
Average Washington Residential Electricity Use and Cost
Lucky you, Washington residents! You’re paying much less than the national average on your energy bills. In fact, in 2014, the Energy Information Association’s data showed that Washingtonians paid a mere 8.67 cents per kilowatt powering their homes, compared to the national average that year of 12.52 cents per kilowatt. Even a few pennies here and there can really add up, and indeed, Washington homeowners do tend to pay less on their monthly utility bills, coming in at just around $87 on average in 2014. Even so, nothing is better than free energy, and with a residential solar energy system installed on your home, you can definitely even out energy expenses, especially during the summer months.
Installing Solar in Washington State
There are several dozen solar installers working throughout Washington, and most of them are located in and around Seattle. That means that if you live away from the coast, you may have farther to go to locate a qualified installed that can do work in your area. When you choose to install solar power in your Washington home make sure to pay attention to your installer’s credentials as Washington state has contractor requirements in place for companies that connect solar energy systems.
Washington State Solar Support
Any misgivings about Washington’s solar potential may be cast aside when you witness the enthusiastic support the state shows for renewable energy projects, particularly solar power systems. That enthusiasm comes from the ground up—in 2006, Washington residents passed their state’s renewable energy standard by ballot measure. That standard sets a goal to generate at least 15 percent of the state’s energy from clean power by 2020 and then another 15 percent each year thereafter, with a view towards 100 percent renewable energy down the line.
Meanwhile, local governments in Washington boast some of the most aggressive municipal renewable energy standards around. For instance, Bellingham’s city council adopted a policy in 2006 to begin purchasing 100 percent clean energy for its city-owned buildings and facilities. That standard marks it as progressive, not only in Washington state, but in the U.S. as a whole. Additionally, Washington’s robust loan offerings and rebate plans for solar residents make it a great state to make the switch to renewable power.
Washington State Solar Incentives
Washington’s state solar incentives are varied, and include measures to help low income residents, as well as tax credits and production-based incentives that can all make the cost of solar equipment and installation a little more affordable.
Net Metering: Washington state offers its residents a popular solar incentive, known as net metering, which credits the energy grid-connected households produce against their energy consumption. Almost all area utilities in Washington participate in this program, however, participation is not guaranteed. Utilities are only obligated to credit energy generation until the cumulative net-metered capacity reaches 0.5 percent of area utilities’ peak demand in 1996. Systems must be sized 100 kilowatts or smaller or less in order to qualify.
Renewable Energy Cost Recovery Incentive Payment: Washington state will pay solar producing residences, on a first-come-first-served basis, for solar energy they return to the grid. The base rate for energy is $0.15 per kilowatt, however that rate can be increased if the solar equipment, inverter, or both were manufactured in the state of Washington. The incentive is capped at $5,000 per year. Visit the state government website for specifics.
The Washington State Housing Finance Commission Sustainable Energy Program: Low-income residents can obtain low-interest loans through this program to use towards the purchase of solar PV equipment and solar hot water heaters. Loans are competitive. Interest rates vary, but terms are generally under ten years.
Renewable Energy Sales and Use Tax Exemption: In Washington state, homeowners are exempt from paying all sales tax on solar energy equipment. With systems averaging between $25,000 to $35,000, that represents a significant savings.
Furthermore, Washingtonians can get a boost from a federal tax incentive as well. The Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit returns homeowners who purchase solar equipment 30 percent of the cost of their system, as long as it is large enough to generate enough energy for half the home’s energy demand. To apply for the rebate, file IRS form 5695 when you complete your federal income taxes.
Local Washington Solar Incentives
Additionally, there are multiple regional programs offered through area utilities, particularly a wide array of solar loans, all of which are designed to encourage residents to purchase solar energy systems for their homes. Here are a few of those local options:
Grays Harbor PUD Net Metering Program: Grays Harbor PUD maintains their own net metering program, which differs slightly from the statewide regulations. Instead of returning excess credits to the utility after they have expired, customers here can collect payments from the utility at the end of each year, worth 50 percent of the utility’s retail cost.
Chelan County PUD Sustainable Natural Alternative Power Producers Program: The Chelan County PUD pays solar customers for the energy they return to the grid. The rate varies, depending upon how much combined energy is returned—however, in 2015, that amount was set at $0.09.
Clark Public Utilities Solar Energy Equipment Loan: Clark Public Utilities customers can participate in its solar energy loan program, which offers low-interest lending to use towards the purchase of solar energy systems, solar pool heating, and solar hot water heating. The interest rate is set at 3.5 percent. The length of the loan varies depending upon the amount borrowed—for loans up to $10,000, it is up to 5 years; for PV loans between $10,000 and $30,000, it is up to 7 years.
Okanogan PUD Conservation Loan Program: Homeowners serviced by Okanogan PUD are eligible for a loan to use towards the purchase of solar energy equipment, worth up to $10,000, with a 60 month term.
Snohomish County PUD No 1 Solar Express Rebate Program: Customers of Snohomish County PUD can receive a rebate when they purchase and install either a solar energy system or solar hot water heater in their home. For solar PV, the rebate amount is $300 per rated kilowatt of energy, up to $2,000. For solar hot water heaters, it is $500 per system.
Orcas Power and Light MORE Green Power Program: Orcas Power and Light offers its solar residents a production-based incentive that pays them for each kilowatt hour of power they return to the grid. For systems installed before July, 2017, that rate is set as $0.035 per kilowatt hour.
City of Seattle Community Power Works Loan Program: Seattle residents who make energy efficiency improvements to their homes can receive a loan, worth up to $50,000, through an area bank to use towards the purchase of efficiency equipment. Residents who secure that loan through Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union can include the purchase and installation of a solar energy system in their improvements. Interest rates are fixed between 4.25 percent and 8.74 percent, with loan terms up to 15 years.