It used to be that homeowners could receive some very generous upfront rebates that could offset 30% or more of the cost of installing a solar system. But as the price of installing solar PV has dramatically dropped over the last three years, so has the upfront rebates offered by states and utilities.
In addition to the wide spread decrease in rebate funding and amounts, many programs have switched from upfront payments that defer the cost of installing to performance based incentives that pay you a certain amount for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) produced by your solar system.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any upfront rebate programs left. In fact, there are many, but they’re just not as generous as they used to be, but then again, installed prices have significantly fallen too. (Also, keep in mind that all solar owners are eligible to receive the 30% solar investment tax credit until 2016 for even more savings and ROI!)
With the above in mind, the following is a random sampling of upfront solar rebates that we found on the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiencies (DSIRE). The links for each program are to the updated information from the actual utility or state authority, so we assume that this information is accurate as of this writing in mid July, 2014.
California Upfront Solar Rebates
Most of California has exhausted the funds for the state’s California Solar Initiative (CSI) program for home solar, but the good news is that many of California’s municipal utilities are still offering some type of upfront cash rebate.
City of Santa Clara’s Silicon Valley Power utility is offering $1.75/W AC for up to 10 kW. For a 5 kW system, that’s $8,750 off the price of installation. However, the amount is actively stepping down as systems go online, so the sooner you install, the higher your rebate.
City of Palo Alto’s electric utility is on its last rebate step, so get it while it lasts. Its program gives solar homeowners $.80/Watt AC for solar systems as large as 30 kW. For a 5 kW average system size, that’s $4000 off the price of solar.
City of Pasadena has its own Pasadena Solar Initiative (PSI) program that’s now offering an upfront residential solar rebate of $.85/Watt AC up to a 30 kW system size, which pencils out to $4250 in decreased solar install costs for a typical 5 kW home system.
Los Angeles’ LADWP municipal utility is offering just $.40/Watt AC for its solar rebate, up to the average 5 kW system size. So, the maximum rebate amount is now just $2,000 and continues to go down as more systems are installed in L.A.
San Diego’s solar rebate program is on its last legs, as well. As administered through CSE, the program administrator for San Diego Gas & Electric territory, the rebate is now only $.20/Watt AC, so that’s just $1,000 off an average 5 kW solar system.
New York Upfront Solar Rebates
New York, NY, it’s a hell of a town—or state—for upfront solar rebates! The state-wide NY-Sun Solar PV Incentive Program is giving away $1.00/Watt to solar systems 50 kW and under. That’s $5,000 in cash upfront for homeowners. Not bad.
Oregon Upfront Solar Rebates
Oregon’s Energy Trust solar incentive program is designed for customers of the state’s two largest utilities, Pacific Power and Portland General Electric.
- For Pacific Power, the solar rebate amount is $.70/Watt DC, up to $7,000 max. So, a 5kW system owner would see a $3,500 rebate.
- For Portland General Electric customers, you’ll currently receive $.95/Watt DC, up to $9,500. So, that’s a $4750 cash reduction for an average 5kW system.
Missouri Upfront Solar Rebates
Missouri’s solar rebates are available from the state’s three main utilities:
Ameren Missouri utility gives MO residents $1.50/Watt DC up to 25 kW or less up to a maximum rebate of $50,000. That’s knocking $7,500 off a 5 kW system’s cost. Not bad.
Columbia Water & Light offers a one-time $500/kW ($.50/Watt) rebate with a 10 kW cap. So, a 5 kW system would receive $2500 towards the upfront solar cost.
Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L) is as generous as Ameren, and will contribute $1.50/Watt up to $50,000 up to a 25 kW system size. Once again, that’s $7,500 towards a Kansas City, MO home’s solar power installation.
Texas Upfront Solar Rebates
San Antonio’s CPS Energy gives a relatively generous $1.60/Watt AC up to $25,000 or 50% of the system cost, whichever is less. So, a 5 kW system size example would give $8,000 to the homeowner. Not bad at all.
Austin, TX’s Austin Energy Power Saver Program gives residential customers $1.10/W AC to install solar with a maximum Incentive of $15,000 up to 20 kW AC. That translates to $5,500 in your pocket for our typical 5 kW system.
Dallas/Fort Worth/Waco’s Oncor Energy has a somewhat complicated upfront solar rebate program, but somewhat generous, as well. The utility currently gives $538.79/kW AC plus $0.41 kWh AC payment that’s based on expected performance. So, that’s $2693.95 upfront for our typical 5 kW example, plus the calculated value of $.41/kWh production estimate, which will vary based on location, solar panels, and other factors.
Massachusetts Upfront Solar Rebates
Finally, there’s Massachusetts, which not only offers a varying upfront solar rebate, but also a performance based incentive through the state’s SREC system.
Massachusetts’ Commonwealth Solar II is the upfront portion, and it consists of:
- A base incentive of $.25/Watt DC or $1,250 for a 5kW system size.
- If you install qualified Massachusetts Company Components, you get another $.05/Watt, and if you qualify for Moderate Home Value or Moderate Income, you’ll receive an additional $0.40/Watt.
- If you can qualify for Natural Disaster Relief, you’ll also receive an additional $1.00/Watt upfront.
Consequently, for a 5 kW example, you could receive up to $1.70/Watt in upfront rebates toward your Mass home solar system installation, or $8,500.
These incentives are just an example of what’s available around the U.S. today, but remember that even these somewhat substantial amounts are declining. So, if you’re thinking about going solar and benefiting from local rebates… think faster!