Have you been considering installing solar panels, but you are not sure where to start? Welcome to this common dilemma. I was in the same place just a few months ago. I'll share my experience in the hopes that it may help you.
It started with a telemarketing call while I was driving. I generally and successfully avoid those calls like the plague, but I was caught at a weak moment. When I realized they were trying to sell me on solar installation, at first I wanted to just end the call, but I was interested in solar so I ended up letting it play out.
In the end, I began talking with a solar expert who showed me an option in which case a 20-year financing of the solar installation would be more than 'covered' by monthly savings on my electric bill. If you live in one of the following states, contact us, and we can connect you with the same expert who can facilitate your installation: South or North Carolina, Illinois, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, California, and Nevada. And, if you are in another state, we are frequently adding to the list, and we are happy to answer any questions we can.
After some back-and-forth and an installer coming out to do an inspection, we agreed to a plan which included the installation of 26 panels (about 8 KW) which are made in the USA (important to me). The installer handled all of the work obtaining permits from my town and power company. I needed to get approval from my HOA, and I handled that piece.
The panels were installed, and I am now waiting for the installer to complete the process of getting approval from the town, and securing approval from my power company to allow system activation and to start net metering.
'Net metering' is something that many power companies offer which essentially turns your electrical grid into a big battery. As you generate solar power, it is fed into the grid (many agreements credit you equally for the cost of power generated versus power consumed). Your electrical bills then become a bill of the electricity you consume in excess of the solar power generated.
Unfortunately, in the event of a power outage, your solar power is not available for your own use unless you also install a battery to store solar power. This is done to avoid feeding solar power into the grid and risking harm to the people working on downed electrical lines. I anticipate the technology will improve in this area, but we are also seeing improvement to battery technology that can add a layer of protection to any changes in net metering and adding an ability to potentially operate 'off grid'. Since I live in an area prone to hurricanes and extended power outages, I'll probably bite the bullet and add a battery to my system.
The key thing that makes this all practical and economically feasible are federal and state incentives throughout the country. For Federal, there is a 30% federal tax credit in 2019, but this is currently planned to decrease starting in 2020. In my state of South Carolina, there is also a 25% state tax credit right now! This could mean that 55% of the cost of panel installation could be effectively paid back as tax refunds. The tax credit also extends to my battery installation to the extent I use the battery to store solar power (which is my plan). These tax credits are only refunded against tax obligations, but carryover to future tax years is possible. Please check the details with your state and tax advisor so you are sure of the implications. After the federal tax credit which is effective throughout the United States, incentives vary and may be offered by state, municipality, or utility company. This link is helpful for viewing solar policies and incentives by state.