San Diego is one of the best places in the country to for a solar panel install. Lots of sunshine and a year-round temperate climate create the ideal conditions for solar panels, and high electricity rates mean that a solar energy system is an even smarter investment for your home or business. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about installing PV panels in San Diego, from the best solar companies in the area to SDG&E net metering policies and the cost of solar in San Diego.
How much do solar panels cost in San Diego?
As of the end of 2016, the average cost for solar panels in San Diego was $3.43 per watt. Since the average size off system in the U.S. is 5 kilowatts (or 5,000 watts), that means the average price of a solar system in San Diego is $17,150 before incentives or rebates.
Top solar companies in San Diego, CA
The process of finding the best solar company for you can feel overwhelming, particularly in a solar-loving state like California. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), California has over 1,000 companies that install solar panels, and you’ve probably encountered a few of them even before you started researching solar.
The solar company you choose is only one factor in your solar decision-making process, but it will have a significant impact on your overall experience. Installing solar panels in San Diego is an investment in your home that can be worth tens of thousands of dollars. Your solar installer should be a trusted advisor who can give you helpful, unbiased information and never try to pressure you into making a rushed decision.
The best solar company for your home or business depends on your preference. Some solar shoppers will prefer a big installer who has a large network and can provide an off-the-shelf solution with minimal input. If you prefer a large installer, Sullivan Solar Power and Stellar Solar are popular in the San Diego area. You can also find SolarCity in San Diego, although they primarily offer leases and PPAs.
If you prefer to be more involved in your solar installation and want the customized attention that a small business can offer, there are also plenty of smaller local installers in the San Diego solar market. SolarIcon, GR8 Energy, SolarMax Technology, and SuperGreen Solutions all operate in the San Diego area and have at least a four-star average rating on EnergySage. If you’re interested in buying solar panels in San Diego, you can easily get competing quotes from these companies at no cost by signing up on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace.
SDG&E net metering and other things to know about installing solar panels in San Diego
Net metering is a key policy that makes the economics of solar favorable for homeowners and businesses. It enables you to send your excess solar electricity back to the grid in exchange for bill credits. When your solar panels produce more than you need, you “bank” the excess to use when your panels don’t produce enough to meet your monthly use. If your system is the right size, net metering makes it possible for you to cover your electricity use for the entire year with solar.
California has more solar than any other state in the country, and its net metering policies have been up for review more than once. At the end of 2015, the California Public Utilities Commission decided that the state will continue to offer the program for the next few years, and made a few minor changes to its existing policy.
The next-generation policy, known as “NEM 2.0,” is implemented by individual utilities as they reach their maximum capacity under the old policy. San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) was the first utility to reach its cap, and it’s expected that the rest of the state will be on NEM 2.0 by summer 2017.
SDG&E’s new net metering policy is fairly similar to the old policy. There are three main differences that you can expect:
- Time-of-use (TOU) rates: Every property owner who installs a new solar energy system will automatically be switched to TOU rates for their electric bills. If you have TOU rates, you pay different rates for your electricity depending on the time of day and the season. The rates are highest in the afternoon and evening during the summer, and lowest during nights and weekends in the winter. You can find the exact prices for solar TOU rates in the Schedule DR SES on SDG&E’s website.
- Interconnection fee: Residential and small commercial system owners now have to pay a one-time fee of $132 to connect their solar panels to the grid under NEM 2.0.
- Non-bypassable charges: Non-bypassable charges (NBCs) are per-kilowatt hour charges that are built into SDG&E’s electric rates. They pay for energy efficiency, low-income customer assistance, and other related programs. In the original net metering policy, system owners did not have to pay NBCs on the electricity that they bought from the utility on a month-to-month basis. Under NEM 2.0, you will have to pay NBCs on any electricity delivered to you by the utility.
Now that you understand NEM 2.0, it’s time for the real question – how much does solar cost in San Diego? We looked at quotes offered by EnergySage installers in cities and towns across the greater San Diego area to give you a sense of the prices that are commonly offered to EnergySage solar shoppers on the Solar Marketplace. We also compared them to the San Diego market at large to illustrate why it pays to compare multiple solar offers before you buy.
Cost of solar panels in San Diego table
|City/Town||EnergySage solar cost ($/W)||Non-EnergySage solar cost ($/W)|
Once installed, the average homeowner who installed solar panels in San Diego on EnergySage was able to break even on their investment in under seven years and saw net 20-year savings of anywhere from $25,000 to $75,000. Take a look at EnergySage’s Solar Data Explorer for California to get more up-to-date costs and savings specific to your area. It’s important to note that the prices listed above represent the gross cost, not the net cost. The total price tag for these systems is significantly lower than you see above thanks to the 30 percent federal investment tax credit for solar and other rebates, tax breaks and financial incentives.
Three tips for solar shoppers in San Diego
When it comes to getting solar quotes, the more the merrier
Buying a solar panel system is a lengthy process that should include a lot of research. Amidst the decision-making process should be a thorough consideration of every option available to you and every installer that serves San Diego. Remember, California is the top market for solar in America, and there are plenty of solar companies to consider.
Of course, in order to find the best small contractors in San Diego that are not on billboard ads or in TV commercials, you’ll need to use an installer network like EnergySage. If you’d like to start getting quotes from San Diego installers today, register your property on our Solar Marketplace – homeowners who get 3 or more quotes can expect to save ten percent or more on their solar installation.
The largest installer will not always quote you the best price
The “bigger isn’t always better” premise is one of the main reasons we strongly recommend that homeowners consider every option available to them, especially in big solar markets like San Diego. A recent report by the U.S. government found that large installers like SolarCity and Sunrun charge higher prices than small companies to the same customer. While the small San Diego installers on EnergySage offer lower prices to compete for your business, the top 3 solar companies feel no need offer a competitive quote.
If you have quotes from some of the big installers in solar, make sure you compare those bids with quotes from local installers in your area to ensure you don’t overpay for solar. (Remember that the prices displayed in the above data tables reflect quotes received on EnergySage – prices from bigger installers will be higher on average).
Comparing multiple equipment options is crucial
Just as big installers do not offer the best price because they face reduced competition, they will also feel no pressure to offer a selection of solar equipment – they may even only offer one brand of solar panel and inverter. For this reason, it is imperative to get multiple solar bids so you can compare costs and savings based on the different equipment packages available to you.
Certain panels will have much higher efficiency ratings than others and depending on where you live in San Diego and the roof type you have, you may not need to pay more for premium solar equipment. There are multiple variables to consider when seeking out the best solar panels on the market. Your roof may best suit a more affordable economy solar panel – the only way to find out is to look at quotes that have different equipment and financing offers.
For any San Diego homeowner in the early stage of solar shopping that would just like a ballpark estimate for a solar installation, try our Solar Calculator that offers up front cost and long term savings estimates based on your location and roof type. For those looking to get quotes from local installers today, check out our quote comparison platform.