In 2016, solar panel installations grew by 95 percent in the United States, a trend that is expected to continue in 2017. Though there was strong growth in solar nationwide, installations are increasing at an expedited rate in concentrated areas of the country. Washington State has witnessed a 64% decline in solar prices over the past five years and, according to SEIA, is forecasted to see a whopping 278 MW of solar installed over the next five. Seattle is quickly becoming one of the best cities for solar in America thanks to Washington’s great payback incentive and net-metering policy as well as the city of Seattle’s growing market competition.
How much do solar panels cost in Seattle?
As of the beginning of 2017, the average cost of solar panels in Seattle was $3.54 per watt. Since the mean system size in the U.S. is 5 kilowatts (5,000 watts), that means the average price of a solar system in Seattle, WA is $17,700 before incentives.
When you consider that this price does not even include the significant ITC discount (30% off the system cost), it’s already evident that Seattle has some very attractive prices for solar. However, when you compare Seattle’s solar market to the rest of the state, the value is even more staggering. Thanks to strong competition among installers and a pro-renewables culture, Seattle’s market shines above the rest of the Evergreen State.
Washington solar pricing table: Seattle compared to state average costs
|System size||Washington average cost (Post ITC)||Seattle average cost (post ITC)|
*Values in this table include the 30% discount from the Federal solar tax subsidy (ITC)
The above table, which uses pricing data from solar quotes given to homeowners on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace in 2016, offers a comparison of city and state level prices for solar. When you consider that Seattle’s solar prices are often $1,000 or less than the state average, it’s easy to understand why the home of Starbucks and Airbnb is also home to a growing rooftop solar market.
How does Washington’s performance based incentive work?
When you compare the cost of solar in the state of Washington to the overall U.S., the average price is roughly the same. However, Washington has an added payback incentive that boosts the economics of solar in the Evergreen State. Many Washington utilities offer a payback incentive to homeowners based on the performance of their solar panel system every year. The performance is measured in the metric of kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity and pays $0.15 to $0.54 per kWh produced by your panels (the range is dependent on whether or not you install local equipment).
In simple terms, you can think of the payback incentive as a hefty check from your utility every year based on how much your solar system produces. To provide some context, the average solar system production by Washington homeowners in 2016 was over 8,000 kilowatt-hours which would equate to somewhere between $2,000 and $4,500 paid back each year. However, this program is set to expire in 2020. If you install your system in 2017, you will have a few more years to leverage these utility payments and expedite your payback period.
In addition, the Evergreen State also has a very solar-friendly net-metering policy that allows homeowners to access the grid for storage and receive bill credits when their solar system overproduces. Net metering can also significantly improve the economics of solar because, in most cases, it eliminates the need to buy a storage product for energy use during nighttime such as a solar battery.
How Seattle homeowners can save big with solar energy
Though the low cost and enticing incentives for solar in the city of Seattle are primary selling points, the long-term savings and ROI for solar make it even more attractive. Due to rising electricity prices in the greater Seattle area, solar homeowners in Washington see significant utility bill savings: in 2016, the solar quotes Seattle homeowners received on EnergySage yielded 20-year savings estimates of $8,320 on average.
However, what isn’t captured in that value is the impact you as an active solar shopper can have on your long term savings based on how much research you do and how well you know the market, bringing us to our…
Three tips for solar shoppers in Seattle, Washington
Homeowners who get multiple quotes save 10% or more
Buying a solar panel system is a lengthy process that will and should include a lot of research. Amidst your decision-making process should be a thorough review of every option available to you and every installer that serves the Seattle area. Remember, Seattle has one of the most active markets in the U.S. – there are plenty of companies to consider.
In order to find the best solar contractors in Seattle you’ll need to use an installer network like EnergySage. If you’d like to start getting quotes from Seattle installers today, register your property on our Solar Marketplace – homeowners who get 3+ quotes can expect to save $5,000 to $10,000 on their solar panel installation.
The biggest installers typically do not offer 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. A recent report by NREL confirmed that large installers charge upwards of 10% more for a solar panel system than smaller installers quoting the same customers.
If you have quotes from some of the big installers in solar, make sure you upload those bids to EnergySage and compare them 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 are higher on average).
Comparing multiple equipment options is crucial
National-scale installers don’t just offer higher prices – they also tend to have fewer solar equipment options, which can have a significant impact on your system’s electricity production. For this reason, it is imperative to get several solar bids so you can compare costs and savings based on the different equipment packages available to you.
There are multiple variables to consider when seeking out the best solar panels on the market. While certain panels will have higher efficiency ratings than others, investing in top-of-the-line solar equipment doesn’t always result in higher savings. The only way to find the “sweet spot” for your property is to evaluate quotes with varying equipment and financing offers.
For any Seattle homeowner in the early stage of solar shopping that would just like a ballpark estimate for an installation, try our Solar Calculator which offers up front cost and long term savings estimates based on your own location and roof type. For those looking to get quotes from local installers today, check out our quote comparison platform.