solar rebates 101

Solar rebates 101

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There are many different types of solar incentives out there – tax credits, performance-based incentives, and solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) to name a few. Solar rebates are some of the most common solar incentives, and some of the easiest to understand. While not available in every solar market, those who can take advantage of rebates can significantly lower the upfront cost of going solar. 

In this article, we’ll give an overview of solar rebate incentives, provide sources for finding solar rebates in your area, and discuss how to apply for rebates for which you’re eligible.

An overview of solar rebates

Like other types of rebates, solar rebates are incentives paid upfront for installing solar. Solar rebate incentive values can range anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars, helping property owners achieve an even quicker payback on their solar investment. 

Rebates not only vary in value, but in how the value is determined: sometimes, governments or utilities offer rebates in fixed amounts, but more often than not, the rebate you receive depends on the size of your solar panel system. States, municipalities, or utility companies offering solar rebates often structure the incentive as a set dollar amount per kilowatt (kW) of solar installed, offering different values for residential versus commercial solar panel systems.

Importantly, not everyone who installs a solar panel system will receive a rebate: these incentives tend to be locally-based, so your eligibility is dependent upon where you live.

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So, are you eligible for any solar rebates?

Before moving forward with a solar panel installation, it’s important to understand your costs for and anticipated savings: solar incentives–including rebates–are a big part of that calculation, so you want to make sure you’re well-informed about any rebate offers in your area so you can save as much as possible. 

A good resource for this information is your potential solar installer: any experienced, reputable installer in your area will be aware of and knowledgeable about local rebates, having assisted customers through the process before. Typically, installers will include any applicable incentives in your installation quote or proposal, so you can see the incentives you’ll receive transparently from the start.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) is another great resource for learning about local solar incentives. The database is searchable by state and by renewable technology, making it easy to identify solar-specific incentives in your area.

Lastly, EnergySage also maintains our own state-specific pages about solar incentives. Take a look at this article and scroll down to the bottom of the page for a quick way to access our state-specific incentives guides.

How to claim solar rebates

After your solar panel system is up and running, how do you claim rebates? For the most part, the process depends on what type of rebate it is:

Rebates from state governments and/or utility companies

Rebates from your state and/or utility company can sometimes involve an intricate application process, but these types of rebates are often the most lucrative (making it well worth any extra effort).

The rules behind applying for state or utility rebates are typically stricter than requirements for other types of rebates: you may find that there are restrictions on the type of equipment you can use, on minimum or maximum system size requirements, or on which installers you can work with (and what certifications/licensing they need). An example of this is the Megawatt Rebate in New York: if you want to claim the incentive, you need to work with a pre-vetted, state-approved contractor.

Because of these regulations, applying for a state or utility rebate often requires the submission of detailed information about your solar equipment and system design, performance expectations, project costs, and/or installation company. More often than not, your solar installer will apply for these types of rebates on your behalf, or assist you with the process. Keep in mind that your local government and/or utility company may not pay you out for the rebate directly: sometimes, they give the rebate straight to your installation company, who simply subtracts the incentive amount from what they charge you. 

Rebates from installers

You may come across some installation companies offering seasonal rebates and other types of limited-time promotions to customers that move forward with them. If that’s the case, you likely don’t need to deal with a separate rebate application: you’ll simply sign the installation contract, and they’ll take the rebate amount directly out of your total costs.

Rebates from solar equipment manufacturers

Solar equipment manufacturers are increasingly offering rebates for installing their products. If your solar panel or inverter company has a promotion like this, you can likely apply for the rebate directly on their website. In order to receive the rebate, you may need to provide proof of installation, such as a photo, signed contract, and/or verification from your utility company that your system is up and running.

Some manufacturers also partner with EnergySage to offer rebates to people who install their products after finding an installer through our platform; as of February 2020, both Panasonic and LG provide rebates on EnergySage. If you’re claiming an equipment rebate through EnergySage, you’ll work directly with us once to receive the incentive once your system is up and running. 

Compare solar options on EnergySage

Interested in seeing how much you can save with solar rebates? Sign up on the EnergySage Marketplace to receive up to seven quotes from local, pre-screened installers. These quotes will include incentives you may be eligible for, including the federal tax credit and applicable local incentives. If you’d prefer to start with an estimate of solar costs and savings, try our Solar Calculator.

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About Kerry Thoubboron

Kerry has worked in solar for 5 years, starting out as an Energy Advisor helping customers compare their options and, ultimately, make well-informed solar decisions. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in Environmental Analysis and Policy. Outside of work, you can find Kerry snowboarding, watching The Office, or having passionate debates about which New England state is best (spoiler: it's Vermont).

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