Your 2019 guide to getting solar panels for your home in Connecticut
This page is a complete guide to the complicated and sometimes confusing process of installing solar panels on your Connecticut home. Since there's a lot to consider, we've separated the page into sections to help you find what you are looking for. If you find this page useful, please share it with someone who might also find it interesting!
** What's new for 2019 **
Big, important news:
You may notice above that Connecticut currently enjoys a State Solar Policy Grade of "A". As of early 2019, that grade is correct, but state legislators are engaged in re-writing the rules that govern solar power in Connecticut, and it doesn't look good. If the current proposals take effect—as they likely will by October, 2019—that grade would change instantly from an A to a C, with payback time for the average home solar installation would increase from 8 years (currently) to as many as 20 years.
Moreover, the home solar industry in the Connecticut could be nearly dead by the end of 2019, and thousands of solar workers out of a job, unless legislators act now to stop what is sure to be a disastrous plan to end net metering and replace it with a new ultra low feed-in tariff. If you live in Connecticut, call your legislators today and ask them to extend net metering before the end of 2019!
Until this year, Connecticut has ranked in the top ten states for solar policy, and also in solar installations per year for the past few years. With net metering offered for 20 years for people who install solar in 2019, the financials look great for those who install now. People who wait will miss out.
If you live in any of the below areas, click to learn more about our strategy for getting home solar that pays you back quickly and makes big profits over time:
Otherwise, read on to find out the best way to go solar in Connecticut, and get personalized recommendations for next steps!
Questions? Our network of solar experts are on call to assist you. Simply sign up for personalized assistance on our special solar deals page. You can get discounted on-grid pricing as low as $4,000/kW! This is paired with the Connecticut solar incentives you see below.
The Solar Strategy section is focused on the 3 ways of paying for solar in Connecticut, so you can decide which is best for you. We've created a tool that asks you a few questions and recommends whether you should pursue a solar lease, loan, or outright purchase. Then, we provide detailed analysis of how each works.
The Policy Information section contains all our latest research on the rules set by lawmakers and the Public Utilities Commission, which determine how easy it is to go solar in Connecticut. These policies and rules govern everything from renewable energy mandates to interconnection, and have a huge effect on the viability of solar.
Finally, the Solar Incentives section includes information about money-back rebates and grants, tax credits, and tax exemptions for going solar in Connecticut.
Click any of the boxes below to go to that section of the page, or scroll down to read the page in order.
|Your Connecticut Solar Strategy|
|Comparing Solar Investment Options|
|Paying Cash for Solar in Connecticut|
|Solar Loans in Connecticut|
|Solar PPAs in Connecticut|
|Solar Purchase Payback Time in Connecticut|
|Connecticut Solar Policy Information|
|Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)|
|RPS Solar Carve-Out|
Your Solar Strategy in Connecticut
Figuring out the best way to go solar in Connecticut can be a little daunting. From loans and leases to power-purchase agreements, there are a lot of options out there. To help you pick the one that might be best, we've created the handy decision tool below.
We'll ask you a few simple questions about you and your home. Once you're done, we'll recommend a good option. Further down this page, we provide cost estimates and example return-on-investment calculations for all the various options:
How to pay for solar panels in Connecticut
The chart above shows the 25-year returns for an investment in solar whether you choose to purchase a system with cash or pay over time with a loan or power-purchase agreement. The average home in Connecticut needs a 7.5-kW solar system made up of twenty-three 325-watt panels, which can produce about 8,750 kilowatt-hours (kWh) and save the you, the homeowner over $1,800 in electricity the first year.
Paying with cash for solar leads to the highest dollar-amount returns over time, and the savings are HUGE in CT. But paying up front requires a big cash investment. If you don't have the cash, you can take a solar loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). Your payments over 15 years will be only a little more than your savings, and you'll still come out tens of thousands ahead in the end. A third option for going solar in Connecticut is called a Power-Purchase Agreement, or PPA, which means what it says; A solar company installs a home solar system on your roof at no cost to you, and you agree to buy all the energy made by the system, at a lower price per-kWh than you were paying to the utility! It's a win-win, but it results in smaller savings than if you own the system yourself, because in a PPA, the solar company earns all the state and federl incentives.
If you're ready to learn more about how to pay for solar in Connecticut, read on to find out more about each option.
Option 1: Paying cash for solar
An outright purchase used to be the only way to get solar, and it's still the option that provides the best dollar-for-dollar returns. The reason it's so great is that you own the system from day one and reap all the benefits. The Federal and State tax credit and electricity savings bring your first-year costs way down.
In our example, you put down just over $22,000 up front, but by the end of year 1, incentives and energy savings will erase a bunch of it. Over 25 years, your system will have produced over $49,000 in income. The reason this works so well is that electricity in Connecticut is EXPENSIVE. Solar offsets enough of it to save you nearly $1,850 in year 1, and it just goes up from there. As the electric company raises rates, you save more and more, and more.
Now, even though those savings sound huge, you should look into the look into the solar loan option too, because taking a loan to buy an income-generating asset means you'll be saving more money than your loan payments. It's like being able to start a business that is sure to succeed, just by having a roof.
Here’s how the numbers pencil out when you pay up front for a 7.5-kW rooftop solar system in Connecticut:
- Installing a typical 7.5kW solar system should start at about $22,000 after the state's generous rebate. That's cheaper than solar has ever been, but it still might seem like a big investment. Don’t worry, because after tax breaks and energy savings, your first-year costs will be considerably less than that.
- The Feds calculate their incentive based on actual out of pocket costs, so take 30% of $22,000, for a tax credit of $6,600. Your total investment is now down to just $15,400.
- After the tax credit we subtract your first year’s energy savings, which we estimate to be $1,850. That reduces your cost after the first year to only $13,550.
- Your system will pay for itself in just 8 years, and over its 25-year life, you'll see a total net profit of $49,700. The internal rate of return for this investment is a stupendous 15.8%!
- And don't forget... your home's value just increased by almost $15,000, too (your cost after the rebate and tax credit)!
- In addition to all that cash (and home value), you’ve created some green for the earth as well by not using electricity from fossil fuels. It's like planting 146 trees a year, every year your solar power system is humming.
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Connecticut. If you're ready for a custom quote for a solar panel system, our network of experts are on call to assist you. Simply sign up for personalized assistance on our special solar deals page.
Option 2: Using a loan to pay for solar
Don't have $20,000 sitting around to pay for solar? No sweat! As long as you have good credit or equity in your home, you can still own solar panels and reap all the benefits. Heck, even if you do have the cash, getting a loan to pay for solar is by far the best option when it comes to percentage return on investment.
That’s because, in Connecticut, using a loan to pay for solar is like investing in a business that's sure to succeed, and also earns you a tax break. Your energy bill savings will be greater than your loan payments from day 1, meaning you'll never have to spend a cent on solar, and at the end of year 1, you'll get 30% of the installed cost back from the Federal governement as a tax credit.
Once the loan is paid off, you'll be making almost $2,800/year in profits, netting tens of thousands over the 25-year life of your system.
A solar purchase like this will make sense for you if the following is true about you and your current situation:
- You can qualify for a solar loan or home-equity line of credit (HELOC) for $22,000, with a fixed rate of 4.5% or lower and a 15-year repayment period.
- You love making money without much risk
Here’s how the numbers pencil out for a Connecticut solar purchase with a solar loan:
- Installing a typical 7.5-kW solar system should start at about $22,000, after Connecticut's excellent solar rebate. That's how big your loan will need to be to cover it.
- The electricity you'll save in the first year of operation would have cost $1,800, but your annual loan payments will be just $2,000, meaning you'll end up spending a net of about $200 this year on loan payments.
- But wait—add on another $6,600 when that tax credit comes in! You'll come out $6,400 ahead in year 1, which should help ease the burden of loan payments for a few years, at least.
- The benefits of taking the loan are so great that after the loan is paid off, your profits stack up just like if you bought the system outright. You'll end up with more than $41,000 in profits over our 25-year example—all without putting a single penny into it. That's HUGE.
- On top of the green that will stay in your pocket, your system will mean green for the environment, too. 146 trees-worth, every year!
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Connecticut. If you're ready for a custom quote for a solar loan, our network of experts are on call to assist you. Simply sign up for personalized assistance on our special solar deals page.
Option 3: Buying the electricity, not the panels with a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)
Connecticut residents have long enjoyed the ability to get solar from a third-party company and pay monthly, and a Power-Purchase Agreement (PPA) is still a great way to go. The state legislature and public utilities commissions are really into solar, so there isn't much reason to worry that utility companies will start trying to impose monthly fees on solar homeowners like they have in other states.
For now, a signing up for a PPA on a 7.5-kW solar system can save you about $50 per month, which is some of the biggest savings in the country. You can put $0 down and start saving right away. Those small monthly savings add up to huge money over the 20-year term, too, and renewaing that term up to 25 years is possible to maximize your savings without hassle.
How a PPA works
Essentially, signing up for a PPA is like adding a second utility company with better prices. In Connecticut, our estimate for the starting price of a PPA is $.14/kWh. Compared to the Connecticut average utility price of $.21/kWh (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2018), that's a huge savings! It works because your solar company can take advantage of bulk pricing and federal incentives programs to reduce their overall cost, and charge you pennies on the dollar for solar electricity to recoup their up-front investment.
Of course, PPAs still mean signing up to do business long-term with a solar company, so choose wisely and make sure you read the contract from start to finish. PPAs usually include an "escalator clause" that raises the price you pay for every kWh by a set percentage every year. The increase is usually 2%, and assumes a utility company increase of 2.5% or more, depending on your utility's historical price increases. Make sure you're comfortable and aware of this clause before signing up.
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Connecticut. If you're ready for a custom quote for a solar PPA, our network of experts are on call to assist you. Simply sign up for personalized assistance on our special solar deals page.
Connecticut Solar Policy Information
Ever wonder why solar seems to be everywhere in some states, but not in others? We did too.
State legislatures and public utilities commissions can enact rules to make solar power accessible for everyone. Favorable rules explain why some of the cloudiest states—New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, are doing so well with solar, and yet some of those with the most natural solar resources—like Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia—are doing so poorly.
Below is important information about the public policy, rules, and economic reasons that affect your ability to go solar here in Connecticut:
40% by 2030
A Renewables Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) requires utilities in the state to eventually source at least a certain percentage of their electricity from clean, renewable sources like solar panels.
Connecticut has an aggressive yet complicated RPS law, which puts the state among the best for renewable energy. The short version is that Connecticut utilities (both of them) must supply 40% of their power with clean, renewable energy by January 1, 2030. The longer version is how they classify renewable energy. They break it down into Class I, Class II, and Class III renewable energy sources.
- Class I contains our friend residential solar; mixed in with 10 other sources like wind, fuel cells, methane gas, and all kinds of ocean power. 40% of the states energy must come from Class I sources by 2030, and again that includes solar.
- Class II and III, which include garbage burning, waste heat recovery, combined heat and power systems, and ebergy efficiency—must make up 4% each of the total energy portfolio.
Connecticut's RPS may be complicated, but what you need to know about it is it means the government's got your back. They're telling the utility companies that renewable energy is a priority, and the RPS law is set up to levy high fines against the companies unless they get with the program.
The RPS also works hand-in-hand with the Connecticut Green Bank’s Residential Solar Investment program, which offers incentives to homeowners who install solar panels. Those incentives are paid for by the utility companies, and will be through 2022. Thanks, CT lawmakers!
What's an RPS? Your state legislature paves the way for strong solar energy incentives to flourish by setting standards for renewable energy generation within their territories. Those standards are called the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). If utility companies do not meet these standards, they must pay alternative compliance fees directly to the state. Many utilities then determine the best ways to source their energy from renewable sources that are less expensive than this fee.
An RPS is a mandate that says "Hey utilities! Y'all now have to make a certain percentage of your electricity from renewable sources. If not, you'll have to pay us huge fines." The consequences are good, because utilities usually try to meet these RPS standards by creating solar power incentives for you, the homeowner. Read more about Renewable Portfolio Standards.
RPS solar carve out
While the state’s RPS has no official solar carve out (i.e., a specific amount of electricity that must come from solar), Connecticut is serious about clean energy, and has squirreled away some dough over the years into the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund. Starting June of 2011, the Clean Energy Finance Authority (CEFIA) has a mandate to create 30 new megawatts of residential solar by the end of 2022.
What's a solar set aside? A solar set aside guarantees a specific portion of the overall renewable energy mix generated comes from the sun. For those states with progressive standards, high alternative compliance payments, and clear solar carve outs, the faster those areas become ripe for solar.
Some states have higher alternative compliance fees than others, and some states have more progressive alternative energy standards and deadlines than others do.
For instance, New Jersey has an overall RPS of 22.5% by the year 2021. That requires local utilities to source 22.5% of their energy mix from renewable sources by the year 2021. Pretty good. However, New Jersey also has a specific solar set aside of 4.1% by 2028. That’s the type of firm commitment which really gets the industry rolling forward. No wonder why New Jersey is one of the hottest solar markets right now!
Connecticut Electricity Prices
Connecticut may be a relatively small state, but the electricity prices sure aren't. The average retail price for electricity is 21 cents per kWh, compared to a national average about 13.6 cents/kWh.
And those 21-cent prices aren’t going down anytime soon, folks. It looks like a rate of about 3.5% increases will be constant going forward, and that’s without unforeseen spikes in price caused by regulation, instability, and more. With solar panels on your home, you are protected from rises in prices; in fact, when the prices go up, you get paid more for the electricity your system generates!
We would expect some savvy customers might be thinking about jumping ship and going solar! Fortunately, there is a photovoltaic life raft for you to swim out to - one Connecticut has created for itself in the last decade.
Why are electricity prices so important? Because that is what solar power is directly competing against. The cost to produce power with solar is relatively constant (of course how much sun hits your area has an effect), so if you are paying $0.40 per watt for power, then you make FOUR TIMES AS MUCH as the guy or girl paying $0.10 per watt electricity.
The caveat here is that if the $0.10 per watt person has a HUGE rebate, they may be better off than the $0.40 per watt person. Because of that, states without any renewable standards tend to be heavily reliant on cheap coal for electricity, and also have very low electricity prices. When electricity prices are artificially low, that hinders the ability of solar energy to achieve meaningful payback in the state.
Connecticut Net Metering
Statewide (for now)
With net metering if you generate more power than you need, you’ll get a credit on your next bill. In Connecticut, they call each kWh your system generates above your usage a NEG (Net Excess Generation). Those NEGs keep rolling over into the next month until the customer uses them all. The utility must pay the customer annually for every NEG that makes its way to the end of the year.
At least, that's how it works for now. Under a 2018 law, Connecticut will cease offering net metering for residential customers when its residential solar investment program expires in 2022. If you install solar panels on your home before then, you'll receive net metering compensation through December 31, 2039.
If, however you miss the boat on Connecticut net metering, you'll be subject to whatever "feed-in tariff" (FIT) your utility company manages to push through the state's Public Utilities Commission. A FIT is the price you get paid for a kWh of solar energy, and the FITs in Connecticut are sure to be less than the price you'll be paying for electricity from the utility company.
If you want our advice, get multiple quotes for solar now, and get on net metering before it's too late. We haven't knocked CT's grade for net metering down to a "B" so far, but we can't promise it won't end up there soon.
What is net metering? Net metering is the billing arrangement where you can sell excess electricity back to your utility for equal the amount you are charged to consume it. The more customer friendly net metering policies, the higher the grade.
The grade here specifically reflects individual solar system capacity, caps on program capacity limits, restrictions on “rollover” of kWh from one month to the next (yep just like cell phone minutes), metering issues (like charges for new meters), Renewable Energy Credit (REC) ownership, eligible customers and technology (the more renewables the better), being able to aggregate meters across the property for net metering, and safe harbor provisions to protect customers from solar tariff changes.
Connecticut Interconnection Rules
Interconnection rules basically lay out requirements for how an energy-generating system is tied to the utility’s power grid. Connecticut has an opportunity to improve in this area by removing requirements for redundant external disconnect switches and liability insurance, but otherwise things are looking good.
Interconnection rules are a little technical, but they basically allow you to “plug in” to the electric grid with solar panels on your roof. The more complex, out of date, or nonsensical the state rules are for plugging into the grid, the lower the grade.
Specifically, the grade reflects what technologies are eligible, individual system capacity, removing interconnection process complexity for smaller systems, interconnection timelines and charges, engineering charges, prohibiting the requirement of unnecessary external disconnects, certification, spot interconnection vs. wide area interconnection, technical screens, friendliness of legalese, insurance requirements, dispute resolution, and rule coverage.
Solar Incentives in Connecticut
Next to high electricity prices and net metering, solar incentives have traditionally been the most important factor for whether home solar power makes financial sense in a state. In the past, some states with otherwise lousy policy had tremendous incentives that drove down the up-front cost of going solar so much that homeowners could save oodles of money even without net metering or a good RPS.
These days, the big incentive most people can get is the Federal Solar Tax Credit that earns you 30% of your costs back after just 1 year. State incentives play less of a role than in the past, but some really good ones are still out there, ready to help homeowners go solar and save money before you know it.
Let's see how Connecticut measures up:
Connecticut Solar Power Rebates
$400-487 per kW, up to $8,870
Connecticut has generous solar power rebates for all the PV equipment you could ever need or want, up to a 20-kilowatt installation. If you use enough energy to justify a 10-kW system, the state offers $463 back per kW, and $400/kW for a system sized larger than your usage, up to 20kW, meaning the max you can get from the program is $8,630.
Keep in mind that Connecticut calculates the solar rebate amount based on kW PTC, which basically means "real-world performance," and not the panel rating, expressed as watts of DC power. STC tends to be around 10% less than panel rating, so a panel rated for 250 watts has a PTC of about 225 watts.
That 225 watts is multiplied by 46.3 cents to equal about $104 per panel, and a typical 20-panel system (rated for 5 kW) would earn a rebate of about $2,083.
The current round of funding for the rebate program has $10 million available, with a total of $40 million for the program. Be sure to follow the steps to have your Connecticut solar installation certified, and you can count on a really nice rebate.
The state also offers incentives for third-party companies who install and maintain solar panels on homes and lease the systems to homeowners, which makes Connecticut one of the best places in the country for solar leasing!
How do solar rebates work? Similar to getting a rebate card from your local big box store for a dishwasher purchase, state legislatures also provide rebates for solar panel purchases to spur on investment and create new jobs. If you purchase the solar panel system yourself, you qualify for this free cash, which many times is a lump payment back to you. Some solar installers like to take this amount directly off the total installed price, and they'll handle the paperwork for you to make things a lot less complex.
The availability of state and utility rebates were sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency. The better the rebates, the higher the grade.
Connecticut Solar Power Tax Credits
Connecticut doesn’t offer a tax credit for installing solar panels on your home, but don’t worry! The US government offers a 30% federal tax credit for homeowners who go solar. And Connecticut is helping to finance solar and other energy improvements for all homeowners through their local governments. There are several programs available based on whether you want to get a loan or just lease a solar system.
About state solar tax credits: State tax credits are not technically free money. However, they are 'credits' and not 'deductions' which means that if you have the tax appetite to take advantage of them, then they can be a 1-to-1 dollar amount off your taxes instead of a fraction of the cost of the system. So that means they can be an important factor to consider. In certain circumstances, state tax credits can provide a very powerful incentive for people to go solar.
(Keep in mind, we are not tax professionals and give no tax advice so please consult a professional before acting on anything we say related to taxes)
The availability of personal tax credits for solar energy were sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency. The higher the tax credit amount, the higher the grade.
Solar Power Performance Payments
Payments for ZRECs
To meet their RPS goals, power companies can either pay you for the zero-emission renewable energy credits (ZRECs) you generate with your solar panels, or they have the option of making “Alternative Compliance Payments” to the state. The real bummer is you cannot accept both the payments for your ZRECs and the rebates available for your system.
As of 2016, the Alternative Compliance Payments are too low to justify a switch from receiving Connecticut's solar rebate to getting payments for your ZRECs. The state’s two investor owned utilities, Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) and United Illuminating Company (UI) will simply continue to keep paying those lower fees instead of lining your wallet.
Stay tuned for any changes in the cost of those Alternative Compliance Payments. Until then, Performance Payments (though they exist) are kind of a moot point for Connecticut homeowners.
Explanation of performance payments: Performance payments represent a big chunk of the financial rationale for going solar, and in many instances they make your decision a wise one. For certain states, if you’ve got solar panels on your roof, not only will you be cutting your electric bill down to size, but you'll be getting paid additional cash from your utility company. Pretty awesome, huh? Not only are you generating electricity for yourself, freezing your own popsicles with sun, and feeling like you’re doing something smart for your children or any of the other 4 reasons people go solar, but you are getting PAID!
Utility companies are paying people with solar panels on their roofs because their states say they have to, otherwise they will pay a fee. Therefore, the payment amount to homeowners is typically a little bit less than the amount they would be billed for by the state. For states with these alternative compliance fees, Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) exchanges have popped up. In the above chart, we outlined an estimate of yearly payments a homeowner might expect from the utility company for the SREC credits from their solar energy system.
Expected SREC payments were calculated by using the latest trade values in the SRECtrade database. The availability of feed-in tariffs were sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency. The higher the expected monthly payments, the higher the grade.
We've got a great article if you like to read more about what SRECs are and how to earn them.
Property Tax Exemption
When solar panels are installed on your home, its value increases. We’re talking many thousands of dollars of instant property value goodness. But wait, that isn’t even the best news! Connecticut has provided residents a way out of paying more property taxes for putting solar panels on their roofs since 1977, thanks to the property tax exemption. As long as you file a claim with the board of assessors before the first day of November in the applicable assessment year, you will not have to pay a single penny more in property taxes for that shiny new PV system. Brilliant, Connecticut!
About solar property tax exemptions: Property tax exemption status is a pretty big factor when putting together your investment considerations. Some argue that solar power adds approximately 20 times your annual electricity bill savings (if you are owning the system and not leasing). Other studies seem to indicate a home price premium about equal to the cost of installing the system, minus any incentives like the federal solar tax credit.
For many average-sized solar power systems on a house, that can mean adding $20,000 to your home value. And if you don't believe us, believe the bean counters: Many banks and solar financing companies now offer traditional style equity-based home loans for installing solar. An additional $20,000 in property tax basis in many states amounts to a big chunk of change owed back to the state. However, many states have complete exemptions from added taxes when you install solar on your home!
The availability of a property tax exemption for solar energy was sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency. Grades in this category are basically all-or-nothing. Either you got it or you don't. Thankfully, many states have "got it.".
Sales Tax Exemption
A solar installation in Connecticut is also 100% exempt from sales taxes, saving you 6.35% right out of the gate!
What's the deal with solar power sales tax exemptions? When states give you a sales tax break on solar, we notice. You should too. State sales tax exemption status for the purchase of solar energy systems were sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency. Sales tax exemptions, if present, were all 100%. A handful of states are completely exempt from sales tax regardless, and therefore received ‘A’ grades by default (OR, DE, MT, AK, and NH).
The consensus on Connecticut solar power rebates and incentives
Connecticut has made the right size commitment to create a solar power market. Having the funding for solar energy was no accident. Connecticut set up the CCEF in 2000 for that aim, and started putting money away (out of everyone’s utility bill) to make that possible today. Strong utility rebates and the possibility for great financing deals are great ways to get more Connecticut homeowners into the solar game.
Although Connecticut’s legislation around solar is nearly unassailable, there is still some room for improvement. The incentives they provide residential solar customers overlap somewhat with utility-scale renewable energy applications, leaving the code more complex for homeowners than it needs to be.
When it comes to performance payments, Connecticut could make them more attractive by increasing the price of a ZREC. If utilities didn’t have sweet Alternative Payments to turn to, they would be looking to buy them from solar powered home owners every time.
Well, that’s about it for Connecticut. It’s a great state for homeowners looking to go solar, albeit with some complexities to navigate. The good news is that you can contact one of our trusted installers to help walk you through the process, complete with as many free quotes as the savvy shopper in your heart desires.