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2019 Policy Grade


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Congratulations! You've found the ultimate guide to going solar in Idaho

2019 Policy Grade


Avg. Savings/year


Your 2019 guide to getting solar panels for your home in Idaho

This page is a complete guide to the complicated and sometimes confusing process of installing solar panels on your Idaho 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!

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** What's new for 2019 **

From Lake Pend Oreille to the Sawtooth Mountains and Hell’s Canyon, Idaho has some truly unique natural beauty. Since there’s so much to see and do outdoors in Idaho, keeping the environment clean by using renewable power sources like the sun should be a top priority. Don’t forget about all those potatoes either; solar energy helps farmers too. How serious is the Idaho state legislature with solar power policies? Read on!

Questions? Our network of solar experts are on call to assist you. Simply sign up for personalized assistance on our special solar deals page.

The Solar Strategy section is focused on the 3 ways of paying for solar in Idaho, 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 Idaho. 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 Idaho.

Click any of the boxes below to go to that section of the page, or scroll down to read the page in order.

Your Solar Strategy in Idaho

Figuring out the best way to go solar in Idaho 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 should you pay for solar?

Use our decision tool to find out!

How to pay for solar panels in Idaho

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. Since economic conditions in Idaho don't allow for homeowners to get solar through a third-party agreement like a lease or Power Purchase Agreement, we included two different sizes of solar loans—one for people with a lot of equity, and one for people with just a little.

As you can see, the purchase option leads to the highest dollar-amount returns over time, but it also requires a big up-front investment. If you take a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or solar loan, though, your payments over 15 years will be more than your savings, but you'll still come out thousands of dollars ahead in the end.

Read on to find out more about each option.

How much can you save with solar?

Find out

Option 1: Paying cash for solar

This is the best option in Idaho if you want solar and you've got the cash to spend. An outright purchase returns the most money over time, because you own the system from day one and reap all the benefits. That 30% Federal tax credit, combined with the state tax deduction and electricity savings bring your first-year costs way down.

In our example, you put down $21,250, 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 almost $9,000 in income.

That might sound like a great deal of savings over the years, but it pales in comparison to the potential returns from other states. That's not because Idaho lacks sun—it's because the state has cheap electricity prices and no statewide rebates for solar. The internal rate of return on a solar investment here is just 4.3%, which is not as good as an investment in, sya, the stock market.

Net Present Value: -$2,107

Net Present Value (NPV) measures how good of an investment something is, compared to the best alternative. We use a 6% return to evaluate all solar investments, and Idaho's -$2,107 NPV on a 5-kW solar system means you'd be that much better off investing your money in stocks over 25 years than in Idaho solar. But check out what happens to NPV if you buy the same system with a loan that you can pay back over time.

Here’s how the numbers pencil out for an Idaho solar purchase with a 5-kW rooftop solar system:

  • Installing a typical 5kW solar system should start at about $21,250. Don’t worry – even without state incentives, you can still knock a big chunk off the price right off the bat.
  • Since the Feds calculate their incentive based on actual out of pocket costs, no state incentives means a bigger federal solar tax credit. Subtract $6,375 (30% of $21,250) for a new price of $14,875.
  • After the tax credit, subtract Idaho's tax deduction savings. You can read more below about how this works, but what you need to know now is that it will save you $370 in the first year, reducing costs to $14,505.
  • Don't forget your first year’s energy savings, which we estimate to be about $643. That brings your cost after the first year to $13,862.
  • By the time your system pays itself back in year 18, you’ll be seeing over $1,000 per year in savings until the end of your system’s life.
  • When all is said and done, our 25-year estimate shows a total net profit of $9,228, with an internal rate of return of 4.3%. That's actually not bad compared to some investments, but you're probably better off with your money in an exchange-traded fund.
  • On top of those returns, your home's value just increased by just about $15,000, too (your expected annual electricity savings over 20 years)!
  • 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. In fact, the energy you’re not using has the carbon equivalent of planting 107 trees a year, every year your solar power system is humming.
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Idaho. 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

Usually this is the place where we tell you that taking a loan to pay for solar is a great idea. That's because it's usually true. High electricity prices around the country make a solar panel system into an income-generating asset.

The returns in Idaho are still pretty good, but they miss the excellence of the best solar states by a wide margin. The state enjoys some of the lowest electricity prices in the nation, and that means savings are a little slimmer.

Still, as you can see from the chart above, you'll start out with a big windfall, because even though you're not putting any money down, you get the Federal 30% tax credit for the whole installed cost of your system. Then, over the 15-year life of your loan, you'll be spending more than you're saving in electricity costs, essentially investing a total of about $8,800 until you pay the loan off.

But from there, it's up-up-up! After your loan is paid off, you'll be saving $1,000 or more per year in electricity costs from your fully-owned solar panels. You'll end up over $2,185 to the good after 25 years, which is great for an investment where you put nothing down!

Net Present Value: $-379

Net Present Value (NPV) measures how good of an investment something is, compared to the best alternative. We use a 6% return to evaluate all solar investments, and Idaho's $-379 NPV on a solar loan means you'd be that much better off investing your money in another investment over 25 years than in solar. But that $379 is so tiny, it seems almost a small price to pay for the beneifts of clean, reliable solar power.

Here’s how the numbers pencil out for an Idaho solar purchase with a solar loan or HELOC:

  • Installing a typical 5-kW solar system should start at about $21,250. 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 $644, but your loan payments will total $1,886, for a difference of $1,242, or about $104 per month.
  • That's not so bad when you consider your tax savings for the year will be $6,745! You'll come out $5,500 ahead in year 1, which should help ease the burden of loan payments for a few years, at least.
  • When your loan’s paid off in year 15, you’ll start see over $1,000 per year in savings until the end of your system’s life.
  • For our 25-year estimate, you'll see some decent returns, to the tune of $2,185, even after all the payments.
  • And the future is going to look a little brighter, since your system will mean green for the environment. It'll be like planting 107 trees every year!
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Idaho. 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)

Idaho does not offer solar Power Purchase Agreements or leases. Perhaps it would be a good idea to contact a solar advocacy organization and ask them to fight for solar in your state!

How much can you save with solar?

Find out

Idaho 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 Idaho:

Idaho's Renewable Portfolio Standard


Grade: F

Idaho's Renewable Portfolio Standard grade

A Renewables Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) basically requires utilities in the state to source a percentage of energy from renewable sources by a given date. A strong RPS is important because it forces utility companies to promote conversion to renewable energy. That generally means free money for you in the form of solar power rebates and performance payments when you switch to solar.

Unfortunately, despite being one of the most productive states in the renewable energy game (thanks to hydroelectric), Idaho does not have any RPS at all, not even the voluntary targets we’ve seen in some nearby states that also lack true RPS mandates. No RPS generally translates to little or no solar incentives offered by the utilities, and unfortunately that’s the case here.

No utility incentives means a whole lot of missed opportunity, and wasted solar resources. The southern half of Idaho, in particular, gets a great deal of sun—as much as Florida—and could produce a great deal of clean solar power with the right programs to encourage homeowners like you to make the switch. A strong RPS would force the utilities to pick up a lot of the cost of providing those incentives here.

Learn more about Renewable Portfolio Standards

Idaho's RPS solar carve out


Grade: F

Idaho's Solar Carve-out grade

No RPS means no solar carve out.

Learn more about Solar Carve-outs

Idaho Electricity Prices


Grade: D

Idaho's Electricity cost grade

Idahoans pay an average of 10 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity. That’s the lowest price in the region and even one of the lowest in the country (chalk it up to the state's beefy hydroelectric dams).

We know you like paying less now, but the long term costs of cheap electricity are through the roof. All that cheap electricity is produced by building massive dams, which are often criticized for damaging nearby ecosystems. The reservoirs required for these large-scale projects eat up sizable areas of biologically rich terrain and negatively affect both upstream and downstream environments. Make the clean and responsible decision with solar -- you can thank us later!

Find out why electricity prices matter

Idaho Net Metering

Most Utilities Offer

Grade: B

Idaho's Net Metering grade

Net Metering requires your utility to monitor how much energy your solar power system produces and how much energy you actually consume, and make sure you get credit for any surplus. It’s an essential part of strong solar policy, because it’s a big money saver for you. Idaho currently has no law requiring utilities to offer net metering, or governing interconnection (getting on the grid to get net-metered).

Despite not being required, all three of the state’s three investor-owned utilities — Avista Utilities, Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power — have independently decided to offer net metering programs. The framework of all three programs is similar. All of the programs limit individual system size, but those limits won't affect homeowners much.

All three programs also handle residential net metering the same way: all surplus energy produced is applied as a credit to your next month’s bill at the full retail rate. So for every kW extra you produce one month, you pay for one less kW the next. Avista specifies (sadly) that surplus credit reverts back to the utility without compensation after 12 months. Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power do not specifically address “rollover” limits or other annual surplus accounting policies.

Learn more about net metering

Idaho Interconnection Rules

Depends on utility

Grade: F

Idaho's Interconnection Standards grade

While things look pretty standard on the net-metering front, there are fragmented policies in terms of how easy it is to connect to the grid which vary from utility to utility. Idaho could benfit from uniform standards, which would come as a directive from the state capitol.

Regardless, here are the Idaho big three’s interconnection policies:

Learn more about solar interconnection rules

Solar Incentives in Idaho

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 total system 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 Idaho measures up:

The availability of state solar incentives for residential solar systems was sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, utility company websites, and the state public utility commission.

Idaho Solar Power Rebates


Grade: F

Idaho's Solar Rebates grade

Idaho lacks any utility rebates for solar power. This is a direct result of the lack of an RPS. With an RPS in place, and the accompanying penalties for utilities that fall short of RPS goals, you can bet the utilities would start offering incentives to switch to solar power. How do we know? Because it’s worked everywhere else. RPS’s inevitably spur the creation of incentives that are cheaper for the utility companies than the penalties of the RPS.

Learn more about solar rebates

Idaho Solar Tax Credits

$370/year for 4 years

Grade: B

Idaho's Solar Tax Credits grade

With no utility incentives to speak of, we have to commend the legislature for stepping up with a pretty strong solar tax credit. The lack of utility incentives is the legislature’s fault for not passing an RPS, of course, but nevertheless, the personal deduction that Idaho has made available is a big step back in the right direction.

When you install a new solar power system in your home, you are entitled to a state income tax deduction for 40% of the cost of the project in the first year, and 20% each year for the next three years. It's important to note that this is a deduction, not a tax credit, which means it simply reduces the amount of your income the state can tax.

A typical 5-kW system will cost about $16,250, which means you can deduct 40% of that in the first year, or $6,500 from your income for Idaho income tax purposes. Given the state's 7.4% tax rate for any income over $22,086 (married couples), a deduction of $6,500 would be worth about $481 in year 1. Using those same numbers, the next 3 years' deductions of 20% would equal $241 per year. All told, you can expect to get back about $1,204 over the four years after you install solar. Cha-ching!

Of course, your Idaho solar tax credit will vary based on the amount you pay for your solar system and the tax bracket you find yourself in. If you make more than, say $40,000 per year as a married couple, you can figure your estimated Idaho solar tax credit by multiplying the cost of the system by 0.0296 for the first year, and 0.0148 for the following three years.

And don't forget: Idahoans benefit from the 30% Federal Solar Tax Credit as well, and that is a direct dollar amount off your federal taxes of 30% of solar costs. There's no cap on the federal tax credit and youcan claim any amount leftover on subsequent years' tax returns.

Learn more about state solar tax credits

Idaho Solar Performance Payments


Grade: F

Idaho's Solar Performance Payments grade

Idaho lacks any performance payments for solar power. As with Idaho’s (lack of) power rebates, this is a direct result of the lack of an RPS. With an RPS in place and the accompanying compliance fees for utilities that fall short of RPS goals, the utilities would start offering incentives to switch to solar power.

Learn more about SRECs

Property Tax Exemption


Grade: F

Idaho's Solar Property Tax Exemptions grade

With that handy solar tax credit in place, we can’t imagine how the other solar friendly tax policies slipped through the cracks. Both a property tax exemption and a sales tax exemption would save you money without ever actually removing a single dollar from the state’s bank account.

Sales Tax Exemption


Grade: F

Idaho's Solar Sales Tax Exemption grade

One of the simplest ways for the Idaho state legislature to encourage small scale clean energy adoption is to declare solar panel equipment exempt from state sales taxes as many other progressive states have done. Sadly, there is no such declaration.

Learn more about tax exemptions for solar

The consensus on Idaho solar power rebates and incentives

We’ve reviewed solar policy in a whole lot of states–all of them in fact–but we’ve never seen a state quite like Idaho before. No RPS, no utility backed solar incentives, heck, no mandatory net metering or interconnection standards! Virtually nothing, except for that mediocre Idaho solar tax credit. And at the end of the day, it’s really the money that talks. With a 16 year payback time frame, Idaho surely has a ways to go regarding its residential solar policy.

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Aron ThandroyenMatthewBruce AllsupRocky HintenJared Recent comment authors
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The local electrical utility in Boise, Idaho Power is requesting that the Idaho Public Utility Commission put net metering customers into their own rate class. This is not good for solar customers. Hundreds of Idaho citizens have written comments strongly opposing this switch. Anyone can comment at the IPUCs website under “open electrical rate cases.”

Bruce Allsup
Bruce Allsup

I’m building a house for my wife and I in New Meadows Idaho and it’s going to be 1950 square feet how much would it cost to get everything done.

Aron Thandroyen
Aron Thandroyen

Hello Bruce,
I work as a dealer for next energy alliance/solar wholesale. I’d be glad to help you out with figuring pricing, etc. . Please send me how many kWh’s you use per month for a total of 12 months. (Most recent preferred). Please email and we can further discuss additional details.


Charles, we took the Fed 30% tax credit on our off-grid cabin system. After carefully reviewing the Fed IRS form 5695, we found nothing that would exclude the off-grid solar panels and the batteries necessary to store the power. Here is a link to the form for 2012: You should be able to add in your labor as well, and yes, you can take the credit on both properties. The instructions on form 5695 state: Qualified solar electric property costs are costs for property that uses solar energy to generate electricity for use in your home located in the… Read more »


Can I get state and fed tax credits when I install 23500.00 solar kit, 30 230watt panels, 48 volt 8000 watt inverter 120/240, 16 Trojan 420 amp 6 volt batter, add more batter if I can afford them.


Charles here, can I get the tax credits fed and state when I install off grid system on my cabin and not my primary home?
So far I cannot in stall panels in my subdivision because of the ccr from the hoa rules.
Would like to do both cabin and house” 6.5 kw quoted price is 23870.00
30 230 watt panels, 8000watt inverter 120/240 16 Trojan battery’s 420 amp our in 48 volt system
Again, can I get tax credit for both cabin and home.
Charles in IF.


My HOA CCRs also prohibited solar, but allowed for installation if the HOA board approved. I applied and got approval. (Don’t give up!)

Ron Garrett
Ron Garrett

Started a 3kw PV system in Nov. 2012. Installed my self so took some time. Just about ready to go on line when I got my letter from Idaho Power informing gridtie customers that they were proposing new net-metering fees that increase my monthly fee from $5 to $21!! Also no by back of credits. Also all credits not used by Dec. 31 will be lost. (Ripped Off) I’ve tried to contact my Legislators but no responce to date. Idaho Public Utilities has a web site with comment section for Case # IPC-E-12-27. Needs to pass PUC but we will… Read more »


For those of you shopping in Boise, current prices are affordable…! My 7.2 KW rated system (i.e. 30 x 240W panels) with installation (Oct 2012) and including Enphase microinverters was $22,400. Includes online monitoring and graphing of solar production by panel, by hour, and over time via smartphone. Incredible system. This is my public page showing production:


Please tell me more about your system. I am in Boise and am interested to learn more.


Hi Mark Here’s my system: 30 x Trina TSM-240 PC/PA05.05 panels (black frames!) Enphase Envoy monitoring system: Enphase M315 Microinverters (these are attached to the back of each panel to invert the electricity from AC to DC) As you saw above, you can view my system production here: The job took 2 days to install (they brought a pretty good-sized crew). Then Idaho Power had to come out to certify connections and install a net meter. (I think that took about a week to complete). After that was done, my contractor had to come back out… Read more »


Your link is great! It really helped me when trying to size my system. I use about 300KWhr/mo in the winter and 600KWhr/mo in the summer. From others on this page, it seems that Idaho Power does credits power, but you lose any extra credits at the end of the calendar year (not so helpful when you really need the KWhr credits in the spring). What direction does your system face… the link seems to imply south-west facing panels. I would be planning on an east-west facing roof… so I don’t know how much I should reduce my numbers. Any… Read more »


The IPUC rejected Idaho Power’s request, so you do NOT lose your extra credits annually. Not sure if you followed the whole process, but the IPUC soundly rejected Idaho Power’s request. HUGE win for renewable energy…! Yes, my panels are facing southwest. The angle of the image in the link is accurate. I’m not sure how to estimate impact of alternate angle…? I am VERY happy with the outcome. The only thing I might have reconsidered is using Sunpower panels which are more efficient (rather than the Trina panels, though they are working exactly as expected). Probably the best part… Read more »


Thanks for posting a 2012 update for the state of Idaho. Although its a great incentive, I think you may have over estimated the value of the Idaho State Tax Deduction. You don’t actually get to reduce the total installed cost by the deduction. You DO get to reduce your annual income by the amount of the deduction. So if you make 50k annually, and you installed a $20,000 PV system, you would only have to report an annual earnings of 30k (I’m ignoring the $5,000/year cap for simplicity). At an income tax rate of 7.8% is about a ~$1,500… Read more »


Jennifer, over the past year solar PV system costs have fallen dramatically due to steep competition in the manufacturing of solar panels. You can definitely start out small. Solar systems are very modular these days; you could install one panel today and add more in a years time.

David, there are currently no Idaho state rebates for site assessments, however there are a few other credits/ deductions you can take. is a great resource for more information.


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