Your 2020 guide to getting solar panels for your home in Nevada
This page is a complete guide to the complicated and sometimes confusing process of installing solar panels on your Nevada 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 2020 **
Nevadans made a smart choice in governor Steve Sisolak. He succeeded in enacting the 50% renewable portfolio standard, this will put needed pressure on utility companies to get more solar energy on the grid, like the juice that came come from your rooftop. That improvement and our increased solar insolation rankings criteria grade has lifted the state up 6 notches in our policy power rankings from last year.
Good thing Nevadans got its solar groove back!
With the recent reinstatement of something resembling an awesome net metering program, home solar in Nevada is back in business! You can purchase a solar system with cash or a loan, and see a good return on your investment over 25 years. Read on to find out how to make solar work for you in Nevada!
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 Nevada solar incentives you see below.
What you'll find on this page:
The Solar Strategy section is focused on the 3 ways of paying for solar in Nevada, 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 Nevada. 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 Nevada.
Click any of the boxes below to go to that section of the page, or scroll down to read the page in order.
|Your Nevada Solar Strategy|
|Comparing Solar Investment Options|
|Paying Cash for Solar in Nevada|
|Solar Loans in Nevada|
|Solar PPAs in Nevada|
|Solar Purchase Payback Time in Nevada|
|Nevada Solar Policy Information|
|Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)|
|RPS Solar Carve-Out|
Your Solar Strategy in Nevada
Figuring out the best way to go solar in Nevada 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 Nevada
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 solar PPA. As you can see, Nevada has the potential for excellent financial returns. The purchase option leads to the highest dollar-amount returns over time, but look a little closer. Taking a loan (the orange bars) and paying for the system over time means you'll never actually put down any of your own money.
That's what makes the solar loan option better. If you take a HELOC, you'll pay the system cost down monthly, but you still get a huge tax credit after the first year. Your payments over 15 years will actually be less than the savings and income your system will generate, and it'll mean that you're never putting any of your own money into the purchase. All you need is great credit—or the equity for a HELOC.
The option with the smallest savings is for a solar lease or PPA, which means you put $0 down on a rooftop solar system and pay monthly while you accumulate electricity bill savings over time. Leases and PPAs are an excellent option if you don't have any equity or cash to put down, and they still save you thousands.
Read more below about each of three very good options for solar in Nevada!
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 'biggest' financial returns. The reason we put 'biggest' in quotes here is because it's technically true. You'll see a net return of almost $25,600 in 25 years if you pay up front. But it requires a significant up-front investment.
If you have equity in your home or good credit, you can get a solar loan or HELOC with an interest rate of 4% or less. It's like being able to start a business that is sure to succeed, just by having a roof. Read about loans below.
If you've got cash and you prefer to pay up front, you'll have to plunk down $23,040. 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 about $25,600 in income. The reason this works is that solar panels produce a TON of electricity in sunny Nevada, and your home needs a ton of electricity to run the air conditioning, among other things. Solar offsets enough of your electric bill to save you about $1,422 in year 1, and it just goes up from there. As NV Energy raises rates, you save more and more, and more...
Here’s how the numbers pencil out when you pay up front for a 7.2-kW rooftop solar system:
- Installing a typical 7.2-kW solar system should start at about $23,040. 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 26% of $23,040, for a tax credit of $5,990. Your total investment is now down to just $17,050.
- After the tax credit we subtract your first year’s energy savings, which we estimate to be $1,422. That reduces your cost after the first year to only $15,627.
- Your system will pay for itself in just 6 years, and over its 25-year life, you'll see a total net profit of $25,641. The internal rate of return for this investment is a stupendous 9%!
- And don't forget... your home's value just increased by around $15,700, too (your expected cost after solar incentives)!
- 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 176 trees a year, every year your solar power system is humming.
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Nevada. 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
You don't need $23,000 sitting around to pay for solar. As long as you have 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 Nevada, 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 tax savings will be huge in the first year—more than enough to offset the small difference between the loan payments and electric bill savings. All this means you'll never have to spend a cent on solar, and you'll still come out way ahead over 25 years.
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 $23,040, with a fixed rate of 4% or lower and a 15-year repayment period. Don't be put off if you're offered a higher rate. It just means a tiny bit less of the thousands of dollars you'll make with solar.
- You love making money without much risk.
Here’s how the numbers pencil out for a Nevada solar purchase with a loan:
- Installing a typical 7.2-kW solar system should start at about $23,040. 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 $1,422, but your annual loan payments will be $2,115, meaning you would spend $693 on solar this year, but...
- You'll also see a huge tax break. The Feds give you 26% of the cost of your system back as a tax credit, which in this case is $5,990 You'll be paying over time but getting all the benefits up front!
- The electricity savings will continue for 25 years, while your loan payments will last only 15. By the end of the 25-year life of your panels, you'll come out $16,955 ahead.
- On top of the green that will stay in your pocket, your system will mean green for the environment, too. 176 trees-worth, every year!
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Nevada. 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)
Nevada 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!
Nevada 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 Nevada:
Nevada's Renewable Portfolio Standard
25% by 2025
Nevada should pat itself on the back. It already had one of the most aggressive renewable portfolio standards (RPS) in the country—and with a solar carve out to boot—but its citizens voted to double that requirement to 50% by 2032! In 2019, new pro-solar governor Steve Sisolak wasted no time in making that initial vote into a law without requiring the customary second vote. Because Governor Sisolak is carrying out the will of the people, Nevada earns an A here.
Nevada's Solar carve-out and SRECs
1.5% by 2025
Additionally, 6% of that 25% (or 1.5% of total sales) needs to come from solar by 2025. If not, utilities get slapped with sizable fees. That’s a huge reason why there’s so much solar installed in the state.
However, much of the compliance has come from huge solar businesses who have secured land lease deals in the desert to build solar power plants so the utilities can hit their numbers.
Luckily, the RPS now contains a distributed generation requirement stipulating that half of the 25% renewable target must come from residential customer service locations. This means Nevada utility companies should be much more willing to offer solar power rebates to middle-class homeowners instead of millionaire land development moguls.
Nevada Electricity Prices
Electricity is relatively cheap in Nevada at $0.12/kWh. That’s a little too cheap for our liking, as there could be more done to roll in the actual costs to the environment to polluting energy sources such as coal and natural gas. Once those costs get accounted for, the average Nevada electric rate may increase to the point where solar panels on homes in the state pencil out at more parity with the electric grid.
Nevada Net Metering
The fight to ensure strong net metering rules for Nevada has been long and complex. Basically, the state used to have excellent net metering rules, but in late 2015, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) voted to amend net metering, allowing NV Energy to increase monthly service charges by 300% on solar homeowners while at the same time paying 82% less for the energy their panels generate.
The people of Nevada, joined by solar-loving groups from around the country, fought against the PUC ruling, and vowed to vote to remove any politician who stood in the way of net metering's return. In November, 2016, voters elected solar-friendly candidates to both the house and senate. Governor Sandoval (himself up for reelection in 2018) said he wanted to work together to bring back sensible solar policy. Finally, in mid-2017, the Nevada legislature passed AB 405, restoring net metering for all residential customers.
The new net metering law, while not perfect, guarantees solar bill credits at very-near retail rates for the next 20 years. All NV Energy customers who install solar are eligible to sign up for net metering at a set percentage of retail cost for 20 years. The percentages decline as more solar is added to the grid. They started at 95% of retail in 2017, and have declined twice since.
As of mid-2019, homeowners who install solar can sign up to receive 81% of the retail cost of purchasing electricity back for any extra power they send to the grid. The new net metering rules provide a compelling reason to go solar as soon as possible. The first two 80-MW tiers are fully subscribed, and the third is in full swing. By 2020, tier 4 will be in effect and the excess energy credit will drop to 75% of retail electricity cost.
At the end of your 20-year contract, you'll be able to sign up for whatever program NV Energy offers (though by then, home energy storage will likely be so inexpensive that it will be easier to install a battery and use all the energy yourself).
Nevada Interconnection Rules
Getting a solar system up on the grid in Nevada is not too difficult, given NV Energy's reasonably streamlined interconnection process. There are no large costs or extended wait times associated with interconnection here, and your installer should be able to take care of everything with regards to paperwork, inspection, etc.
Nevada Solar Incentives
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 26% 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 Nevada 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.
Nevada Solar Power Rebates
Battery storage only
In 2019, NV Energy suspended its solar rebate program. However, the utility is still offering battery storage incentives, at a rate of $.11 or $.22 per watt-hour of storage capacity. At that rate, the average 14-kWh Tesla Powerwall home battery installation would net you a rebate of $1,540 or $3,080, again based on your rate plan. Those dollar amounts represent about 10% or 20% of the total installed costs of the batteries, respectively.
Nevada Solar Tax Credits
No State Income Tax
Since Nevada doesn’t have any income tax, there aren’t any solar tax credits to redeem! However, you Nevadans still benefit from the Federal Solar Tax Credit. There's no cap on the federal tax credit, but it is stepping down!
Property Tax Exemption
100% for solar farms only
While Nevada is kind enough to grant property tax exemptions to commercial and industrial solar installations, homeowners are still expected to pony up the dough for the increased value of the home after solar installation.
Sales Tax Exemption
Same story here. Nevada grants sales tax incentives to large-scale (we’re talking 10MW big) solar installations, but none for you. We would like to see a sales tax exemption on residential systems in Nevada like many other states have enacted. We’ll wait and see on that.
Low-income Solar Programs
Program for Community Solar
Nevada offers the Lower Income Solar Energy Program, which provides big discounts for systems installed on buildings like homeless shelters, low-income housing developments, and public buildings not owned by a city. The program is laudable, but doesn't directly benefit people like seniors on fixed incomes and families below Area Median Income like other state programs do.
The consensus on Nevada solar power rebates and incentives
Nevada is looking to be a powerhouse of renewable energy in the new century, and they’re well on their way. Governor Steve Sisolak has answered the call of the electorate here and implemented smart pro-solar, pro-homeowner legislation. All that’s left is for those people (that’s you!) to go solar and start saving money now!