Your 2020 guide to getting solar panels for your home in New Hampshire
This page is a complete guide to the complicated and sometimes confusing process of installing solar panels on your New Hampshire 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 **
New Hampshire is one of those states that got solar right pretty early. The General Court passed a strong Renewables Portfolio Standard back in 2007, and with it came a good statewide rebate program to lower the up-front price of solar. It's now almost a decade later, and the state still has good rebates and high electricity prices, which are the major reasons solar is a great investment.
Several times over the last two years, lawmakers passed bills to expand New Hampshire’s.net metering rules. However, governor Chris Sununu has vetoed all of them. The RPS here could be strengthened as well. Unless something changes, things will start looking a little dimmer for homeowners looking to install solar here. For 2020, strong with its rebate program, and decent low income solar programs, New Hampshire holds steady in our ranking of the top states in our country to go solar. Continue reading to learn why.
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 New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire, 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 New Hampshire. 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 New Hampshire.
Click any of the boxes below to go to that section of the page, or scroll down to read the page in order.
|Your New Hampshire Solar Strategy|
|New Hampshire Solar Policy Information|
|New Hampshire Solar Incentives|
|Your New Hampshire Solar Strategy|
|Comparing Solar Investment Options|
|Paying Cash for Solar in New Hampshire|
|Solar Loans in New Hampshire|
|Solar PPAs in New Hampshire|
|Solar Purchase Payback Time in New Hampshire|
|New Hampshire Solar Policy Information|
|Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)|
|RPS Solar Carve-Out|
Your Solar Strategy in New Hampshire
Figuring out the best way to go solar in New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire
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 lease. As you can see, New Hampshire has the potential for good 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 New Hampshire!
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 $33,400 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 $18,220. 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 $33,400 in income. The reason this works is that electricity in New Hampshire is EXPENSIVE. Solar offsets enough of it to save you about $1,569 in year 1, and it just goes up from there. As the electric company raises rates, you save more and more, and more...
Here’s how the numbers pencil out when you pay up front for a 6.2-kW rooftop solar system:
- Installing a typical 6.2-kW solar system should start at about $18,220 after the NH Solar 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 26% of $18,220, for a tax credit of $4,737. Your total investment is now down to just $13,483.
- After the tax credit we subtract your first year’s energy savings, which we estimate to be $1,569. That reduces your cost after the first year to only $11,914.
- Your system will pay for itself in just 6 years, and over its 25-year life, you'll see a total net profit of $33,433. The internal rate of return for this investment is a stupendous 13.9%!
- And don't forget... your home's value just increased by around $17,300, 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 38 trees a year, every year your solar power system is humming.
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in New Hampshire. 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 $18,000 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 New Hampshire, 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 $18,220, 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 New Hampshire solar purchase with a loan:
- Installing a typical 6.2-kW solar system should start at about $18,220 after the NH 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 $1,569, but your annual loan payments will be $1,673, meaning you would spend $104 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 $4,737 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 $26,564 ahead.
- On top of the green that will stay in your pocket, your system will mean green for the environment, too. 38 trees-worth, every year!
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in New Hampshire. 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)
A PPA is a great way to go solar if you haven't got stacks of cash or oodles of equity in your home. With thrid-party solar like this, it's possible to get solar panels for $0-down and see big savings over 20 or 25 years!
As for PPAs in New Hampshire: the electricity costs are crazy high. That means a PPA can save you a good deal of money right now, even if it isn't as much as you'd save if you owned the system. A solar PPA here will bank you about $528 this year, so you're able to save the planet and make a little cash doing it!
As the utility company raises rates, you will start to see greater annual savings. Over 25 years, our estimate shows a total savings of about $17,015. The panels will be installed and maintained by professionals, and all you have to do is brag to the Joneses down the street about your green habits!
How a PPA saves you money
Unlike a loan or cash purchase, a PPA means you don't own the panels on your roof. Instead, the solar company fronts the money for the installation, claiming all the available government incentives for themselves. Then over a term of 20 years (plus a 5-year renewal, in our estimate), they sell you the electricity produced by the panels, starting out a little cheaper than the fossil-fuel energy you had been buying from the utility company. Of course you'll still be hooked in to the grid to ensure you have power both when the sun is shining and when it's not, but the excess energy produced by the panels offsets your whole electicity bill just like it would if you own the system.
If you can get a good initial rate and a low escalator clause (the amount the PPA price increases per year), a PPA can truly be a win-win-win; for you, the solar company, and the environment. Of course, if you have the cash, equity, or credit, a solar loan is the best option. But for those without those things, a New Hampshire solar PPA can be a great option.
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in New Hampshire. 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.
New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire:
New Hampshire's Renewable Portfolio Standard
24.8% by 2025
A Renewables Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) basically requires a certain percentage of a state’s energy production comes from renewable sources like solar panels by a specific date in the future. 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.
If you keep up with renewable energy policy, you already know that some states have RPS goals as high as 30%, even 40% production in the not-that-distant future. We’re not quite at that level here, but our RPS is pretty strong! New Hampshire’s RPS, first passed in 2007, mandates that utilities (excluding municipal electric companies) generate 24.8% of total electricity output from renewable sources by 2025.
New Hampshire's Solar carve-out and SRECs
.3% by 2025
As stated above, utilities must generate about 25% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. That figure also includes a specific carve out of 0.3% generation from solar power. While it's laudable New Hampshire has put together this requirement, point three percent isn't that inspiring compared to what other more progressive states have accomplished.
New Hampshire Electricity Prices
New Hampshire residents pay an average of 20 cents per kWh of electricity. That’s 48% higher than the national average of 13.6 cents/kWh. We know it's annoying how high your electric bill is every month, but that additional cost also reflects an opportunity to save with solar panels. High electricity prices mean big savings when you’re producing your own electricity.
Even with the comparatively high prices here, we still think the cost of electricity is too cheap. Electricity prices are driven down short term by burning dangerous amounts of coal. But as you already know, there are huge long-term costs associated with those short-term savings. When those long-term costs start to really kick in, electricity prices are going to rise and rise (and rise). With New Hampshire as a good example, we can see within the past calendar year that they already have; electricity costs have risen by 2 cents per kWh, a trend we expect to continue. However, you’ll be saving and saving and saving with all that cheap, earth-friendly solar power you’ll soon be producing.
New Hampshire Net Metering
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 the surplus. The New Hampshire PUC has adopted uniform rules that require all utilities to offer net metering to residential customers. Surplus energy will be applied as a credit to the next month’s bill, and credits can be carried over indefinitely. In addition, customers on the default service plan may elect to receive annual payments for net metering surplus, if the surplus exceeds 600 kilowatt-hours (kWh).
That’s pretty strong, but there might be changes coming soon. H.B. 1116, enacted in May 2016, raises New Hampshire's net metering aggregate capacity limit from 50 MW to 100 MW. The bill also directs the Public Utilities Commission to initiate a proceeding to develop new alternative net metering tariffs. That could spell trouble, as other formerly solar-friendly states have not proven good at coming up with replacement for net metering.
New Hampshire Interconnection Rules
Statewide, but complex
Interconnection in New Hampshire is more of a mixed bag. Utilities may not require customer-generators to perform additional tests, or pay for additional interconnection-related charges. Insurance is not required. That’s great. What’s not so hot is the lack of differentiation between different system sizes. The process for your small residential system is the same as the process for a giant industrial system. That’s needlessly complex and time-consuming, and legislators are missing a tremendously simple opportunity to make the conversion to solar power easier for you.
Of course, if you’d like some personalized assistance, get in touch with us and we’ll have an expert contact you in a jiffy.
New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire 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.
New Hampshire Solar Power Rebates
$200/kW statewide (max $1,000), plus $250/kW for NHEC customers
The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”) runs a statewide solar power rebate program that offers $200 per kilowatt (kW), up to $1,000 or 50% of project costs, whichever is less. All residential systems are eligible for the rebate, but because the maximum incentive is $1,000, that means a de facto cap of 5-kW for the rebate.
On top of the state's rebate, if you are a New Hampshire Electric Co-Op customer, you can get an additional rebate of $250/kW, up to a maximum of $1,375. For our example 5-kW system, the two rebates combine to equal a cool $5,000 off your shiny new solar system.</p?
Keep in mind, these incentives have to be applied for and approved before you begin construction, so get your ducks in a row, or, heck, connect with a local installer in New Hampshire and have them do all the paperwork for you!
New Hampshire Solar Tax Credits
No State Income Tax
Since there's no state income tax in New Hampshire, there aren't any solar tax credits to redeem! However, you can still take advantage of the federal solar tax credit.
Property Tax Exemption
When you install a solar power system, your home appreciates by twenty times your annual electricity savings. New Hampshire allows cities and towns to exempt that increase in home value from all associated property taxes. More than 80 cities and towns in New Hampshire have adopted a property tax exemption for one or more of these energy sources. Here's a full list of the cities and towns that have adopted a property tax exemption for solar power. Don’t fret the details; expert solar installers we partner with will walk you through all the details.
Sales Tax Exemption
No State Sales Tax
This is an area in which us “New Hampshirites” luck out. As residents of the state are well aware of, there is no state sales tax. Many states offer a sales-tax exemption, but residents of New Hampshire need not worry about this.
Low-income Solar Programs
$.03/kwh for community solar
SB 165, passed in 2019, provides funding for low-moderate income community solar projects. Panels can be installed on the roof or grounds to directly benefit a group of at least 5 residential end-user customers, where at least a majority of the customers are at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.
The consensus on New Hampshire solar power rebates and incentives
Not too shabby at all, but we definitely still have room for improvement here. The strong RPS and the adequate solar power rebate program are a solid start, but we’d really like to see an expanded rebate or a performance incentive program to help push the payback timeframe under 10 years (at the least) before we can give New Hampshire top marks. For now we’ll have to settle for a solid but not spectacular “B” here.