Your 2019 guide to getting solar panels for your home in Oklahoma
This page is a complete guide to the complicated and sometimes confusing process of installing solar panels on your Oklahoma 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 **
Oklahoma, the Sooner state. With the Ozark mountains, Cypress swamps and Grand Lake, not to forget the plains and prairies, Oklahoma needs the sun to keep itself looking good. Solar power and other clean energies could keep the state’s cities and towns bustling while protecting the land and waters that bring life to the Sooners. The state legislature has not done much to promote renewable energy sources, but here’s a guide to what they’ve been working 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. You can get discounted on-grid pricing as low as $4,000/kW! This is paired with the Oklahoma solar incentives you see below.
The Solar Strategy section is focused on the 3 ways of paying for solar in Oklahoma, 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 Oklahoma. 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 Oklahoma.
Click any of the boxes below to go to that section of the page, or scroll down to read the page in order.
|Your Oklahoma Solar Strategy|
|Comparing Solar Investment Options|
|Paying Cash for Solar in Oklahoma|
|Solar Loans in Oklahoma|
|Solar PPAs in Oklahoma|
|Solar Purchase Payback Time in Oklahoma|
|Oklahoma Solar Policy Information|
|Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)|
|RPS Solar Carve-Out|
Your Solar Strategy in Oklahoma
Figuring out the best way to go solar in Oklahoma 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 Oklahoma
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. That might look a little complicated to you, so let's break it down:
The green bars show the return if you pay up front. As you can see, there's a big payment in year 1, which gets slowly reduced over time. The green bars cross the "$0" line at year 16, which is when the system will have paid back your initial investment with electricity savings. Then, our example goes to year 25 (which is when most solar panel warranties end), where you'll end up with just about $11,000 in total profits. Not bad! That's because even though Oklahoma lacks incentives for solar, the difference is just about made up by how much sun the state gets.
The orange bars, on the other had, show what happens if you take a Home-Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) to pay for the system. You don't put any money down, but you do get the 30% Federal tax credit, meaning you actually come out ahead in year 1. The bars dip below the $0 line, because your loan payments (over a 15-year term) will exceed your energy savings by a little each year. Still, in the end, you'll come out thousands of dollars ahead over the 25-year estimate.
Finally, the blue bars represent a similar HELOC scenario, but for a smaller solar system. The loan and savings will be smaller, but it's a great way to go solar, even of you don't have a lot of cash or equity. Usually this is where we'd show you the savings with a solar lease, but Oklahoma doesn't quite have the right financial mix for that yet.
There's still a lot to love about solar in the Panhandle State. Read on to find out more about each option!
Option 1: Paying cash for solar
Paying up front used to be the only way to get panels on your roof, and it's still the option that allows you the most control. But it isn't the best option from a percentage return on investment standpoint—that award goes to the solar loan.
Still, an outright purchase returns the most money over time, because you own the system from day one and reap all the benefits—including a Federal solar tax credit of 30% of the costs and some decent energy bill savings.
In our example, you put down $20,000, but by the end of year 1, that tax credit and the energy savings will erase a bunch of it. Over 25 years, your system will have produced more than $10,000 in income.
Net Present Value: -$1,564
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 Oklahoma's -$1,564 NPV on a 5-kW solar system means you'd be that much better off investing your money in stocks over 25 years than paying up front for solar in Oklahoma. 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 work for an Oklahoma solar purchase of a 5-kW rooftop solar system:
- Installing a typical 5-kW solar system should start at about $20,000.
- Since the Feds calculate their incentive based on out-of-pocket costs, no state rebate means more tax relief for you! You'll get $6,000 (30% of the cost) back as a tax credit. Note: you can take the credit over two years if you don't owe $6,000 in Federal taxes this year.
- Next, subtract your first-year energy savings. That's another $683, and it brings the cost after 1 year to just $13,317. That's just two-thirds of where we started!
- With those energy bill savings rolling in, your system will pay itself back after 16 years. Once that happens, you’ll be seeing moe than $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 $10,772 with an internal rate of return of 4.8%. That's nearly as good as an investment in the market!
- On top of those returns, your home's value just increased by just about $10,500, too (the NPV of your expected electricity savings over 20 years)!
- And speaking of doing good for the environment... your system will create some green for the earth by not using electricity from fossil-fuels. In fact, the energy you’re not using has the carbon equivalent of planting 117 trees a year, every year your solar power system is humming.
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Oklahoma. 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
This is where we tell you that taking a loan for solar panels is a no-brainer, because it means investing in an income-generating asset. And even though Oklahoma doens't have amazing rebates and tax breaks for solar, it's still true! That's because the state gets enough sun to make solar worthwhile, generating a good deal of income for you after you pay your loan off.
Here's the important stuff:
As you can see from the chart above, you'll start out with a big windfall, because with a loan, you're not putting any money down, and you get those tax credits just like if you paid $20,000 up front for your system. You'll come out ahead nearly $5,000 after the first year! In the 14 years that follow, your loan payments will actually cost a little more than the money you'll be saving in electricity, but just think of it like a monthly deposit into a savings account.
And that savings account will pay dividends after the loan is paid off in year 15. You'll be saving tons of money every year because you'll own the system outright. At the end of our 25-year example, you'll be $4,144 to the good, which is great for an investment where you put nothing down!
A solar purchase like this will make sense for you if the following is true about you and your current situation:
- You can qulaify for a solar loan or home-equity line of credit (HELOC) for $20,000 with a fixed rate of 4% or lower and a 15-year repayment period.
- You have an appetite for making a little money with a long-term investment, while also producing benefits for the environment.
Net Present Value: $63
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 Oklahoma's $63 NPV on a solar loan means an investmenr in solar here is about as good as a similr investment in the stock market. You can rest easy with an Oklahoma solar loan knowing you're doing right for your pocketbook at the same time as you're doing right by the planet!
Here’s how the numbers pencil out for an Oklahoma solar purchase with a loan:
- Installing a typical 5-kW solar system should start at about $20,000. That's how big your loan will need to be to cover it.
- The electricity bill savings in the first year of operation will total $683, but your loan payments will be $1,775, for a difference of $1,092, or about $91 per month.
- But here comes the Federal tax credit! Because you've technically "paid" for the system with your loan, you'll get a tax credit of 30% of system costs, or $6,000! That means you'll end up with an extra $4,907 at the end of the first year.
- When your loan’s paid off after year 15, you’ll start to see over $1,000 per year in savings until the end of your system’s life.
- For our 25-year estimate, you'll see pretty nice returns, to the tune of $4,144 after all the payments. That's a good amount of money for a zero-down investment!
- Finally, the environmental benefits cannot be overstated. Operating your system will take as much carbon out of the air as planting 127 trees every year!
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Oklahoma. 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)
Oklahoma 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!
Oklahoma 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 Oklahoma:
15% by 2015 (voluntary)
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.
Oklahoma has set a goal of 15% renewable energy by 2015. While that would ordinarily be an adequate first step for an RPS, Oklahoma’s RPS is entirely voluntary. There are no penalties or other sanctions for utility companies that do not meet the 15% goal.
Unfortunately, the pattern we’ve seen elsewhere is repeated in Oklahoma: a voluntary RPS simply is not enough to spark meaningful incentives for solar power. This voluntary status makes an otherwise respectable RPS seem pretty weak in comparison. Additionally, the program lacks a solar carve out. More on that next.
Oklahoma’s RPS is critical to strong renewable energy policy. Utility companies aren't really all that gung-ho about you producing your own power. After all, it costs them money when you use less of their electricity. They also don’t naturally want to give you big payments for energy you're feeding back into the grid. The main reason the utilities are aiding your transition to lower electric bills and offering you incentives to put solar on your roof is because the state forces them via compliance fees. For Oklahoma’s solar scene to really take off, they’ll need to drop the “voluntary” compliance and crack down on utilities if they don’t step up their solar game.
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
As mentioned above, Oklahoma’s RPS lacks a solar carve out, or specified targets for solar production. If the RPS contained specific carve-outs for clean and efficient technologies like solar panels, or mandates for the environmentally necessary increases in distributed generation, you’d see even stronger incentives for residential solar power.
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!
Oklahoma Electricity Prices
Oklahoma homeowners pay an average of 10 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity. That’s definitely on the lower end of the spectrum and well below the national average of 13.6 cents/kWh. 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 burning fossil fuels -- tons and tons of earth-killing fossil fuels. When the astronomical environmental costs start to mount, monthly electricity bills are inevitably going to rise as well. When that happens you’re going to feel pretty darn smart for making the early switch to producing your own clean, efficient solar power.
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.
Oklahoma Net Metering
Net Metering requires your utility to monitor how much energy your solar power system produces and how much energy you actually consume to make sure you get credit for the surplus.
Oklahoma requires investor-owned utilities and electric cooperatives to offer net metering to all customers. All systems up to 100kW are eligible; utilities are not allowed to require new liability insurance as a condition for interconnection. While that is pretty solid, overall Oklahoma’s net metering can’t get more than an “F” grade, because the utility companies are not actually required to purchase your excess electricity generation. Customers can request that their utility purchase excess generation, but the decision ultimately rests with the company, not the customer. That is the worst "net metering" law in the country.
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.
Oklahoma Interconnection Rules
Generally a net metering program comes with statewide standards limiting the utilities’ discretion over interconnection standards and associated fees, potential insurance requirements, and redundant external disconnect switches. Because Oklahoma lacks statewide standards, those costs and requirements will vary from utility to utility. Don’t worry, though. The expert installers we partner with can answer all of those questions for you and then some.
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 Oklahoma
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 Oklahoma measures up:
Oklahoma Solar Power Rebates
Oklahoma currently lacks any sort of solar rebate programs. If the RPS set mandatory levels of renewable energy production, we can guarantee the utility companies would offer incentives to help you make the switch to solar. How do we know? It’s worked everywhere that a real RPS has been implemented. Get on it, Oklahoma!
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.
Oklahoma Solar Power Tax Credits
The legislature isn’t picking up the slack here either; there are no tax credits for installing a solar power system here.
Luckily, you will still benefit from the 30% Federal Solar Tax Credit. There's no cap on the federal tax credit and fortunately for Oklahoma, having no state rebate to deduct means a larger tax credit coming your way. Sample calculations follow below -- keep scrolling!
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
Oklahoma also lacks any utility solar power performance payments. Again, this can be blamed on the voluntary RPS. Mandatory RPS = better solar incentives.
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
Tax exemptions are a simple, straightforward, and effective way to promote solar power. A property tax exemption would exempt you from paying taxes on the more than $15,000 in property value that installing a solar power system will add to your home -- all without ever actually removing a dime from the state’s bank account! That sounds like a win-win to us. Unfortunately, state lawmakers have yet to see the light (no pun intended), leaving Oklahoma with no property tax exemption.
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 own the system and are not leasing). Other studies seem to indicate a home price premium about equal to solar panel cost, 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
Likewise, a sales tax exemption would save you between 4.5% and 8.5% on your initial investment, depending on where in the state you live. This would cost the state nothing, but again -- no such luck. Oklahoma still lacks a sales tax exemption on renewable projects of any kind.
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 Oklahoma solar power rebates and incentives
Located in America’s wind tunnel, Oklahoma has made remarkable progress in the development of wind power, boasting six of the largest wind farms in the country. That may be more the result of efforts by its two largest power providers than state legislators, however. Oklahoma Gas & Electric now has a total wind capacity of over 800 MW, comprising 12% of their total energy generation. Interestingly, green pricing customers are now buying wind power at about the same rate as electricity from traditional sources.
However, Oklahoma will have to do some serious work promoting solar power and other clean energy sources to be considered an environmentally responsible state in the 21st century. It looks like exciting policy changes may be on the way, however, as grassroots movements begin demanding better solar policy. If Oklahoma really wants to make a change in its energy market, the legislature needs some renewal; vote in some lawmakers who care about the Sooner State.
Again, if you are confused about how these numbers work and would like some personalized assistance or a quote of your own, simply check our installing solar panels page and contact one of our assistant. They’ll help sort out all the pricing, get you access to special deals, and they’re super friendly to boot!