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2018 Policy Grade


Avg. Yearly Savings


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

2018 Policy Grade


Avg. Savings/year


At Solar Power Rocks, our dream is to turn your thoughts of solar power for your home into reality

Note: The numbers above are just estimates for a 5kW solar system, and your home is unique. The best way to know exactly how much money solar power can save you is to connect with one of our partners nearby. A friendly solar expert we trust will give you a buzz and help you craft a personal plan to get the absolute most out of a solar power system for your home. It's 100% free (yes, that’s right, 100% free) and you aren't obligated to buy anything.

Among the earliest Colonists to arrive in America, those who settled in the colony of Rhode Island were probably the feistiest and most independent. By 1663 they had negotiated a charter with King Charles II establishing Rhode Island as a highly autonomous self-governing colony with religious freedom and recognized territorial claims. True to form, they were the last to ratify the Constitution, demanding that the Bill of Rights be added to guarantee individual freedoms. Rhode Island, in spite of its diminutive size, has obviously played a large role in shaping the history of this country, as well as their own destiny.

Rhode Island used to be at the forefront of shaping renewable energy policy, as well. The legislature here was an early adopter of a Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) (we’ll get to them in just a second) and paved the way for solar power conversion by offering a personal tax credit to help drive down the costs of solar for homeowners like you.

Unfortunately the legislature has been less active of late, allowing the tax credit to expire and delaying the RPS goals by a year. Thankfully, they've also begun a 4-year program that pays solar panel owners a great deal more than retail rates for the electricity their system produce. That program is driving a new solar renaissance in Rhode Island. Find out what it could mean for you below.

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 Rhode Island solar incentives you see below.

Your guide to going solar in Rhode Island

We've designed this page to be a complete guide to the complicated and sometimes confusing process of installing solar panels on a home in Rhode Island. Since there's a lot of important information 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!

The Solar Strategy section is all about the various financial options you have in Rhode Island. We've created a tool that asks you a few questions about what you hope to get out of a solar purchase and recommends whether you should pursue a solar lease, loan, or outright purchase. Then, we give you a detailed picture of how each could work for you.

The Policy Information section contains all of our latest research on the rules set by the state legislature and public utilities commission that determines how easy it is to go solar in Rhode Island. These policies and rules govern everything from renewable energy mandates to whether you get paid retail or wholesale rates for the extra energy your system produces, and can have a huge effect on the viability of solar.

Finally, the Solar Incentives section lists all of the available financial benefits available to homeowners who go solar. This section includes information about money-back rebates and grants, tax credits, and tax exemptions. If you're looking for what Rhode Island is doing to make solar more affordable for its citizens, you'll find it here.

We hope you find our work useful. If so, please help us keep our research and advocacy as strong as possible by sharing it with someone who might also find it interesting, contributing any amount you can, and by getting yourself personalized savings estimates from our trusted partner network.

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 Rhode Island

Figuring out the best way to go solar in Rhode Island 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!

Compare the Return of Different Solar Investments in Rhode Island

solar investment returns in Rhode Island

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. One thing it's important to note is: solar makes you a lot of money in Rhode Island. Yes, we said "makes!" You see, Rhode Island is bascially the perfect solar state, and not because of how much sun it gets.

There are two huge factors working in solar's favor in Rhode Island: the state's Small-Scale Solar grant program and the Renewable Energy Growth Program. Combined, they mean you'll save thousands up front on a new solar system and sell the electricity it produces for thousands more. Solar is cheaper than ever, so the Rhode Island incentives combined with the Federal 30% tax credit for solar means a solar panel system pays itself back quickly and makes you lots of money over its 25-year warrantied life!

Now let's discuss that chart above. We've examined three scenarios for going solar in Rhode Island, including a solar lease, buying solar with a home equity line of credit (HELOC), or buying solar with cash. As you can see, the cash purchase option leads to the highest dollar-amount returns over time, but look a little closer. Taking a HELOC and paying for the system over time (the orange bars) means you'll spend thousands of dollars less over time, while reaping a big financial benefit in year 1.

That's because you take a loan for the system, but you still get all the benefits of paying up front. In Rhode Island, that means a 30% federal tax credit and big annual energy savings. With those incentives, you'll actually come out way ahead after the first year. And even though you'll be making loan payments for 15 years, the cost will be offset by the money paid for your solar electricity under the RE-Growth program.

Finally, take a look at the blue bars. They represent a solar Power-Purchase Agreement (PPA), which is also called third-party ownership. With a PPA, the solar installation company puts panels on your roof at no cost to you, and you make monthly payments that save you about $31 per month from what you had been paying the utility company for their dirty energy. PPAs in Rhode Island are awesome, because the state's high electricity prices mean you start saving money right away. Your savings will start small but finish big, because the lease cost will rise by less than the electric company's annual rate hikes. Third-party ownership is an excellent option even if you have equity or cash to put down, because it can save you tons of money!

Read more below about each of three very good options for solar in Rhode Island.

Net Present Value of Solar in Rhode Island

“Net Present What?!” Don’t panic, this isn’t an economics test. NPV is just a tool used to compare investments. Basically, it asks, “if you had X dollars to invest, which investment would get you the best return?” It relies on the idea that getting a return on your investment sooner is better than later, because you can reinvest your early profits and keep the gain train going.

We compare an investment in solar to a “what-if” investment in a Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 stock index fund, which has seen growth of about 7% per year over the past 25 years. We use the cost of solar in Rhode Island and ask “how much better or worse (in 2018 dollars) is an investment in solar than stocks?” Here's what we found for the three different ways of going solar in Rhode Island:

Look at all that green! When they tell you solar is a good deal in Rhode Island, this is what they're talking about. A solar investment here should provide a better return than the stock market whether you choose a PPA, a loan, or pay up front. Here's some more about how we got these numbers:

Solar PPA NPV: $5,178

Saving money without having to put anything down is always going to have a positive NPV. In Rhode Island, A PPA will save you a little bit each month, adding up to $10,588 over 20 years. That's like having an extra $5,178 to invest today, but it can't even come close to the return of a solar loan. Read more about PPAs in Rhode Island below.

Solar Loan NPV: $15,654

As we’re fond of saying, taking a loan for solar is a no-brainer, because it’s like agreeing to pay over time for something that is also making you money. In Rhode Island, the money you make comes from electricity savings, performance payments, and a huge federal tax credit equal to 30% of the cost of your solar installation at tax time next year. All that helps push the NPV of a solar loan to $15,654 better than a similar investment in the stock market. That's a mind-boggling return for any investment, and it's insane for something that requires no money down. Read more about solar loans below

Solar Purchase NPV: $12,457

If you're paying for solar up front, you're gonna need a few thousand dollars to do it. But when all is said and done, the NPV of an outright solar purchase in Rhode Island is outrageous. The two biggest reasons a solar purchase in Rhode Island has a positive NPV are the 30% federal tax credit and the state's "RE Growth" performance payments. On top of that, the money you save on electricity is also available for future investment. But you can see above what happens to NPV if you choose a solar loan instead. Unless you need to put cash into an asset, a loan is a much smarter way to pay for solar panels. Read more about solar purchases below.

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blue  Solar Power-Purchase Agreements in Rhode Island

Leasing is a great way to go solar if you haven't got stacks of cash or oodles of equity in your home. With a lease, it's possible to get solar panels for $0 down and see big savings over 20 years!

As for leases in Rhode Island: the electricity costs here are very high—we're actually almost 50% more than the national average—and the sun shines bright enough here to make solar power really profitable! That means a lease saves you money starting on day 1. For now, the power you purchase under a PPA should cost around $745 per year, but the same amount of electricity would have cost $1,112 if you bought it from the utility company. That's $367 you get to keep in your pocket this year, just for saying yes to solar!

And those savings will only get larger over time. As the utility company raises rates, your lease costs will go up by a smaller amount, meaning you'll see greater annual savings. Over 20 years, our estimate shows a total savings of $10,588. And the best part is the panels will be owned and maintained by the installation company, so all you have to do is brag to the Joneses down the street about your green habits!

Here's a little more about how a Rhode Island solar lease works:

Example savings in Rhode Island

Annual Electric Bill Before Solar


Annual Electric Bill After Solar


Est. Annual Solar Payments


Average Annual Savings


Power-Purchase Agreements (PPAs) are the most popular form of what's called "third-party solar." A PPA just means your solar company owns the panels on your roof, and you pay for the electricity they produce. The numbers above show the savings with a solar PPA for an average home in Rhode Island. The typical electric bill before solar power is super expensive, but with a PPA, your monthly expenses will be lower. You'll be saving money and saving the planet all at the same time!

Here's an estimate of the monthly savings for a solar PPA in Rhode Island:

Monthly solar PPA savings in Rhode Island

With a PPA, your solar company essentially becomes a second utility provider, only the solar electricity is sold to you at a lower rate than the fossil fuel electricity you've been buying from the electric company! Note: your PPA won't eliminate your power bill from your regular electric provider, because you'll still need energy from the grid when the sun isn't shining. But it will save you money!

The less-popular cousin of the third-party solar family is the solar lease. It's basically like renting your panels for a set monthly payment, and getting all the energy they produce—however much it is. Don't get spooked by that language, though. A typical solar lease comes with energy production guarantees that will make sure you're getting what you paid for. In fact, if you're not offered a production guarantee with a solar lease, walk away.

Here's the best part of third-party solar: whether you end up with a lease or a PPA, the installation company owns the panels and will do all the maintenance for you. Usually that means just a good cleaning every year, but if any part of that system fails, you're off the hook! That can be a great benefit to homeowners who are risk averse.

Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Rhode Island. If you're ready for a custom quote for a solar lease or PPA, our network of experts are on call to assist you. Simply sign up for personalized assistance on our special solar deals page.

Home Solar Power: PPA vs. Purchasing

To PPA, or not to PPA? Willsolar Shakespanels would be proud we're discussing this. Here's the basic deal. If you choose to lease your panels, you benefit from no out of pocket costs and an immediately reduced total electricity payment. Because of this, many regard this option as a no-brainer, since there isn't any downside to think of. The only hiccup you'll start to experience is when you consider the long term financial benefit of owning the solar panel system yourself.

In many situations, if you can afford the outlay or can easily secure financing, the cost of the install becomes an investment with a return outpacing even the strongest performing mutual funds. In addition, there's significantly less principal risk, since the energy credits you will be producing are tied to the sun coming up in the morning instead of our financial markets!

Additionally, if you go the PPA route, you must forfeit all the credits and performance payments you would receive by owning the system yourself to the solar PPA company (after all, that's how they can afford to give you such a no-brainer proposition in the first place).

orange square  Solar Loans in Rhode Island

You don't need $20,000 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 Rhode Island, 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!. You'll come out thousands ahead this year, and you'll see a spectacular profit over the 25-year life of your system. The reason this works so well is that you're paying over time, but reaping all the benefits now. Your yearly energy savings will offset the entire cost of the loan payments, too, which might sound like it's too good to be true... so let's take a look at the numbers.

A solar purchase like this will make sense for you if the following is true about you and your current situation:

  • You can get a home-equity line of credit (HELOC) for $16,650, with a fixed rate of 5% 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 Rhode Island homeowner who makes a solar purchase with a HELOC:

  • Installing a typical 5-kW solar system should start at about $16,500. That's how big your loan will need to be to cover it.
  • The loan payments on that will be $1,478 this year, but the payments for your electricity under the RE-Growth program will be about $2,203, meaning you save $725 with solar this year, and...
  • You'll get a huge tax break! Uncle Sam will give you 30% of the cost of your system back as an income tax credit, which in this case means $4,995 you won't be paying the Feds this year.
  • Getting that tax credit means you'll come out $5,720 ahead after year 1, and it's smooth sailing from then on out. Your energy income will continue to offset your loan payments
  • After you've paid off your loan in 2031, you'll see yearly savings of about $1,400. After 25 years, your total profit will be $32,226! Jaw-droppingly awesome for a $0-down investment.
  • On top of the green that will stay in your pocket, your system will mean green for the environment, too—97 trees-worth, every year!
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Rhode Island. 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.

green square  Buying Solar in Rhode Island

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—with lower equipment costs and that big Federal tax credit, solar costs less than ever before, and a solar installation pays itself off in 4 years. But if you're interested in solar as an investment, taking a loan to pay for the system is a better option.

With a loan, you can make monthly payments instead of putting $17,000 down on a solar system, which means you save money on electricity as you pay down the cost of your panels. If you have equity in your home or can get a large loan with an interest rate of 5% or less, a loan is the option to go with. 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 $20,000, but tax breaks and energy savings will erase a bunch of that after just 1 year. Over 25 years, your system will have produced almost $38,000 in income, after your system cost is paid back. The reason this works is that solar offsets your electricity costs—enough to save you $2,200 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 work for a 5-kW rooftop solar system in Rhode Island:

  • Installing a typical 5-kW solar system should start at about $16,650. That's how big your loan will need to be to cover it. Then...
  • You'll get a huge tax break! Uncle Sam will give you 30% of the cost of your system back as an income tax credit, which in this case means $4,995 you won't be paying the Feds this year.
  • On top of that, Rhode Island's RE-Growth program will pay you double the retail rate for every kWh of electricity your panels generate this year! That's a little over $2,200 that you'll save in electricity costs this year, and it brings the net cost of your system to $9,452 after year 1.

  • With these huge savings, your system will pay itself off after just 4 years, and you'll see a profit for the next 25 years or more. You'll end up with just under $38,000 in totaly profit from your investment in solar. Wow.
  • On top of the green that will stay in your pocket, your system will mean green for the environment, too—97 trees-worth, every year!
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Rhode Island. 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.

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Rhode Island 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 Florida—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 Rhode Island:


38.5% by 2035

Grade: B

Rhode Island's Renewable Portfolio Standard grade

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.

Rhode Island has a very good RPS law that requires utilities to generate 38.5% of their retail electricity sales from renewable resources by the end of 2035. Utilities are currently required to generate 10% of electricity from renewable resources. That requirement will increase 1.5% per year from through 2035.

Last year, we recommended that Rhode Island update the state’s RPS. They did! The old goal had an edn date of 2019, so an additional 16 years and 19.5% was very welcome. Maybe this year we can have a 100% goal... and a puppy?

Rhode Island’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 to. If the utilities don't hit their RPS numbers, they have to pay large fees back to the state.

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


Grade: F

Rhode Island's Solar Carve-out grade

As mentioned above, Rhode Island’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!

Rhode Island Electricity Prices


Grade: A

Rhode Island's Electricity cost grade

Rhode Island homeowners pay an average of 19 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity. That’s well above the national average of 13 cents/kWh. We know you hate paying that extra-high electric bill, but where you’re currently seeing larger bills, you could be seeing even bigger savings! Higher electricity prices means greater opportunity to save money by producing your own clean, earth-friendly 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.

Rhode Island Net Metering


Grade: A

Rhode Island'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 the surplus.

Rhode Island has a strong net metering program that ensures you get credit for your surplus energy production -- up to 125% of your monthly consumption. Surplus will be credited to the customer at the utilities avoided-cost rate, and may be either carried forward to the next bill or purchased by the utility, at the utilities discretion.

For 2016 and onward, the legislature doubled the net metering limit to 10 Megawatts of total generation capacity, and also added net metering for 3rd-party-owned systems. Nice job!

That’s a pretty solid law overall, but there are definitely some easy tweaks the legislature could implement to make net metering even stronger. For one, municipal and cooperative electric companies are currently exempt from the statewide net metering standards. The law should be expanded to cover all utilities. And of course, we’d like to see the option for bill rollovers or cash payments moved from the utility to you, so you can decide how the savings help you most.

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.

Rhode Island Interconnection Rules


Rhode Island's Interconnection Standards grade

Rhode Island’s interconnection standards are unfortunately not up to the standard set by our net metering law. The legislature did step up in June 2011 to standardize procedures across Rhode Island, but the procedures put into place are needlessly complicated.

An applicant for interconnection must submit an application to the utility for an impact study, including a request for an estimate of the cost of interconnecting the proposed system. An optional feasibility study may also be requested prior to an impact study. The feasibility study offers a shorter mandatory response time – 30 days from receipt of the completed application as opposed to 90 days for the impact study. But, as you’ve probably already realized, the faster response time will only helps those for whom interconnection is not feasible. If you are a good candidate for interconnection you will still have to wait for an impact study to be conducted.

While these studies may cost you time, they thankfully will not cost you money. There are no fees for either a feasibility or impact study for residential systems under 25 kW. However, the issue of the redundant external disconnect switch remains unaddressed by the current interconnection standards -- we’d like to see dealt with to keep your costs as low as possible.

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.

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Solar Incentives in Rhode Island

Rhode Island Solar Power Rebates


Grade: A

Rhode Island's Solar Rebates grade

On top of the state's excellent Renewable Energy Growth Program, there is also a grant program for small solar systems. Each year, the Rhode Island Renewable Energy Fund issues several rounds of grants.

For 2017, the grant amount is up to $1.05 per watt of installed solar, or $.70/watt for 3rd-party owned systems. That puts this grant program among the best in the nation. Way to go, Rhode Island!

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.

Rhode Island Solar Power Tax Credits


Grade: F

Rhode Island's Solar Tax Credits grade

There are no tax credits for solar in Rhode Island, but don't fret. Some of you may remember the personal tax credit that used to be available for residential solar power systems. That tax credit was allowed to expire without extension, but the state has elected to subsidize solar power with a feed-in-tariff (fixed, long-term contract to buy your power). It's not how all states do it, but it looks like it's gonna work out just fine.

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


Grade: A

Rhode Island's Solar Performance Payments grade

Rhode Island has an amazing performance payment program, which started in 2015. Called the Renewable Energy Growth Program, it succeeds (where a previous program failed) by offering direct incentive payments for small scale solar projects (up to 25 kW).

Aiming to install 3 MW of small scale solar per year for the first four years, this program means business, and it puts money in your pocket if you own solar. The program pays solar energy producers 37.75 cents for every kilowatt-hour their panels send to the grid, for 20 years.

A long-term price for your electricity generation is a dream come true for solar owners. You're guaranteed to get paid this amount, so if your system produces to its capacity (which is virtually guaranteed, since the panel warranty extends for 25 years), you'll end up getting paid $12,735 over the 20-year contract term.

That. Is. Huge.

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.

If you don’t know what an SREC is, or how they work, check out this great SREC video

Property Tax Exemption

Same as standard

Grade: A

Rhode Island's Solar Property Tax Exemptions grade

Thankfully there are tax exemptions for solar power here. When you install a solar power system, your home goes up in value by quite a bit (we’ll get to how much in just a minute). No one should ever be penalized for converting to renewable energy, a sentiment with which the Rhode Island legislature agrees. That’s why they passed a property tax law ensuring that your solar power system will never be assessed at any higher value than the equivalent standard, non-renewable energy production system. That means all that increase in value you get from a solar power system over a conventional system stays with you and not with the state tax collectors.

About solar property tax exemptions: Property tax exemption status is a pretty big factor when putting together your investment considerations. Many argue that solar power adds approximately 20 times your annual electricity bill savings (if you are owning the system and not leasing. Leasing still has a positive impact on the ability to sell your home though, in our opinion).

For many average-sized solar power systems on a house, that can mean $20,000 to your home value. (Edit April, 2014: Some companies, like Solar Mosaic, are starting to offer traditional style equity-based home loans for such a thing). 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 also sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency. The stronger the tax exemption, the higher the grade.

Sales Tax Exemption


Grade: A

Rhode Island's Solar Sales Tax Exemption grade

Those shiny new solar panels are also 100% exempt from all sales and use taxes when you purchase and install them.

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 Rhode Island solar power rebates and incentives

Solar policy was pretty strong here a few years ago. Unfortunately, because of the expiration of the tax credit and the strengthening of RPS’s and solar incentives by lots of other states, Rhode Island has slipped quite a bit behind the pack when it comes to promoting planet-friendly, cash-saving residential solar power. The 14 year payback timeframe is mediocre at best, and the timeframe is only that short because of high energy prices. Combined with a large up front cost compared to solar-friendly states, we can’t give Rhode Island anything higher than a “C+”

How much can you save with $0-down solar?

Find out

21 thoughts on “2018 Guide to Rhode Island Home Solar Incentives, Rebates, and Tax Credits


    Your download bar produced only the first chapter. The interesting info appears to be in later chapters. How can I get them?

  2. John says:

    RI has a new program called RI-RE-growth: Beginning June 15, 2015, Applicants may enroll via an interconnection application. The interconnection process is supposed to be simplified, although it still looks complicated to me. Depending on the term, project size, and other factors, National Grid will pay from 29.8¢ to 41.35¢ per kilowatt-hour for solar generation in a PerformanceBased Incentive (PBI). One problem I still have with most incentive programs is the restriction that homeowners should not produce more electricity than they use. What is confusing to me is how can NG pay the producer/consumer/customer 37c/kwh when your net production will likely be less than zero?

  3. CA says:

    At the top of the page it says RI allows for solar leasing. At the bottom of the page, it says RI doesn’t.

    1. Ben Zientara says:

      Good catch, CA! Rhode Island changed in 2015. We’ll have the updated page ready in September.

  4. Edgar Goulet says:

    In 2005 I signed up for those incentives that were to pay 4.50 a watt back to the home owner with a 6000 watt limit for homes. I was 14th on that list when I ordered a 6080 watt system which would have pad me only for the 6000 which was 27,000 dollars I would have gotten back. I had to have a system ordered to get lock in so I took out a 40,000 dollar loan and ordered that System from solartron technology based in California. I was in the process of in staling it myself when I was third on that list and received a letter stating that they had run out of money. Even though every home owner was still paying 0.3 percent to the RI energy fund, so how could they have run out of money as it was still being paid and collected? Then the letter also stated that, if they receive more money that I would received only 3.00dollars a watt instead of the 4.50 that was state before I got suckered into this bait and switch deal which ruined my initial plans so the system I have never got installed for the lack of a 9,000 dollar difference . So I got stuck with a loan and th interest and have a 40 panel of 170 mitsubishi panels with two 2500 watt zantrex inverters with all the rail to hold the panels to the roof. I no longer have that home as one glitch started another and for the last three years I’ve lived in a tent on land that I preserved. I use six panels to get me by as I couldn’t get even a temporary power box as I needed full plan and paperwork that wasn’t possible at that time. I could have sold back 5 or more times the electric power back to the power company but they just wanted to store it while I would have maintained it for them for free plus the construction of a roof to install them on. They wanted to pay almost nothing if they did buy it like 2 cents a watt while charging about 9 or 10 a watt to you the customer. Everything is rigged to screw the little guy who pays and does the work while they do nothing and give you all these delivery charges, with is ridiculous as delivery has always came though the lines not like a truck had to be sent out and fill you house transformer. They Never had all those extra charges when Narragansett owned it but I guess those Brits figured that extra would pay off the mortgage faster and they could shut you off. Plus their still pissed off about the tea party during the revolution not the tea party that you though Huh. Everything in RI. That makes any king of money is fixed and everyone who runs this State is in on it so no one will investigate themselves. Look at the land fill money 75million, Providence, missing money, 38 studio and those tax incentives.Even the FBI or the US attorney doesn’t even want to take their head out of the sand because they would see as witnesses to corruption and their all part of it and so is the State Police. It nothing but an ethnic gang that was said to having gotten rid of but instead it’s just a partnership and everyone know it but are afraid to lose their second and third homes in Florida. Wait till they get Judge after they all pass as there is no Union up there And don’t accept the American MPC which is what we printed in Vietnam so we could screw them.

  5. Jacquie says:

    I am a newbie here but appreciate your input and comments greatly. Contemplating a move from MA to RI and constructing home with solar but may wait a few years or stay in MA. Come on RI let’s get on board and reward the efforts of homeowner that should live as GREEN as possible>

  6. Deep Sea Driller says:

    To Paddymcc, it was Transocean and BP that had the blowout in the US Gulf of Mexico. The lawsuit will be in New Orleans Federal Court starting Feb 2012..there’s nearly $40-60 billion at stake to be paid to plaintiffs and fines to the US govt. Ok, where’s my soapbox…
    RI is a joke regarding green power. It’s all a dog and pony show regarding the new tarrif laws passed last month..they only benifit large commercial projects, once again “the corporations rule”. (what would you expect from a republican governor?) We put 4.6 kW Pv array on a new garage I built specifically to mount my panels (roof angle at 41deg and bearing around 190deg magnetic) Feb 2011(total cost of garage $36K, solar install was $16,300 TOTAL cost. I did the wiring up with a buddy. It works awesome we produce about 150Kw/month over what the house requires. (we are very conservative with energy CFL’s, use a clothes line when possible etc.) so we get a check from Nat’l Grid. BUT it’s at a reduced rate. woudl prefer that Nat’l Grid just add up teh extra kW so we heat siuppliment with electric but that is a joke too, they wipe out whatever you have accumulated in kW credits every January! So they make out like bandits ..literally.
    Another big problem for solar Pv in RI..The town (Little Compton) also increased my property value by $144,000 after I did this install! I applied for a review of this estimate and they went down to $90K..still absoutely insane propety appreciation. The garage and solar system combined cost just over $52K! Also, RI state law declares that towns may not add the cost of the solar Pv to property value. So now I’m fighting city hall. (“Vison” the company that estimates property value for Little Compton are in my sights for a lawsuit if this does not get resolved) Rhode Island is a beautiful place; it’s just our politicians that are “bought” and don’t represent the people trying to make a difference.
    Go solar and join the fight…keeps life interesting! PS,our system blasts power during the winter, cold winter temps increase conductivity of the panels.

    1. the party doesn't matter says:

      There are the same problems now and the republican governor is gone guess it wasn’t him. The same people are in Rhode Island house and senate they might be the real problem. Who care about what party they all suck. RI will never change unless we get rid of all the fat.

      So you have had you system for a while now are you still getting the same output.

  7. Anthony says:

    I’ve looked into Solar for my house, but the lack of tax credits here makes the install costs prohibitive. According to the this site, Rhode Island ranks the same as California. I’d say that’s way, way off the mark. I wonder if there are community groups that can get together to “buy in bulk” for whole neighborhoods, thus dramatically cutting costs. I heard about a neighborhood association on the West Side doing something like this?

  8. Michael Johnson says:

    RI lost its 25% tax credit in 2011. The good rating should be dropped to Poor at this piont.

  9. Paddymcc says:

    I have looked at installing both water & PV panels. Comments above are correct and there is no incentive to become independent of non-renewable sources of energy.

    We should be like California, their net metering pays those sending power to the grid the same amount that the utility charges their consumers. Think it over, as it presently stands, the utility makes money from homeowners who install Solar panels, they have no overhead, no new plants to produce energy, no maintenance and no labor force. Put on top of this that net metering to the grid has close to zero loss vs utilities present loss of over 25% of the power they generate via transmission line loss.
    I have not moved on my plans for two reasons;
    1 – Solar panels are produced by Germany or China – how come our Federal Stimulus didn’t put us in a position to produce cost effective panels?
    2 – As noted above, why should I in essence build power plant that my utility company will profit from?
    The USA needs to make some forward thinking efforts to thumb our noses on oil and gas. With the horrific oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, we should have fined Exxon the street value of the estimated barrels of oil leaked. These funds should have been placed in a fund, strictly for a national government move to solar. Every homeowner should have received, a basic solar system,with a minimum of 2 panels but designed and built to expand to cover 75% of the homeowners power consumption. The basic 2 panel, design, permits, equipment and labor all provided at no cost to the homeowner, paid from the Exxon fines.

    Imagine how much energy could be saved with even 50% of our homes with 2 solar panels?

    Lets set the record straight, if the US is to stop slipping in technology, we need to lead – and quickly, least we see our talent move not our of state, but out of the country.

  10. Michael Johnson says:

    2011 and still nothing from the state as far as solar rebates. 25% tax credit and 30% fed is what you get. Don’t think you add this up and get 55% off. You do not.
    On the bright side prices have dropped 3-fold on solar vacuum tubes for hot water since I made my first post here!!! You can get a 30 tube collector for under $1300-. I’ll be doing this WITHOUT the help of the pathetic state government energy program. Too bad if I lived in Mass I could just about get the entire thing for free!!

  11. Doug says:

    Rhode Island is giving away some of that stimulus money to non-utility scale (residential) renewable energy projects right now.Find the application on the office of energys’ web site.

  12. Devin says:

    Anyone know any good sources for more info on Rhode Island state solar incentives? I’ve been looking through the state’s website, but would like more detail and an outside opinion…

    1. Tor a.k.a. "Solar Fred" says:

      Hi, Devin,

      We’re behind updating our info, I know. We’re trying to get to every state as soon as we can, but incentives keep changing. Best thing to do is to fill out our form to get a free local quote. You can only lose a little bit of time since it’s free, and worse come to worse, you’ll gain a whole lot of information that you can use for the future about your own power usage and solar potential. We hope to get to updating Rhode Island in early 2010.

  13. chris says:

    The latest RI scam is the 250 million dollars in federal stimuls money. Where is that money going?
    Home owners should look a hot water solar and eliminate 30% of their energy usage, then look at PV.

    1. Tor a.k.a. "Solar Fred" says:

      Chris, not sure where the stimulus money is, but you’re right that energy efficiency would be helpful and we recommend it be done together. In our example, this system reduce electric costs by 50%, but with energy efficiency measures such as using CFL bulbs and increasing insulation or replacing old refrigerators with energy star models, that same system might take care of 75% or more! Thanks for commenting.

  14. Jerry Greene says:

    I live in Rhode Island and would love to have solar power. Finding helpful info is impossible!

  15. joyce lilly says:

    There was incentive money in 2005 because we received some, but it was from the end of the program. We have the panels and our utility bills are essentially zero. The Feds should incentivize installation, the systems work with no problems.

  16. Joe Boisvert says:

    Michael Johnson is correct, RI is absolutely NOT solar friendly. There is no rebate and nothing from National Grid. And , like everything else here, getting any info from the state on solar energy is like pulling hen’s teeth.

  17. michael johnson says:

    RI is not solar friendly and this site needs to update its information. There is NO rebate. National grid does NOTHING for PV installs. They only supply net metering because the government made them. The wind energy that the state is supporting is just smoke and mirrors. Look where the money is going. None of it is going to produce 1 watt of green power.

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