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.
Vermont, home of Howard Dean, Jim Jeffords and many a progressive leader, is starting to live up to that progressive tradition in solar policy. We’re not there quite yet, but recent discussions about turning the states renewable energy goals into firm mandates, and a performance incentive program from the state’s largest utility are a strong sign for the future. That said, for a state known for its small farms, fall foliage, maple syrup, and world class skiing, Vermont can still do more to protect its environment.
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 Vermont solar incentives you see below.
Your guide to going solar in Vermont
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 Vermont. 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 Vermont. 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 Vermont. 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 Vermont 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 Vermont Solar Strategy|
|Comparing Solar Investment Options|
|Solar PPAs in Vermont|
|Solar Loans in Vermont|
|Buying Solar in Vermont|
|Solar Purchase Payback Time in Vermont|
|Vermont Solar Policy Information|
|Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)|
|RPS Solar Carve-Out|
Your Solar Strategy in Vermont
Figuring out the best way to go solar in Vermont 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:
Compare the Return of Different Solar Investments in Vermont
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, Vermont has the potential for very high 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, and SREC sales for the first 10 years, too. 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 PPA, which means you sign a contract to have panels put on your roof and pay for the electricity they generate at a lower rate than you would have paid the utility. 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 Vermont!
Net Present Value of Solar in Vermont
“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 Vermont 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 Vermont:
Look at all that green! When they tell you solar is a good deal in Vermont, this is what they're talking about. A solar investment in Vermont 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: $4,633
Saving money without having to put anything down is always going to have a positive NPV. In Vermont, you’ll save $9,473 by paying for electricity under a solar PPA for 20 years, which is the basically having an extra $4,633 to invest now. Read more about PPAs in Vermont below.
Solar Loan NPV: $5,482
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, plus you get 30% of the loan value as a federal tax credit (cash in your pocket) after making payments for only 1 year. In the case of Vermont, that tax credit windfall is just one art of the story. On top of it, you'll get a $.05/kWh bonus payment that can add up to hundreds of dollars per year. All that helps push the NPV of a solar loan to nearly $5,500 better than a similar investment in the stock market. That's a great return for any investment, and it's insane for something that requires no money down. Read more about solar loans below
Solar Purchase NPV: $1,890
The two biggest reasons a solar purchase in Vermont has a positive NPV are the 30% federal tax credit and that per-kWh bonus payment. 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.
Solar Power-Purchase Agreements in Vermont
Vermont residents have long enjoyed the ability to get solar from a third-party company and pay monthly, and a Power-Purchase Agreement (PPA) is still a great way to go, especially if you haven't got piles of cash or equity in your home. The state legislature and public utilities commission are really into solar, so there isn't much reason to worry that utility companies will start trying to impose monthly fees on solar homeowners like they have in other states.
For now, a 5-kW solar system can save you about $27 per month with a PPA, which might not sound like a lot, but add that up over 20 years and consider how much electric companies raise rates on that electricity you won't be paying for, and you have a end up with a small mountain of cash with very little risk or work. You can put $0 down and start saving right away, while the installation company takes care of all the maintenance and repairs.
By the time the end of your PPA rolls around, you'll have an extra $9,473 in your pocket. Must be nice to have such big pockets!
Here's more about how a solar PPA works:
Example savings in Vermont
Annual Electric Bill Before Solar
Annual Electric Bill After Solar
Est. Annual Solar Payments
Average Annual Savings
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 Vermont. 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 Vermont:
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 Vermont. 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).
Solar Loans in Vermont
You don't need $19,000 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 Vermont, using a loan to pay for solar is like investing in a business that's sure to succeed, and also earns you a federal 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 $18,750, with a fixed rate of 4.5% 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 Vermont solar purchase with a loan:
- Installing a typical 5-kW solar system should start at about $18,750. 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 $995, but your annual loan payments will be $665, meaning you would spend $330 on solar this year, but...
- You'll also see a huge tax break. The Feds give you 30% of the cost of your system back as a tax credit, which in this case is $5,625. You'll be paying over time but getting all the benefits up front!
- The final bit of savings comes from Green Mountain Power's performance payment program. That will mean an additional $310 in income from solar this year. All these incentives mean you'll come out $5,265 ahead after year 1.
- The electricity savings and SREC sales will always be more than the cost of your loan. You won't ever spend a penny on solar, and you'll come out $13,735 ahead after 25 years. Home solar in Vermont is an incredible opportunity.
- 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 Vermont. 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.
Buying Solar in Vermont
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 11 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 thousands 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 4.5% 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 $18,750, 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 $20,000 in income, after your system cost is paid back. The reason this works is that solar offsets your electricity costs—enough to save you $1,053 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 Vermont:
- Installing a typical 5-kW solar system should start at about $18,750. 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 Federal government offers a great income tax credit of 30% of system costs. That's $5,625 you won't be paying to Uncle Sam this year, and it brings your first-year investment down to $13,125.
- After that tax credit, we subtract your first year’s energy savings, which we estimate to be $995. That reduces your cost after the first year to only $12,130—a savings of about 35% off the cost of your system. That's a huge cost reduction!
- Those electricity savings will quickly pile up, and your system will pay for itself in year 10. But your panels carry 25-year warranties, and they'll likely keep on kicking out kilowatts for a few decades or more. You'll see a total net profit of $19,950 by the end of that warranty. The internal rate of return for this investment is an amazing 10.1%. That's well above the return of an investment in stock market index funds, and it's more reliable, too!
- And here's a nice bonus to consider: your home's value just increased by about $12,000, too—the NPV of your expected electricity savings over 20 years—and thanks to Vermont's property tax exemption for solar, none of that is subject to taxation!.
- 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 97 trees a year, every year your solar power system is humming.
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Vermont. 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.
Vermont 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 Vermont:
75% by 2032
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. The story here is a little bit less straightforward, as Vermont’s RPS is not a true RPS.
2015 was the year Vermont kicked its renewable energy goal into high gear, replacing it's old voluntary standard with a shiny new mandatory renewable energy program that requires 55% of all Vermont electricity come from renewable sources by 2017.
And they don't stop there. Once the 2107 goals have been met, the requirement increases by 4% every three years until reaching 75% by 2032. That's one of the most ambitious renewable standards in the country, eclipsed only by the 100% standard in Hawaii
Vermont’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
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!
Vermont Electricity Prices
As of this writing, the 70% of Vermont residents served by Green Mountain Power pay an average of 16 cents per kWh of electricity (check current GMP electricity rates to be sure). That’s well above the national average of 13.6 cents/kWh, and it’s a major reason why the core of Vermont’s current renewable energy goals – the SPEED program – is promoting sustainably priced energy in its name. Solar power is indeed sustainably priced, especially compared to what you’re paying for energy right now. And for almost all Vermont homeowners, solar power can earn you extra credit on top of those retail rates.
Of course, renewable energy is more than just sustainably priced, it’s sustainable for the earth as well. Especially in comparison to the tons and tons (literally) of greenhouse gas producing, ozone-killing fossil fuels that we don’t need to be burning. Not to mention the fact that the growing scarcity and eventual consequences of all those fossil fuels is only going to drive energy prices ever higher. The earlier you switch, the more you save!
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.
Vermont 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.
In 2017, Vermont moved from a pretty simple, straightforward net metering policy to one that's quite abit more complicated. Now, if you install a solar system on your home, you can expect to earn credit for each kWh of electiricty you send to the grid (known as "net excess generation", but how much you get paid varies based on your utility company.
Per DSIRE Any customer net excess generation (NEG) is credited at the blended residential rate and carried over to the customer’s next bill. The blended residential rate is the lowest of the following:
- For electric companies whose general residential service tariff does not include inclining block rates, the per-kWh charge in the company's general residential service tariff;
- For electric companies whose general residential service tariff does include inclining block rates, a blend of those rates determined by adding together all of the revenues to the company during the most recent calendar year from kWh sold under those block rates and dividing the sum by the total kWh sold by the company at those rates during the same year; or
- The weighted average of the blended residential rates for all Vermont electric companies (weighted by the annual retail sales of the electric companies.)
All that is a complicated way to say "you get credit for the retail rate for electricity." But vermont goes a step further, because they add a tiny bit of value to the energy that comes from small solar suppliers, like you and me. Each kWh sent to the grid from a home solar system smaller than 15-kW (i.e. almost all of them) earns an additional $.01/kWh on top of the retail rate credit. That means your electricity production can actually earn you money, not just save you the cost of the retail payment. But here's one final complication: if, after 12 months you've sent more energy to the grid that you've used, you lose the credit for that energy. This rolls on a month-to-month basis, so it actually isn't that big of a deal; but it is a reason to make sure you size your system to meet, not exceed, your annual usage estimate.
Vermont's Group Net Metering
A unique and cool thing Vermont does is called “group net metering," which is basically what it sounds. a group of home or business owners can join together and benefit from one or more net metered solar systems. For example, a group can pay for a large solar installation (the maximum size for a group on 500kW) on the land of one person with a lot of open space, and ask the utility company to assign the credits earned by that system to each of the participants based on a percentage they elect. One person is named as the "designated person," who signs all the necessary documents and sets the credit amounts, and the credit allocations can be changed up to 4 times a year.
As another example, a church might install a solar system on their roof that produces more energy than the building uses in a year, and then designates the pastor's house as part of the group, offsetting some of the usage at that address, as well. There is a lot of possibilities in the group design.
It's a little more complicated than that, but that's why we have knowledgeable friends who can help. Simply connect with our solar experts in Vermont today, and tell them you're interested in setting up a solar installation and net metering group!
Finally, there's the issue of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), which your system earns you for each MWh of electiricty it generates. Under the new net billing arrangement, you can elect for the utility to keep all RECs generated by your system and get another $.03/kWh payment for the first 10 years of operation. But this is more like a performance payment, so we'll cover it in the Vermont solar performance payment section below.
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.
Vermont Interconnection Rules
Interconnection in Vermont is not quite as strong. The good news is that a utility may not charge additional standby, capacity or interconnection fees, or fees or charges other than the customary minimum monthly fee. The bad news is that you are required to have a redundant external disconnect switch, unless your utility is willing to waive the requirement (again, our expert partners on the ground will walk you through that possibility). Residential systems are also required to carry a minimum of $100,000 in general liability insurance. For more details and applications, check out Vermont’s requirements for systems up to 150kW.
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 Vermont
Vermont Solar Power Rebates
Vermont used to have a good statewide rebate program that would pay you $250/kW up to 10 kW when you install a new solar power system. Sadly, 2015 saw the end of this successful program.
Rebates work to bring the costs of solar down for ordinary folks, and the corresponding increase the volume of new solar installations helps bring labor and equipment costs down for everyone who comes after. This rebate program was successful in doing both those things, but we'll still shed a tear that it's no longer available,.
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.
Vermont Solar Power Tax Credits
While Vermont does not have any policies currently to provide renewable energy tax credits, you will benefit from the 30% Federal Solar Tax Credit nonetheless! There's no cap on the federal tax credit and you'll deduct that right after your rebate. 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
$.03/kWh for 10 years
As of 2017, Vermont has a pretty decent statewide performance payment plan. You might not know this, but simply by generating solar power, your home solar panel installation earns you a really neat form of credit for clean generation called a "Renewable Energy Credit," or REC. You can choose to keep those RECs and potentially sell them sometime in the future, but nobody's buying right now, so you best bet is to assign ownership of your RECs to the utility company. If you do, they'll pay you extra for each kWh of electricity genertaed by your system for the first 10 years of operation.
That payment amounts to a $.03/kWh credit, which is a really nice bonus. For the average-sized home solar system in Vermont, the REC payments add up to about $200 per year. Not bad for something you didn't even know about 5 mintes ago! But this incentive has a dark side: If you choose not to assign REC ownership, you have to pay $.03/kWh to the utility company instead. So assign those RECs when you install your panels, and get ready to bask in the savings!
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
As of 2013, Vermont has enacted a blanket 100% property tax exemption for solar photovoltaic systems up to and including 10kW. Thanks, Vermont! Since this exemption may not include municipal property taxes, Vermont gives localities the option of exempting you from some or all of the property taxes associated with the increase in home value you’ll see from the installation of a solar power system. Those experts we partner with can (and certainly will) fill you in on all the details of your town and whether or not it has an exemption.
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
You also save on the up-front cost of your solar power system in Vermont via an exemption on 100% of all applicable sales taxes on the purchase of that shiny new money-saving machine.
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 Vermont solar power rebates and incentives
Things are starting to look up for solar power in Vermont. If you’re lucky enough to cash in on Green Mountain’s performance payments, the extra money can really add up over time and help reduce payback time frames to a pretty strong 10 years. As we said at the top, however, there is still room for improvement. Too much of the state does not have access to a standard performance incentive offer; the SPEED and Renewables Targets programs should be transitioned into a true RPS; and speaking of which, we would love to see a solar carve out. That said, Vermont has come a long way. With a strong rebate program, performance incentives for many and discussions of a true RPS in the works, solar policy here earns a very solid “B+” grade.
Again, if you are confused about how these numbers work and would like some personalized assistance or a quote of your own, simply connect with our network of solar experts. They’ll help sort out all the pricing, get you access to special deals, and they’re super friendly to boot!