Solar Power on the West Coast: Does It Pay Off?

Roof high photo voltaic panels are going up round the United States at an accelerating tempo. Residential solar installations reached record highs for the fifth straight 12 months in 2021. While the potential lapse of the federal tax credit and inflation and provide chain points might enhance costs, 2022 should see a large number of installations.

The west coast of the United States is an attention-grabbing place in relation to photo voltaic adoption. While California leads all states in the quantity of photo voltaic put in, Washington and Oregon, (maybe unfairly) recognized for dreary, grey climate, lag behind the frontrunner. While there are some challenges to photo voltaic potential at a regional stage (or perhaps a state stage), there’s nonetheless loads to be gained from taking this view. Along the West Coast, there are some traits, bills and incentives value collectively.

Read CNET’s protection of different areas’ photo voltaic potential: New EnglandEast Coast and the Midwest.

The value of electrical energy

From south to north, electrical energy prices on the west coast vary from a few of the highest in the nation to the least expensive. Electricity in California cost an average of 20.45 cents per kilowatt hour in 2022. In Oregon, it was 11.17 cents per kilowatt hour and in Washington 9.87 cents per kilowatt hour, in accordance with the US Energy Information Administration.

Average month-to-month payments in California have been $116.94. In Oregon they have been $102.32 and in Washington $95.72 in accordance with the identical Energy Information Administration report. Even in Washington, which has the lowest common value for electrical energy, the common yearly prices are over $1,100.

The value of photo voltaic panels

The most typical metric to gauge photo voltaic panel prices is {dollars} per watt. To discover it, divide the whole value of a photo voltaic set up by the system’s capability. The common value of photo voltaic panels in California is $2.69 per watt. In Oregon it is $2.89 and in Washington $2.64, in accordance with EnergySage. That’s decrease than in lots of elements of the United States, like New England, the place almost each state averages over $3.00 per watt.

The average cost of solar is $3.28 per watt, in accordance with market analyst agency Wood Mackenzie. (It’s necessary to notice that common prices differ from supply to supply, which get their data from completely different locations.) While solar panels themselves have become much cheaper in recent times, delicate prices, which incorporates gross sales bills and labor prices and could possibly be extra regionally variable, have fallen far more slowly.

Incentives additionally influence the value of a photo voltaic system. 

Solar arrays put in anyplace in the United States are eligible for the federal solar tax credit. For any photo voltaic system put in in 2022, the federal authorities will return 26% of the system’s value to you on your taxes. In 2023 the credit score is slated to drop to 22% and go away altogether in 2024, barring an extension by the authorities. Depending on the place you reside, you might need extra incentives accessible to you.

Solar panels in front of palm trees.

California has the most photo voltaic installations of any state.


Raimund Koch/Getty Images

Across California there are municipal and utility-run applications that provide further advantages, together with rebates starting from $300 to $7,000. California has a property tax exemption for residential photo voltaic techniques photo voltaic panels and localized rebates. Some cities and utilities in Oregon have rebates that vary from $900 to $9,000, relying on the earnings and variety of residents of the residence. Washington has a gross sales tax exemption and several other native mortgage applications. 

Each state has allowances for net metering, although at the very least one utility in Washington has stopped accepting functions and California is in the center of a contentious political course of revising its web metering insurance policies.

Learn extra about the incentives particular to you by exploring the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency or analysis beginning along with your metropolis and utility.

The photo voltaic potential of the West Coast

While California leads the contiguous 48 states in solar installations per capita and has over 4 instances as many photo voltaic installations as the subsequent closest state, Oregon (seventeenth most installations per capita) and Washington (twenty fourth) fall nearer the center.

Solar potential may be outlined in just a few other ways. One is by how a lot electrical energy a standardized, horizontal, sq. meter photo voltaic panel would generate in someday. Most of California ranges from about 5.5 kilowatt-hours to 7 kilowatt-hours per day. Oregon ranges from just below six kilowatt-hours day by day to nearer to 4 alongside the coast. Washington ranges from 5 to 4. Four kilowatt-hours per day is near the lowest score of anyplace in the decrease 48.

Another approach to take into account photo voltaic potential is how a lot of the common electrical energy invoice photo voltaic panels may offset. In California, the common offset is over 100%. In Oregon it is a lot decrease at 60%-70%. In Washington it is under 60%.

These numbers are statewide averages. They will not be precisely what anyone particular person house owner will discover once they look into photo voltaic for his or her residence. The angle and direction of their roof, their power utilization and the availability of native incentives will change the calculus. While it looks as if the photo voltaic potential of California is clearly greater than Washington, there are certain to be instances in each locations that exceed or fall in need of the state averages.

The greatest approach to know whether or not photo voltaic is an efficient match is to collect a number of quotes and evaluate them towards power utilization, native electrical energy charges and photo voltaic incentives. From this high-level view, it appears that evidently photo voltaic panels make apparent sense in elements of the west coast.

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