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A Bright Idea: How to Save Big on Solar Panels in Maine

As a Mainer, you know that our state is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty – from the rocky coastlines to the vast forests that cover so much of our land. But did you know that Maine is also becoming a leader in harnessing the power of the sun? That‘s right – solar energy is on the rise in the Pine Tree State, and there‘s never been a better time to make the switch to clean, renewable power for your home.

In recent years, Maine has taken major strides to support the growth of solar energy. In 2019, Governor Janet Mills signed legislation to restore net metering, making it easier for homeowners to get credited for the excess solar power they generate. The state has also set ambitious goals to get 80% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and 100% by 2050. This strong commitment to sustainability is driving a boom in solar development across Maine.

Maine Solar Energy Growth

Data source: SEIA

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Maine ranks 37th in the nation for total installed solar capacity – but that‘s rapidly changing. In 2022 alone, the state added over 200 megawatts of new solar, a 64% increase from the previous year. SEIA projects that Maine will rise to 28th place over the next 5 years as solar development continues to accelerate.

So what does all this growth mean for you as a homeowner? Simply put, going solar in Maine can save you serious money – we‘re talking tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your system. Let‘s break down some of the key financial incentives available:

1. Federal Solar Tax Credit

The biggest solar incentive for Mainers comes from Uncle Sam himself. The federal government offers a tax credit worth 30% of the total cost of your solar panel system – including equipment, labor, and even sales taxes. For an average 6-kilowatt system in Maine (which costs around $17,000), that‘s an instant savings of over $5,000. And unlike a deduction, a credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the taxes you owe. It‘s essentially free money!

One important thing to note is that you must own your solar panels to be eligible for the federal tax credit. Leasing a system or signing a power purchase agreement (PPA) with a solar company won‘t qualify. But for most Mainers, buying is the better deal anyway – it maximizes your long-term savings and gives you full control over your energy production.

2. Net Metering

Another key incentive for solar in Maine is net metering. This policy allows you to sell any excess electricity your panels generate back to the grid, offsetting your future energy costs. While Maine‘s net metering program has gone through some changes in recent years, it‘s still a valuable benefit for solar owners.

Here‘s how it works: If your panels produce more power than your home is using at any given moment, that excess energy flows back into the grid. Your utility company will track how much you provide and credit that amount on your next electric bill. Then, during times when your panels aren‘t producing enough energy (like at night or on cloudy days), you can draw power from the grid and use those credits to offset the cost.

Starting in 2023, Maine solar customers will be able to apply net metering to 40% of their system‘s total output each year. While this is a step down from the previous 100% limit, it still provides significant savings potential. And unlike some other states, Maine allows you to roll over unused credits indefinitely – so you won‘t lose out if you have a particularly sunny month.

"Net metering is a crucial policy for making solar accessible and affordable for Maine homeowners," says Sarah Beth Johnson, a renewable energy consultant based in Portland. "Even with the new 40% limit, most customers will still be able to offset a significant portion of their annual electricity costs with solar credits."

3. Property Tax Exemption

Solar panels are a valuable addition to your home – but in Maine, they won‘t add to your property tax bill. That‘s because the state offers a 100% property tax exemption for residential solar systems.

Normally, any major home improvement that increases your property value (like a kitchen remodel or addition) will also raise your tax assessment. But thanks to this exemption, your solar panels are essentially invisible to the tax man. You‘ll reap all the financial benefits of going solar without paying a penny more in property taxes.

This exemption can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the life of your system, depending on your local tax rate and the size of your installation. It‘s just one more way Maine is making solar more affordable for homeowners like you.

4. Community Solar

What if you want to go solar but your roof isn‘t suitable for panels? Or maybe you rent your home or live in a multi-unit building? Not to worry – community solar programs have you covered.

Community solar (sometimes called shared solar or solar gardens) allows multiple households to share the benefits of a single large solar array. Instead of putting panels on your own roof, you can subscribe to a portion of a larger system and receive credits on your electric bill for the power it produces.

Maine is a national leader in community solar, thanks to strong state policies and ambitious development goals. Mainers who participate in a community solar project can save an estimated 15-20% on their annual electricity costs – without any upfront investment or maintenance responsibilities. It‘s an easy way to support clean energy and save money at the same time.

Some notable community solar projects in Maine include:

  • Cianbro Solar – This 57-megawatt solar farm in Pittsfield is the largest in the state, providing clean energy to homes and businesses across Central Maine.
  • Nexamp – With multiple community solar farms in development, Nexamp is making it easy for Mainers to access affordable renewable energy. Their projects serve customers of CMP and Versant Power.
  • ReVision Energy – This local solar installer has developed several community solar projects in partnership with Maine schools, nonprofits, and municipalities. They also offer a "Solar Share" program for residential customers.

To get started with community solar, you can contact your utility company or search for active projects in your area. Many programs have flexible terms and no long-term contracts, so you can try it out with minimal commitment. And if you decide to move, you can often transfer your subscription to your new home or pass it on to the next tenant.

The Bottom Line on Solar Savings in Maine

Okay, let‘s talk numbers. How much can you actually save by going solar in Maine? Let‘s break it down:

  • The average Maine household uses about 550 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per month, or 6,600 kWh per year. At current electricity rates (roughly $0.16/kWh), that‘s an annual energy bill of over $1,000.
  • A typical 6-kilowatt solar system in Maine will cost around $17,000 before incentives. But with the 30% federal tax credit, that upfront cost drops to less than $12,000.
  • Over the 25+ year lifespan of your solar panels, you can expect to save at least $13,000 on your electricity bills – and likely much more as energy rates rise over time. That‘s a return on investment of over 100%!

Of course, your exact savings will depend on factors like your energy usage, the size and orientation of your roof, and local weather patterns. But for most Mainers, solar is a smart long-term investment that pays for itself many times over.

Beyond the financial benefits, going solar also helps reduce your carbon footprint and support Maine‘s ambitious clean energy goals. By generating your own renewable power, you‘ll be doing your part to combat climate change and create a more sustainable future for our state.

Environmental Benefits of Solar

Source: EnergySage

According to the EPA, the average residential solar system offsets the equivalent of burning over 5,000 pounds of coal each year. That‘s a lot of greenhouse gas emissions avoided – and a big step towards a cleaner, healthier planet.

So if you‘re considering solar for your Maine home, now is the time to act. With strong state and federal incentives, falling installation costs, and a rapidly growing market, there‘s never been a better opportunity to make the switch to clean, affordable solar power.

As you explore your solar options, be sure to do your homework and choose a reputable installer. Look for a company with proven experience in Maine, strong customer reviews, and a track record of quality workmanship. Don‘t be afraid to ask for references, compare quotes, and ask plenty of questions before signing a contract.

With a little research and a lot of sunshine, you can power your home with clean, renewable energy – and save big on your electric bills for decades to come. So what are you waiting for, Maine? Let‘s go solar!