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Solar Panels in Montana: Cost, Savings, and Rebates

Discovering Solar Potential in Big Sky Country: A Comprehensive Guide to Solar Panels in Montana

As a proud Montana resident, you‘re no stranger to the state‘s endless open skies and abundant sunshine. But have you considered putting all that solar energy to work for your home or business? Solar panels are becoming an increasingly popular and affordable choice in Montana, thanks to falling costs, generous incentives, and the state‘s untapped solar potential.

In this ultimate guide, we‘ll shine a light on everything you need to know about going solar in Montana. From the costs and savings to the incentives and financing options, we‘ve got you covered. So sit back, relax, and let‘s explore how solar can help you save money and achieve energy independence under the big sky.

The State of Solar in Montana

While Montana may not be the first state that comes to mind when you think of solar energy, the Treasure State actually boasts some of the best solar resources in the country. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Montana has the potential to generate more than 100 times its current electricity needs through solar power alone.

Despite this vast potential, Montana ranks 42nd in the nation for solar adoption, with just over 30 megawatts of solar installed as of 2021. However, the state has seen steady growth in recent years, with installed solar capacity increasing by nearly 30% annually since 2015.

Several factors contribute to Montana‘s slow but steady embrace of solar energy. The state has some of the lowest electricity prices in the country, which can make the financial case for solar less compelling than in high-cost states like California or Hawaii. Additionally, Montana‘s rural character and sparse population can make it challenging to achieve the economies of scale that have driven down solar costs in other markets.

However, Montana also has several policies and programs in place to encourage solar adoption, including:

  • Net metering: Montana requires utilities to offer net metering to customers with solar arrays up to 50 kilowatts in size. This allows solar owners to earn credits for excess energy they send back to the grid, offsetting their electricity bills.

  • Renewable energy standard: Montana has a renewable energy standard that requires utilities to generate 15% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015. While the state has already surpassed this target, the standard has helped create a market for solar and other clean energy technologies.

  • Tax incentives: Montana offers several tax incentives for solar, including a property tax exemption for residential solar systems and a corporate tax credit for businesses that install solar.

With these policies in place and solar costs continuing to fall, Montana is poised for significant growth in solar adoption in the coming years. But what does that mean for you as a homeowner or business owner? Let‘s take a closer look at the costs and benefits of going solar in Montana.

Solar Costs in Montana: Affordable and Dropping

One of the biggest factors driving the growth of solar in Montana and across the country is the dramatic decline in costs over the past decade. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the cost of residential solar has dropped by more than 60% since 2010, making it more affordable than ever to go solar.

In Montana, the average cost of a residential solar system is around $3 per watt, slightly higher than the national average of $2.64 per watt. For a typical 5-kilowatt system, that translates to an upfront cost of around $15,000 before incentives.

While that may sound like a significant investment, it‘s important to consider the long-term savings and benefits of going solar. Over the 25-year lifespan of a typical solar array, a Montana homeowner can expect to save tens of thousands of dollars on electricity costs.

To calculate your specific savings potential, you‘ll need to consider several factors specific to your home and location, including:

  • Your current electricity usage and rates
  • The size and orientation of your roof
  • The amount of shade on your property
  • The local climate and weather patterns

A qualified solar installer can help you assess these factors and provide a detailed cost-benefit analysis based on your specific situation. They can also help you navigate the various incentives and financing options available to make your solar investment more affordable.

Speaking of incentives, let‘s take a closer look at the various programs available to Montana solar customers.

Solar Incentives in Montana: Reduce Costs by Thousands

One of the best reasons to go solar in Montana is the variety of incentives and rebates available to offset the upfront cost of installation. Here are some of the key programs to be aware of:

Federal Solar Tax Credit: The federal government offers a tax credit equal to 30% of the cost of your solar installation, with no maximum limit. For example, if your solar array costs $15,000 to install, you can claim a $4,500 credit on your federal income taxes. This credit is available through 2032 and will step down to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034 before expiring.

Montana Solar Tax Credit: In addition to the federal credit, Montana offers a state tax credit of up to $500 per taxpayer for solar installations. This credit is available through 2021 and can be carried forward for up to five years if you don‘t have enough tax liability to claim the full amount in one year.

Property Tax Exemption: Montana also offers a property tax exemption for residential solar systems. This means that the value added by your solar array will not be included in your property tax assessment, saving you money on your tax bill every year.

Net Metering: As mentioned earlier, Montana requires utilities to offer net metering to solar customers. This allows you to earn credits for excess energy your solar panels generate and send back to the grid, offsetting your electricity bills. Depending on your utility and usage patterns, net metering can significantly reduce or even eliminate your monthly electricity costs.

Renewable Energy Credits: Some utilities in Montana also offer renewable energy credits (RECs) to solar customers. These credits represent the environmental attributes of the clean energy your solar panels generate and can be sold to the utility or on the open market, providing an additional revenue stream for your solar investment.

Together, these incentives can significantly reduce the upfront and ongoing costs of going solar in Montana. A qualified solar installer can help you navigate the various programs and maximize your savings potential.

Choosing a Solar Installer in Montana: What to Look For

With the costs and incentives of solar in Montana looking so attractive, you may be eager to start shopping for a solar installer. But with so many companies to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you?

Here are some key factors to consider when evaluating solar installers in Montana:

Experience and Expertise: Look for a company with a proven track record of successful solar installations in Montana. Ask about their experience working with your specific type of roof and navigating the local permitting and interconnection process.

Quality Equipment: Not all solar panels and inverters are created equal. Look for a company that uses high-quality, reliable equipment from reputable manufacturers. Beware of installers that cut corners with cheap, unproven products.

Warranties and Guarantees: A good solar installer should stand behind their work with strong warranties and performance guarantees. Look for companies that offer at least a 25-year warranty on their solar panels and a 10-year warranty on their inverters and workmanship.

Customer Service: Going solar is a significant investment, and you want to work with a company that will be responsive and supportive throughout the process. Look for installers with a track record of excellent customer service, as evidenced by online reviews, referrals, and testimonials.

Financing Options: While solar is more affordable than ever, it still requires a significant upfront investment. Look for installers that offer a range of financing options, including loans, leases, and power purchase agreements, to help you manage the cost of going solar.

By considering these factors and doing your research, you can find a solar installer in Montana that will help you maximize the benefits of going solar while minimizing the hassle and risk.

Real Stories of Solar Success in Montana

One of the best ways to understand the benefits of solar in Montana is to hear from real people who have made the switch. Here are a few inspiring stories of Montanans who are harnessing the power of the sun:

The Millers: Retired Couple Cuts Electricity Bills by 80%

Pam and Tom Miller, a retired couple in Bozeman, installed a 6-kilowatt solar array on their home in 2019 with the help of Montana Solar Resources. The Millers were looking for a way to reduce their carbon footprint and save money on their electricity bills, which had been averaging around $100 per month.

Since going solar, the Millers have seen their monthly electricity costs drop to around $20 per month, a savings of 80%. They also appreciate the peace of mind that comes with generating their own clean energy.

"We feel good knowing that we‘re doing our part to reduce our impact on the environment," says Pam Miller. "And it‘s nice to know that we‘re not as dependent on the grid and the ups and downs of energy prices."

The Smiths: Small Business Owner Saves Thousands with Solar

John Smith, the owner of a small manufacturing business in Missoula, decided to go solar in 2018 as a way to lower his energy costs and stabilize his bottom line. With the help of Solar Oregon, John installed a 50-kilowatt solar array on the roof of his factory.

The solar panels have helped John save thousands of dollars on his electricity bills each year, money that he‘s been able to reinvest in his business. He also appreciates the fact that his solar array is helping to support local jobs and reduce his company‘s environmental impact.

"As a small business owner, every penny counts," says John. "Going solar has been a smart investment that‘s helping me save money and do the right thing for the environment and my community."

The Johnsons: Young Family Achieves Energy Independence with Solar

Emily and David Johnson, a young couple with two children in Helena, decided to go solar in 2020 as a way to achieve energy independence and teach their kids about sustainability. They worked with Solar Montana to install a 10-kilowatt solar array on their home, along with a battery backup system.

The Johnsons‘ solar panels generate enough energy to power their home and charge their electric car, with extra energy left over to sell back to the grid. And with their battery backup, they have the peace of mind of knowing that they‘ll have power even during grid outages.

"We wanted to set a good example for our kids and show them that it‘s possible to live sustainably," says Emily Johnson. "Going solar has been a great way to do that while also saving money and taking control of our energy future."

FAQs About Solar Panels in Montana

Still have questions about going solar in Montana? Here are answers to some of the most common queries:

Q: How much do solar panels cost in Montana?
A: The average cost of a residential solar system in Montana is around $3 per watt, or $15,000 for a 5-kilowatt system before incentives. However, the exact cost will depend on factors like the size and orientation of your roof, the type of equipment you choose, and the complexity of the installation.

Q: How long does it take for solar panels to pay for themselves in Montana?
A: The payback period for solar panels in Montana depends on factors like the cost of your system, your energy usage, and the available incentives. On average, homeowners in Montana can expect to recoup their solar investment within 8-12 years. After that, the electricity generated by your solar panels is essentially free.

Q: Can I install solar panels myself in Montana?
A: While it‘s technically possible to install solar panels yourself in Montana, it‘s not recommended unless you have significant experience with electrical work and roofing. Solar installations require permits, inspections, and interconnection with the grid, which can be complex and time-consuming. It‘s generally best to work with a qualified solar installer who can handle these details and ensure that your system is installed safely and correctly.

Q: What happens to my solar panels during a power outage?
A: If your solar panels are connected to the grid without a battery backup, they will automatically shut off during a power outage to prevent feeding energy back into the grid and potentially endangering utility workers. If you want to maintain power during outages, you‘ll need to install a battery backup system that can store excess energy from your panels and provide power when the grid goes down.

Q: How long do solar panels last in Montana?
A: Solar panels are built to withstand harsh weather conditions and typically have a lifespan of 25-30 years or more. Most solar panels come with a 25-year performance warranty, guaranteeing that they will produce at least 80% of their rated output by the end of the warranty period. With proper maintenance and care, your solar panels can provide clean, reliable energy for decades.

Conclusion: The Time to Go Solar in Montana is Now

As we‘ve seen, Montana is a state with vast solar potential and a growing number of incentives and programs to make going solar more affordable and accessible than ever. Whether you‘re a homeowner looking to save money on your electricity bills, a business owner seeking to lower your operating costs, or an environmentally conscious citizen looking to reduce your carbon footprint, solar panels offer a smart, sustainable solution.

Of course, going solar is a big decision and not one to be made lightly. It‘s important to do your research, get quotes from multiple installers, and carefully consider your energy needs and budget before making a commitment.

But with the costs of solar continuing to fall, the incentives and rebates available in Montana, and the long-term savings and environmental benefits of generating your own clean energy, there‘s never been a better time to explore your solar options in Big Sky Country.

So why wait? Start harnessing the power of the sun today and join the growing number of Montanans who are achieving energy independence and sustainability under the big sky.