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Should You Go Solar in Utah? Costs, Savings, and Policy Analysis

Wondering if installing solar panels makes sense for your Utah home? With the state‘s abundant sunlight but low energy consumption, the decision can be challenging. This comprehensive guide examines solar costs, savings, policies and more to advise locals if solar power is a wise investment.

Utah ranks among the top states for solar potential thanks to high sun exposure. Yet with cheap electricity prices and minimal state incentives, payback periods lag behind leading solar states. We‘ll analyze the numbers to determine when solar panels pay off.

Our goal is to provide an authoritative perspective on solar power in Utah as an experienced analyst would, equipping you with all the data needed to evaluate if and how going solar could benefit your household. Let‘s dive in.

Average Solar Panel Costs in Utah

Based on 2021 installation data aggregated by EnergySage, the current cost per watt of solar panels in Utah runs around $2.66 on average. For a typical 6 kW rooftop array, that equates to a gross system cost of approximately $15,960 before claiming any incentives.

To put this in context, the national median price per watt sits at $2.49 according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. So while equipment and labor rates are slightly above average here, Utah‘s excellent solar resources mean systems can be smaller for the same energy production.

You‘ll also notice far lower solar costs per watt in leading states like Arizona ($1.75), Florida ($2.32), New Jersey ($2.51) according to 2021 figures. But these states offset higher utility rates with greater solar adoption and stronger policy incentives.

How does electricity cost factor into the payback period? Here‘s a look at current rates across the Western U.S.:

State Avg. Electricity Price (cents/kWh)
California 20.22
Arizona 12.24
Nevada 11.51
Colorado 11.41
New Mexico 11.11
Utah 10.28
Idaho 9.86
Wyoming 9.53

Residential Electricity Rates in Western U.S. States – EIA Data from 2021

With power rates under 11 cents per kWh, solar panels take longer to pay off through utility savings in Utah compared to states like California. But energy costs here are still high enough to warrant a closer look at the numbers.

Calculating the Right Solar System Size

While a 6 kW solar array is standard for the average U.S. home, Utah‘s lower than normal electricity consumption and abundant sunlight mean most homes require a smaller system.

To right-size your solar panels, take your home‘s average daily power usage and divide it by your city‘s peak sun hours. Utah residents consume approximately 769 kWh monthly, or 25.6 kWh daily. With 5.26 peak sunlight hours statewide, an ideally sized solar array would need to produce around 4.9 kW per hour.

At just 4-5 kW capacity, properly designed solar panel systems can sufficiently meet the electricity demand of most Utah homes. Of course sunlight duration varies based on your location – St. George sees 5.9 daily sun hours compared to just 4.5 hours in Salt Lake City. Refer to this peak sun map to look up your city:

Utah Peak Sun Hours

Peak Sun Hours in Cities Across Utah – Data from NREL

For a 5 kW solar system, you can expect to pay roughly $13,000 before incentives based on the $2.66/watt installation cost benchmark we established earlier. Now let‘s explore the variables impacting solar prices for Utah homes.

Factors That Influence Solar Panel Cost in Utah

Several key factors contribute to how much you‘ll pay for solar panels in Utah.

Equipment Efficiency – Solar arrays use either monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon panels. Monocrystalline models are more expensive but convert sunlight to energy at a high efficiency. This makes them a smart long-term investment for Utah.

Location and Sun Exposure – Homes in sunnier cities like St. George and Moab require fewer solar panels and see faster payback times compared to cloudier mountain regions.

Electricity Rates – Areas like Springville served by lower-cost municipal utilities have lengthier solar payback periods than Rocky Mountain Power regions.

Local Installation Costs – Rates between solar companies can vary. Prioritize experienced installers like Apollo or Smart Wave Solar over cut-rate vendors.

System Size – Smaller solar arrays have a lower upfront price tag than oversized systems producing excess energy. Right-sizing is key.

Equipment Type – Premium brands like LG, Panasonic and SunPower come at a higher cost than bargain panels. Quality matters for longevity.

Roof Factors – Complex rooflines, older roofs, or steep pitches can make installations more difficult and expensive.

Taking the time to understand these cost factors will help you budget for a solar array tailored to your home‘s specifics.

Top Solar Installation Companies in Utah

With over 50 solar contractors serving the state, Utahns have options when hiring local experts. We recommend turnkey installers with strong credentials like:

Apollo Solar – Veteran Utah solar provider since 1999. Affordable pricing with premium equipment and 25 year labor/production warranty.

Smart Wave Solar – Locally owned company with certified installers and A+ BBB rating. One of EnergySage‘s top reviewed Utah installers.

Creative Solar USA – Established for 15+ years and one of the state‘s solar leaders. Wide service territory across Utah.

Utah Solar Energy – Smaller installer operating since 2009. Competitive pricing and quality equipment like Q Cells panels.

Be sure to compare multiple quotes and verify necessary licenses, training credentials, years in business, and equipment/workmanship warranties when choosing your contractor.

Analyzing the Return on Investment of Solar

The big question Utahns have is whether solar panels make financial sense here with upfront costs around $13,000 for an average-sized 5 kW system. Let‘s break down the investment return.

First we‘ll assume a solar array offsets around $1,013 per year in utility bills, based on typical Utah household energy consumption. With these annual savings, the $13,000 system cost would be paid back after around 13 years.

At this point the homeowner starts accruing positive returns, avoiding ever-rising utility rates for the rest of the system‘s usable 25-year lifespan. Assuming a moderate 3% annual increase in electricity costs, the homeowner could pocket over $14,800 in utility savings over the remaining years.

Accounting for both energy bill savings and available tax credits, a Utah homeowner could earn back as much as $24,600 in lifetime solar value after paying off the initial solar panel system investment.

While not as fast a payback as sunnier states, these numbers still indicate a solar array provides a positive return on investment for Utahns. And this doesn‘t account for rising home values, reduced emissions, and energy independence solar delivers.

Tip: To accelerate ROI, opt for a smaller solar system or explore financing options with lower upfront costs like a solar lease or loan.

Federal and State Incentives Available in Utah

Utah lags behind leading solar states when it comes to state-level incentives, but residents can still take advantage of two key programs to reduce installation costs:

  • Federal Solar Tax Credit – Covers 26% of your solar costs until 2032. For a $15,000 solar array, this equates to $3,900 back at tax time.

  • Utah Solar Tax Credit – Offers a credit up to $2,000, or 30% of costs, through 2024. Unused credits roll over for up to 5 years.

The federal credit alone reduces a 5 kW, $13,000 solar system down to just $9,100 out of pocket. With Utah‘s credit, costs could shrink further to around $7,100.

Compare this to sunshine states like Arizona with capped net metering and rebates up to $1,000 per kW, or New Jersey with robust SREC credits, and it‘s clear Utah lags in policy support for solar. But economics still make sense with help from Uncle Sam.

Looking at the Bigger Solar Picture in Utah

Beyond just household costs and savings, several other dynamics are at play that shape Utah‘s evolving solar landscape:

Grid Integration – With just 4% solar penetration currently, Utah has room to add more residential systems without grid disruption. However the state lacks incentives and time-of-use rates to encourage smart solar adoption.

Net Metering – Utah offers net metering so customers get bill credits for excess solar energy fed to the grid. But compensation is below retail rates and limits may be on the horizon.

Emissions and Coal Reliance – Solar adoption helps Utah reduce dependence on coal power, which still provides over 80% of the state‘s heavily-polluting electricity.

Green Jobs – The solar industry employs over 2,300 Utahns. Friendlier policies could grow these clean energy jobs.

Legislative Support – Lawmakers have blocked pro-solar bills to ramp up RPS requirements and lift regulatory barriers. But bipartisan backing is growing.

So while solar panels promise savings for individual homeowners today, enhancing Utah‘s broader climate and energy goals will require surmounting political and grid challenges through continued advocacy, technological innovation and market forces.

Should You Go Solar in Utah?

For Utahns weighing whether to adopt solar power, the verdict is yes – under the right conditions solar panels do provide cost-effective home energy production that will pay for itself in the long run.

Key takeaways:

  • With high sun exposure, most homes need smaller and thus cheaper solar systems than the U.S. average

  • Electricity rates are low, but solar can still provide positive ROI in 10-15 years after incentives

  • Federal tax credit defrays nearly 30% of installation costs for 5 more years

  • Net metering offsets evening and winter usage through bill credits

  • Locking in solar secures decades of free daylight power as rates rise

  • Going local with a top-rated installer like Apollo ensures quality and services

If interested in zero-emission energy autonomy and offsetting your highest-priced grid power, solar merits strong consideration in Utah. We suggest getting multiple quotes to understand precisely how much installing solar could save based on your roof, energy use, and utility provider.

Many homeowners find solar delivers better-than-expected returns. With federal tax credits in place for a limited time, now is the ideal moment to crunch the numbers on your transition to solar power.