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The Ultimate Guide to Saving Money on Solar Panels in Oregon

Oregon is one of the best states in the country for homeowners looking to go solar. With a combination of federal and state incentives, net metering, property tax exemptions, and special low-income programs, Oregonians have a variety of ways to save big on a solar panel installation.

In this in-depth guide, we‘ll cover all the financial benefits available and provide expert tips on how to maximize your savings when switching to clean, renewable energy. So if you‘re ready to learn how you can save thousands on solar while doing your part for the environment, read on!

Why Oregon is a Great State for Going Solar

Before we dive into the specific money-saving opportunities, let‘s take a moment to discuss why solar makes so much sense in Oregon. While the Beaver State is known for its cloudy, rainy weather, it actually receives a surprising amount of sunlight – enough to make solar a very viable and cost-effective option.

In fact, Oregon ranks 19th in the nation for solar installations, with enough solar energy installed to power over 150,000 homes. And as solar technology continues to improve and costs keep falling, more and more Oregonians are making the switch every year.

According to Energy Trust of Oregon, the average homeowner can expect to save over $17,000 on electricity costs over 25 years by going solar. And with the upfront costs of solar installations falling by nearly 70% over the last decade, the financial benefits have never been greater.

But the advantages of solar go beyond just cost savings. By generating your own clean energy, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint and help combat climate change. Solar also increases your energy independence, protects you from rising utility rates, and can even boost the value of your home.

So now that we understand why solar is such a smart investment in Oregon, let‘s look at all the ways you can save money on an installation.

Slashing Upfront Costs: Oregon‘s Solar Incentives & Rebates

The biggest obstacle for most homeowners considering solar is the upfront cost of the equipment and installation. Fortunately, Oregon offers some of the best incentives in the country to help reduce this initial investment. Let‘s break down each of the programs.

Federal Solar Tax Credit

The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) is available to all Oregon homeowners and is one of the most significant savings opportunities. This incentive allows you to deduct 30% of your solar project costs, including equipment, installation, and sales taxes, from your federal income taxes.

For example, if your solar installation costs $20,000, you‘d be able to claim a $6,000 credit on your next tax return. The ITC applies to all residential solar installations, and there‘s no cap on the dollar amount you can claim. However, the 30% rate is set to step down to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034 before expiring completely in 2035, so it‘s better to act soon to get the maximum savings.

To be eligible for the federal tax credit, you must own your solar system outright (i.e. no leasing or PPA agreements) and have enough tax liability to claim the full credit. But even if you don‘t, you can still rollover any remaining credits to future years.

Oregon Solar Rebates

Many Oregonians are also eligible for cash rebates on a solar installation through the Energy Trust of Oregon‘s Solar Within Reach program. Depending on your electricity provider, qualifying homeowners can get between $0.45 to $1.50 per watt of solar installed as an upfront rebate.

For an average 6 kilowatt (kW) residential system, that equates to a rebate of $2,700 to $9,000 right off the bat. To qualify, you must be a customer of either Portland General Electric or Pacific Power, and your household income must be below 100% of Oregon‘s median income level for your household size.

On top of Energy Trust‘s offer, certain utility companies provide their own solar rebates to customers, such as Salem Electric‘s $500/kW rebate up to $5,000. Several local governments have additional incentives as well, like the City of Ashland‘s $500 solar rebate and Eugene Water & Electric Board‘s solar grant.

With all these rebates combined, Oregonians can potentially save well over 50% on the cost of going solar before even factoring in long-term utility savings. Be sure to explore all the solar incentives available in your area to ensure you don‘t leave any savings on the table.

Net Metering: Getting Paid for Your Solar Energy

Another major perk of going solar in Oregon is the state‘s generous net energy metering (NEM) program. Under net metering, any excess solar energy your panels produce is sent back into the grid, causing your meter to spin backwards.

Then, when you need to draw energy from the grid at night or on cloudy days, you use those banked credits instead of paying for electricity. This setup helps solar homeowners maximize their energy savings and allows your panels to provide value even when the sun isn‘t shining.

Oregon is one of 43 states that have laws requiring utility companies to offer net metering to customers. The specifics of the program can vary by electricity provider, but in general, you can expect the following:

  • Monthly surplus generation is applied as a kWh credit on your next bill at the full retail rate
  • Credits rollover monthly for up to a year
  • At the end of a 12-month cycle, you can choose to receive a payment for any unused credits or rollover the balance indefinitely
  • Customers on a time-of-use rate plan will receive credits based on the value of the electricity at the time it was generated

Thanks to net metering, a solar system sized to meet 100% of your electricity needs could potentially result in $0 energy bills. Exact savings will depend on your energy usage and the size of your system, but Oregon‘s NEM policy is set up to provide major energy savings to solar homeowners.

Saving with Solar: Incentives for Low and Moderate Income Households

Oregon is committed to making solar accessible to homeowners of all income levels. In addition to the rebates and net metering policies available to everyone, lower income families have even more opportunities to save through targeted programs.

Oregon Community Solar Program

Renters and homeowners who can‘t install rooftop solar can still save with solar energy through Oregon‘s Community Solar Program. Participants can subscribe to a "solar garden" in their utility territory and receive kWh credits on their monthly electric bills based on their portion of the solar garden‘s energy production.

The program is open to all Oregon residents, but offers special savings for low-income subscribers. Households below 80% of Oregon‘s median income can participate at a reduced subscription fee, while those below 50% of the median income are eligible for monthly bill discounts up to 50%.

Community solar allows Oregonians to support local clean energy and save on utilities without any equipment fees or installations. At least 10% of each community solar project‘s capacity is reserved for low-income customers.

Solar Within Reach Incentives

For low and moderate income homeowners looking to install rooftop solar, Oregon‘s Solar Within Reach program provides extra financial incentives on top of the standard Energy Trust rebates.

Households earning less than 100% of Oregon‘s median income can qualify for an additional $1,000 rebate, while those below 80% of the median income get an added $1,500. When combined with other rebates and credits, lower income Oregonians could potentially get solar panels installed for little to no upfront costs.

Other Solar Savings Opportunities in Oregon

On top of the direct financial incentives for going solar, Oregon offers a few additional policies to help make solar more affordable:

Property Tax Exemption for Solar

Unlike many home improvements, adding solar panels to your house won‘t increase your property taxes in Oregon. The state‘s property tax exemption for renewable energy systems means you can enjoy the increased home value of solar without the added tax assessment.

No Sales Tax on Solar

Oregon is one of only five states with no sales tax, which helps reduce the upfront cost of a solar installation. Not having to pay sales tax on equipment can save you hundreds of dollars on your project. And of course, the lack of sales tax applies to all the other equipment needed for your solar panels like inverters, mounts, and wiring.

Solar Financing Options in Oregon

If you can‘t or prefer not to pay for solar all at once, there are a variety of financing options available that still let you take advantage of Oregon‘s solar incentives:

  • Solar Loans: Many solar installers partner with lenders to offer solar-specific loans, some of which are structured so that your monthly energy savings are greater than the loan payment. Oregon also offers special low-interest solar loans for low and moderate income households through its Solar Within Reach program.

  • PACE Financing: Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing allows you to borrow money for a solar installation and pay it back through a special assessment on your property taxes, often resulting in a net positive cash flow. PACE financing is available in many cities and counties across Oregon.

  • Solar Leases & PPAs: With solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs), a third-party owns and maintains the solar panels on your roof, and you simply pay them for the electricity produced, usually at a rate lower than you‘d pay your utility.

However, it‘s important to note that with solar leases and PPAs, the owner of the system gets the financial incentives like the federal tax credit and state rebates, not the homeowner. So while leases and PPAs require no money down, they result in much lower savings over time compared to ownership.

Most Oregonians with a suitable roof and decent credit can save more in the long run by buying solar panels, even with a solar loan. Be sure to explore all your financing options and read the fine print before signing anything.

The Bottom Line: Are Solar Panels Worth it in Oregon?

With some of the best solar incentives in the nation, going solar is a smart financial investment for most Oregon homeowners. Between the federal tax credit, state rebates, and ongoing energy savings, a solar installation in Oregon could potentially pay for itself in under 10 years and provide a return on investment in the tens of thousands over the system‘s lifetime.

Of course, exact solar savings and payback periods will vary based on the size of your installation, your energy usage, electricity rates, and which incentives you‘re eligible for. Most Oregonians can expect to break even on a solar investment in about 8-12 years, after which they‘ll enjoy free, clean energy for decades to come.

To see how much you could save by going solar in Oregon, use our solar calculator below to get a free savings estimate based on your address and electricity bill. But don‘t wait – the sooner you make the switch, the more you could save.

[CTA Button: Calculate My Solar Savings]

The key takeaways for Oregonians considering solar:

  • Take advantage of solar incentives like the federal tax credit, Energy Trust rebates, and local utility offers while they last
  • Get multiple quotes from solar installers to ensure you‘re getting the best bang for your buck
  • Consider financing options like solar loans to make your project more affordable
  • Explore community solar subscriptions or increased incentives if your household income is below Oregon‘s median
  • Act soon to maximize your savings, as solar incentives may decrease in the coming years as the solar industry matures

By following these tips and doing your research, you could potentially save big by going solar in Oregon, while also protecting the environment and gaining more energy independence. Get started and join the thousands of Oregonians already enjoying the benefits of clean, affordable solar power!