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How to Save Money on Solar Panels in Utah: An Expert Guide

As a digital technology expert passionate about the transition to renewable energy, I‘ve seen firsthand how solar panels can help homeowners save money and reduce their carbon footprint. But in a state like Utah, with relatively low electricity prices and limited solar incentives, the decision to go solar isn‘t always straightforward.

However, that doesn‘t mean solar panels aren‘t worth it for Utah residents. With some smart strategies and an understanding of the available incentives, many Utahns can still see significant savings by making the switch to solar. In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll share my expertise on how to save money on solar panels in Utah, backed up by the latest data and insights from the solar industry.

Utah Solar Energy Overview

First, let‘s look at the state of solar energy in Utah. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), as of Q4 2022, Utah had 1,942 MW of solar installed, ranking it 16th in the nation for cumulative solar capacity. That‘s enough solar to power 356,495 Utah homes.

Here are some other key stats on solar in Utah:

Utah Solar Statistics Value
Installed Solar Capacity 1,942 MW
National Ranking 16th
Percent of State‘s Electricity from Solar 6.76%
Number of Installations 46,749
Total Solar Investment $3.4 billion
Prices have fallen 52% over the last 10 years 52%
Growth Projection, next 5 years 1,553 MW

Source: SEIA

As you can see, Utah has seen significant solar growth in recent years, with installations increasing rapidly and prices falling. However, challenges remain in making solar accessible and cost-effective for all Utah homeowners.

The Impact of Digital Technology on Solar

One factor making solar more accessible is the rise of digital technology and online platforms in the solar industry. In the early days of rooftop solar, most people had to rely on door-to-door salespeople or cold calls to get information and quotes for solar panels. But today, homeowners can use online solar marketplaces to instantly compare offers from pre-screened installers in their area.

Platforms like EnergySage and SolarReviews allow you to enter your address and energy usage, and quickly get competing quotes from multiple local installers. This makes the process of going solar much easier and helps ensure you get the best possible deal.

Digital monitoring systems have also made it easier for homeowners to track the performance of their solar panels and ensure they‘re getting the expected energy output and savings. Many solar companies now offer web and smartphone apps that provide real-time data on your system‘s electricity generation. Some even integrate with smart home devices, allowing you to optimize your energy usage to maximize savings. By embracing these digital tools, Utah homeowners can take more control over their solar journey and savings.

Taking Advantage of Solar Incentives

Of course, the biggest factor in determining solar savings is the available incentives. Unfortunately, Utah lags behind some other states when it comes to pro-solar policies. However, that doesn‘t mean there are no incentives available. Here‘s a breakdown of the key ways to save money on solar panels in Utah:

Federal Solar Tax Credit

The most significant incentive for solar in Utah is the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC). This allows you to deduct 30% of the cost of your solar installation from your federal taxes, with no cap on its value. So if you purchase a $20,000 solar system, you can claim a credit of $6,000 on your taxes the following year.

However, the 30% credit is only available through the end of 2032. In 2033, it drops to 26%, and in 2034 it drops again to 22%. After 2035, the residential solar tax credit ends completely, while the commercial credit drops to 10% permanently. That means Utah homeowners who want to maximize their savings should consider going solar sooner rather than later.

Utah State Tax Credit (ending soon)

In addition to the federal ITC, Utah also has a state tax credit for solar, though it‘s much more limited. The Renewable Energy Systems Tax Credit (RESTC) offers a credit of 25% of the cost of a solar installation, up to a maximum of $1,200. However, this credit is stepping down each year and will be eliminated completely after 2023. Here‘s the schedule:

Year Max Credit Amount
2022 $800
2023 $400
2024 $0

So if you‘re a Utah homeowner considering solar, 2023 is your last chance to claim the state tax credit. It‘s not as generous as the federal credit, but it‘s still worth claiming if you can.

Net Metering (sort of)

Another key solar incentive is net metering, which allows solar homeowners to sell their excess solar electricity back to the grid at retail rates. However, in 2017, Utah utility Rocky Mountain Power replaced traditional net metering with a less generous "net billing" arrangement.

Under this system, solar homeowners are credited for excess energy sent to the grid at a lower wholesale rate, while they continue to purchase electricity they consume at the higher retail rate. The exact rates vary by time of day and season, but on average, homeowners earn around $0.05 – $0.06 per kWh for excess solar, while paying $0.12 – $0.14 per kWh for electricity used from the grid.

While this net billing arrangement isn‘t as favorable as traditional net metering, it still allows solar homeowners to save on their electricity bills by reducing the amount of power they need to purchase from the utility. Homeowners should work with their installer to size their system to maximize self-consumption of solar and minimize exports to the grid.

Buying vs. Leasing Solar Panels

Another key decision point for Utah homeowners is whether to buy or lease their solar panels. Buying solar panels outright with cash or a loan allows you to own the system and take advantage of incentives like the federal ITC. It also typically results in the greatest long-term savings. According to data from EnergySage, an average 6 kW home solar system in Utah costs around $15,600 after claiming the ITC. Over a 25-year lifespan, a system this size could save you $29,000 on electricity at current rates.

Solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) offer the benefit of little to no upfront cost. With these arrangements, the solar company owns and maintains the panels, and you pay them a fixed rate for the electricity they produce, typically at a discount compared to utility rates. Leases and PPAs can be a good option for homeowners who don‘t have the cash or credit to buy solar panels outright. However, since you don‘t own the system, you can‘t claim the tax credits or other incentives. Overall savings also tend to be lower with a lease over the life of the system.

As of 2022, around 80% of residential solar installations in Utah were customer owned, while 20% were leased through PPAs. If you do decide to lease, be sure to carefully compare the terms, rates, and estimated savings of different offers to ensure you‘re getting a good deal. Look for an escalator clause that limits how much your payments can increase each year.

Finding the Best Price on Solar

Utah may not have the same level of market competition and economies of scale as solar leaders like California, but that makes it all the more important to shop around and compare offers to get the best possible price on solar panels.

The average cost of solar in Utah as of early 2023 was $2.52 per watt, or about $15,120 for a 6 kW system before applying the federal tax credit. After the ITC, that price drops to around $10,584. However, costs can vary significantly from one installer to another based on the equipment used, installation complexity, and the company‘s overhead and margins.

To find the best deal, we recommend getting quotes from at least three reputable solar installers. In addition to comparing prices, also look at each company‘s track record, customer reviews, equipment and warranty offerings, and financing options.

Here are some of the top solar installers operating in Utah as of 2023:

  • Blue Raven Solar
  • ES Solar
  • Intermountain Wind & Solar
  • Auric Solar
  • Sunworks, Inc.
  • Smart Wave Solar
  • Creative Energies Solar
  • 360 Solar
  • Sunrun
  • Vivint Solar
  • Tesla Energy

When comparing solar quotes, be sure to ask about:

  • Cost per watt and total system costs
  • Estimated electricity generation and savings
  • Equipment brands and efficiency ratings
  • Warranty terms for panels, inverters, and workmanship
  • Financing options and terms
  • Installation timeline and process

By doing your homework and getting multiple quotes, you can find a solar installer that offers a competitive price and inspires confidence in their work.

The Future of Solar Incentives in Utah

Looking ahead, the outlook for solar incentives in Utah is mixed. The state‘s current renewable portfolio goal calls for 20% of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025, but this target is voluntary rather than mandatory. And with the sunsetting of the state tax credit after 2023, Utah will have few remaining solar incentives beyond the federal ITC.

However, the state‘s Solar Access and Rights Act does protect the right of homeowners to install solar panels on their property, and prohibits homeowners associations from banning them outright. The state has also taken some steps to promote community solar programs and renewable energy storage.

Ultimately, the growth of solar in Utah will depend largely on market forces as solar costs continue to decline and electricity prices rise. But with abundant sunshine, a growing population, and increasing consumer demand for clean energy, the state has strong potential for further solar adoption in the years ahead. By acting now to claim available incentives and lock in low solar costs, Utah homeowners can position themselves to save money and contribute to a greener grid long into the future.