Solar Together – FAQs
Thank you for joining Solar Together. It’s a big step toward taking control of your energy use, production, and rights. Not to mention saving money on your electric bills. Congratulations!
You’re joining a powerful nationwide movement.
In 2007, Anya Schoolman’s son Walter asked if they could install solar on their home. Finding the process to be complicated and expensive, Anya wondered if some sort of bulk purchase might make solar affordable. So, they knocked on doors throughout their neighborhood, talking to people about going solar. In just two weeks, 50 neighbors signed up to go solar! That was the first solar co-op, and Solar United Neighbors was born.
Now, we’re here to help you! Read more below to answer your questions on everything from “Can I afford solar?” to learn more about “What incentives are available?”
You’ll be armed with the knowledge you need to make the most informed decision about going solar.
And be sure to connect with solar owners and supporters in your state. Join our email listserv and Facebook Group. Ask questions, share info, and learn from each others’ experiences.
Can’t find your question answered here? Reach out to us at MNteam@solarunitedneighbors.org.
How do I afford solar?
Solar is more affordable than ever—a fraction of what it was a decade ago. So, it’s a great time to invest.
And by going solar with Solar Together, you’ll get a quality system at a good price. There’s power in numbers!
You’ll be able to see all the specific cost and financing info when the installer prepares your individualized proposal. But it’s good to start looking into payment and financing options now, so you’ll be ahead of the game.
So, how do people pay for solar panels?
Cash or Loan
Many solar owners choose to pay outright or with a personal or business loan.
Loans are available up to 20 years in length. Most are unsecured, meaning they don’t require collateral, and they rarely have penalties for early repayment.
The savings you generate on your electric bill may equal or exceed what you pay on the loan. So, even with a loan, you could start saving money on day one.
Your solar installer will probably offer some financing options. We recommend getting quotes from at least a couple other companies and comparing them, to make the best choice for you and your family.
Third-Party Solar Ownership
If paying via cash or loan isn’t right for you, third-party solar ownership is a common option that avoids the big upfront payment.
You can purchase the electricity produced by a solar system on your roof, without owning the system itself. The solar installer is responsible for system upkeep, and you get the cheaper electricity costs that solar provides.
There are two main types of third-party solar ownership: Under a power purchase agreement (PPA), the customer agrees to purchase the power generated by the panels. Under a solar lease, the customer pays a fixed, monthly fee.
This financing option is not available everywhere. Check your state’s status on the map in our Solar Co-op Guide.
What solar incentives are available to me?
One of the most important factors in determining how much solar will cost you are the incentives available in your area.
There are federal incentives available to everyone in the U.S., and in many places there are also state and local incentives.
The federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) has helped millions of people go solar since it was first enacted in 2006.
If you go solar in 2021 or 2022, the ITC will save you 26% on the total cost of your solar system.
The ITC decreases to 22% in 2023, and goes away entirely in 2024, for residential systems. (Commercial systems will continue to receive a 10% tax credit.)
Note, the ITC can only reduce the taxes you owe. If your solar tax credit is worth more than you owe in taxes, the government won’t cut you a check for the difference. Fortunately, you can spread the credit over multiple years, so it won’t be lost.
The Incentives section of our Solar Co-op Guide has more details on the ITC.
State and Local Incentives:
Most solar incentives are offered at the state and local levels.
What about solar energy credits?
Most states and cities require utility companies to produce renewable energy—or buy it from other energy producers, like solar homeowners. This is based on policies called Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) or Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS).
Every time your system generates a certain amount of energy, you earn a solar renewable energy credit (SREC), which can be sold to a utility company to help meet its RPS requirement.
SRECs can mean more money in your pocket—and that can help pay back the cost of your solar panels.
As a member of Solar Together, you get access to a discounted SREC broker.
Our Solar Co-op Guide’s SREC section explains in detail how this works.
What happens to the excess energy my system produces?
Here’s what happens to the energy your system produces when you’re not home to use it:
➡️ When your panels are producing more electricity than you’re using, the excess electricity flows out of your home to be used by your neighbors, the corner store down the street, or the school nearby.
⬅️ When you’re producing less electricity than you need, utility electricity flows into your home.
What does that mean for your electricity bill?
In most areas of the U.S., state law requires utilities to credit you for the energy you generate at the same rate you purchase energy from the utility. This is called net metering.
As a solar owner, your electric bill will reflect the net amount—your electricity production minus your consumption. If your monthly solar electricity production surpasses your utility electricity consumption, you’ll have a negative bill credit that can be carried over to the next month’s bill like cell phone rollover minutes.
In most states, net metering allows for a one-to-one credit for your solar electricity. In other words, the electricity you produce is equal in value to the electricity you receive from your utility.
States’ rules vary in how and when they calculate the net metering credit.
Should I invest in batteries and energy storage?
Power outages are inconvenient. And if you rely on electricity to power life-sustaining medical devices, or live in a home with an electric water pump, power outages can have serious consequences.
Solar energy provides part of a solution, but in order to keep the lights on when the power’s out, you also need batteries.
Solar inverters automatically shut down during a power outage in order to protect local utility workers from getting electrocuted by energy from your solar array.
A solar system with battery storage works kind of like a generator, but it provides clean power from the sun. It helps you avoid the need for an external fuel supply during an extended utility outage.
Many of our co-ops have a battery storage option built-in. Your installer will be able to provide you with more information and pricing.
The section on Batteries in our Solar Co-op Guide will help get you started when considering adding battery storage to your solar installation.