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Clear info on home solar power rebates, tax credits, and other benefits

2017 Policy Grade

A

Avg. Yearly Savings

$122

Congratulations! You've found the ultimate guide to going solar in Washington DC

2017 Policy Grade

A

Avg. Savings/year

$122

At Solar Power Rocks, our dream is to turn your thoughts of solar power for your home into reality

Note: The numbers above are just estimates for a 5kW solar system, and your home is unique. The best way to know exactly how much money solar power can save you is to connect with one of our partners nearby. A friendly solar expert we trust will give you a buzz and help you craft a personal plan to get the absolute most out of a solar power system for your home. It's 100% free (yes, that’s right, 100% free) and you aren't obligated to buy anything.

When most people think of D.C., they think of big government buildings and big marble monuments. But from the Potomac River, to the nearly 3 square mile Rock Creek Park within the city borders and the beautiful forests found just outside of D.C. in virtually any direction, our nation’s capital has a lot of natural beauty to protect. And protecting it they are. Thanks to a strong Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) backing up solid performance payments and an extensive district-wide rebate program, both initial costs and payback time frames here rank among the best in the county. Let’s take a look at the details …

In recent years, Washington D.C. has seen a veritable explosion in new solar installation, but there’s still plenty of roof space left, and plenty of incentives to help you make your sunshine dreams come true. In fact, the District offers some of the best solar incentives anywhere in the country.

Questions? Our network of solar experts are on call to assist you. Simply sign up for personalized assistance on our special solar deals page. You can get discounted on-grid pricing as low as $4,000/kW! This is paired with the Washington D.C. solar incentives you see below.

Your guide to going solar in Washington DC

We've designed this page to be a complete guide to the complicated and sometimes confusing process of installing solar panels on a home in Washington DC. Since there's a lot of important information to consider, we've separated the page into sections to help you find what you are looking for. If you find this page useful, please share it with someone who might also find it interesting!

The Solar Strategy section is all about the various financial options you have in Washington DC. We've created a tool that asks you a few questions about what you hope to get out of a solar purchase and recommends whether you should pursue a solar lease, loan, or outright purchase. Then, we give you a detailed picture of how each could work for you.

The Policy Information section contains all of our latest research on the rules set by the state legislature and public utilities commission that determines how easy it is to go solar in Washington DC. These policies and rules govern everything from renewable energy mandates to whether you get paid retail or wholesale rates for the extra energy your system produces, and can have a huge effect on the viability of solar.

Finally, the Solar Incentives section lists all of the available financial benefits available to homeowners who go solar. This section includes information about money-back rebates and grants, tax credits, and tax exemptions. If you're looking for what Washington DC is doing to make solar more affordable for its citizens, you'll find it here.

We hope you find our work useful. If so, please help us keep our research and advocacy as strong as possible by sharing it with someone who might also find it interesting, contributing any amount you can, and by getting yourself personalized savings estimates from our trusted partner network.

Click any of the boxes below to go to that section of the page, or scroll down to read the page in order.

Your Solar Strategy in Washington DC

Figuring out the best way to go solar in Washington DC can be a little daunting. From loans and leases to power-purchase agreements, there are a lot of options out there. To help you pick the one that might be best, we've created the handy decision tool below.

We'll ask you a few simple questions about you and your home. Once you're done, we'll recommend a good option. Further down this page, we provide cost estimates and example return-on-investment calculations for all the various options:

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Compare the Return of Different Solar Investments in Washington DC

The chart above shows the 25-year returns for an investment in solar whether you choose to purchase a system with cash or pay over time with a loan or Power-Purchase Agreement (PPA). One thing it's important to note is: solar makes you a lot of money in Washington D.C.. Yes, we said "makes!" You see, the District's lawmakers value solar so greatly, they set up an amazing Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) market, which means the utility company will pay you thousands of dollar just for producing solar power. Combine that with energy savings, record-low installed prices for solar, the Federal government's 30% tax credit, and local tax exemptions, and it's clear: there are few places in the country better than D.C. for solar.

Now let's discuss that chart above. We've examined three scenarios for going solar here, including a solar PPA, buying solar with a loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC), or buying solar with cash. As you can see, the cash purchase option leads to the highest dollar-amount returns over time, but look a little closer. Taking a HELOC and paying for the system over time (the orange bars) means you'll spend absolutely zero dollars of your own money, while big financial benefits in year 1 and beyond.

That's because you take a loan for the system, but you still get all the benefits of paying up front. In Washington D.C., that means SREC sales, a 30% federal tax credit, and big annual energy savings. With those incentives, you'll actually come out way ahead after the first year. And even though you'll be making loan payments for 15 years, the benefits outweigh the costs from day 1. Read more about solar loans in Washington D.C. below.

Finally, take a look at the blue bars. They represent a solar Power-Purchase Agreement (PPA), which is also called third-party ownership. With a PPA, the solar installation company puts panels on your roof at no cost to you, and you just buy the electricity they make, which eliminates most of your power bill from the utility company. PPAs in Washington D.C. are good for homeowners with no equity or cash, because they require neither of those things, and the District's electricity prices are high enough that you start saving money right away. Your savings may start small, but they'll finish big, because the cost of electricity from the PPA should rise by less than the electric company's annual rate hikes.

Read more below about each of the three options for solar in Washington D.C..

Net Present Value of Solar in Washington DC

“Net Present What?!” Don’t panic, this isn’t an economics test. NPV is just a tool used to compare investments. Basically, it asks, “if you had X dollars to invest, which investment would get you the best return?” It relies on the idea that getting a return on your investment sooner is better than later, because you can reinvest your early profits and keep the gain train going.

We compare an investment in solar to a “what-if” investment in a Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 stock index fund, which has seen growth of about 7% per year over the past 25 years. We use the cost of solar in Washington DC and ask “how much better or worse (in 2017 dollars) is an investment in solar than stocks?” Here's what we found for the three different ways of going solar in Washington DC:

Look at all that green! When they tell you solar is a good deal in Washington D.C., this is what they're talking about. A solar investment in the District should provide a better return than the stock market whether you choose a PPA, a loan, or pay up front. Here's some more about how we got these numbers:

Solar PPA NPV: $1,941

Saving money without having to put anything down is always going to have a positive NPV. In Washington D.C., you’ll save $4,079 by paying for electricity under a solar PPA for 20 years, which is the basically having an extra $1,941 to invest now. Read more about PPAs in Washington D.C. below.

Solar Loan NPV: $9,531

As we’re fond of saying, taking a loan for solar is a no-brainer, because it’s like agreeing to pay over time for something that is also making you money, plus you get 30% of the loan value as a federal tax credit (cash in your pocket) after making payments for only 1 year. In the case of Washington D.C., that tax credit windfall is just one part of the story. You'll also make thousands in the first few years by selling your SRECs. All that helps push the NPV of a solar loan to $9,531 better than a similar investment in the stock market. That's a great return for any investment, and it's doubly great for something that requires no money down. Read more about solar loans below

Solar Purchase NPV: $6,179

The two biggest reasons a solar purchase in Washington D.C. has a positive NPV are the 30% federal tax credit and those SREC sales. On top of that, the money you save on electricity is also available for future investment. But you can see above what happens to NPV if you choose a solar loan instead. Unless you need to put cash into an asset, a loan is a much smarter way to pay for solar panels. Read more about solar purchases below.

blue  Solar Power-Purchase Agreements in Washington DC

Leasing is a great way to go solar if you haven't got stacks of cash or oodles of equity in your home. With a lease, it's possible to get solar panels for $0 down and see big savings over 20 years!

As for leases in Washington D.C.: the electricity costs here aren't very high—we're actually almost exactly the nationl average of $0.13/kWh. But... the sun shines bright enough here to make solar power really profitable! That means a lease saves you money starting on day 1. For now, the payments on a leased 5-kW solar system should be around $690 per year, but the energy the panels generate will save you $811 per year. That's $121 you get to keep in your pocket this year, just for saying yes to solar!

And those savings will only get larger over time. As the utility company raises rates, your lease costs will go up by a smaller amount, meaning you'll see greater annual savings. Over 20 years, our estimate shows a total savings of $4,079. And the best part is the panels will be owned and maintained by the installation company, so all you have to do is brag to the Joneses down the street about your green habits!

Here's a little more about how a Washington D.C. solar PPA works:

Example savings in Washington DC

Annual Electric Bill Before Solar

$1,125

Annual Electric Bill After Solar

$314

Est. Annual Solar Payments

$690

Average Annual Savings

$122

Power-Purchase Agreements (PPAs) are the most popular form of what's called "third-party solar." A PPA just means your solar company owns the panels on your roof, and you pay for the electricity they produce. The numbers above show the savings with a solar PPA for an average home in Washington DC. The typical electric bill before solar power is super expensive, but with a PPA, your monthly expenses will be lower. You'll be saving money and saving the planet all at the same time!

Here's an estimate of the monthly savings for a solar PPA in Washington DC:

Monthly solar PPA savings in Washington DC

With a PPA, your solar company essentially becomes a second utility provider, only the solar electricity is sold to you at a lower rate than the fossil fuel electricity you've been buying from the electric company! Note: your PPA won't eliminate your power bill from your regular electric provider, because you'll still need energy from the grid when the sun isn't shining. But it will save you money!

The less-popular cousin of the third-party solar family is the solar lease. It's basically like renting your panels for a set monthly payment, and getting all the energy they produce—however much it is. Don't get spooked by that language, though. A typical solar lease comes with energy production guarantees that will make sure you're getting what you paid for. In fact, if you're not offered a production guarantee with a solar lease, walk away.

Here's the best part of third-party solar: whether you end up with a lease or a PPA, the installation company owns the panels and will do all the maintenance for you. Usually that means just a good cleaning every year, but if any part of that system fails, you're off the hook! That can be a great benefit to homeowners who are risk averse.

Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Washington DC. If you're ready for a custom quote for a solar lease or PPA, our network of experts are on call to assist you. Simply sign up for personalized assistance on our special solar deals page.

Home Solar Power: PPA vs. Purchasing

To PPA, or not to PPA? Willsolar Shakespanels would be proud we're discussing this. Here's the basic deal. If you choose to lease your panels, you benefit from no out of pocket costs and an immediately reduced total electricity payment. Because of this, many regard this option as a no-brainer, since there isn't any downside to think of. The only hiccup you'll start to experience is when you consider the long term financial benefit of owning the solar panel system yourself.

In many situations, if you can afford the outlay or can easily secure financing, the cost of the install becomes an investment with a return outpacing even the strongest performing mutual funds. In addition, there's significantly less principal risk, since the energy credits you will be producing are tied to the sun coming up in the morning instead of our financial markets!

Additionally, if you go the PPA route, you must forfeit all the credits and performance payments you would receive by owning the system yourself to the solar PPA company (after all, that's how they can afford to give you such a no-brainer proposition in the first place).

orange square  Solar Loans in Washington DC

You don't need $20,000 sitting around to pay for solar. As long as you have equity in your home, you can still own solar panels and reap all the benefits. Heck, even if you do have the cash, getting a loan to pay for solar is by far the best option when it comes to percentage return on investment.

That’s because, in Washington D.C., using a loan to pay for solar is like investing in a business that's sure to succeed, and also earns you a tax break!. You'll come out thousands ahead this year, and you'll see a spectacular profit over the 25-year life of your system. The reason this works so well is that you're paying over time, but reaping all the benefits now. Your yearly energy savings will offset about half of the cost of the loan payments, and you'll get cash from selling your SRECs too, which might sound like it's too good to be true... so let's take a look at the numbers.

A solar purchase like this will make sense for you if the following is true about you and your current situation:

  • You can get a home-equity line of credit (HELOC) for $20,000, with a fixed rate of 5% or lower and a 15-year repayment period. Don't be put off if you're offered a higher rate. It just means a tiny bit less of the thousands of dollars you'll make with solar.
  • You love making money without much risk.

Here’s how the numbers pencil out for a Washington D.C. homeowner who makes a solar purchase with a HELOC:

  • Installing a typical 5-kW solar system should start at about $17,500. That's how big your loan will need to be to cover it.
  • The electricity you'll save in the first year of operation would have cost $811, but your annual loan payments will be $1,553, meaning you would spend $742 on solar this year, but...
  • You'll also be able to sell your SRECs. Each SREC represents one megawatt-hour of electricity, and each is worth about $380, after the SREC broker takes their cut. Your 5-kW system will earn you a little more than 6 SRECs in a year, which means you'll see an estimated $2,355 in income in 2017 from SREC sales. WOW.
  • And we know this is sounding too good to be true, but you'll also get a huge federal tax break! Uncle Sam will give you 30% of the cost of your system back as an income tax credit, which in this case means $5,250 you won't be paying the Feds this year.
  • The energy savings, SREC sales, and tax credits mean you'll you'll come out $6,863 ahead after year 1, and it's pretty smooth sailing from then on out. With SREC sales and electricity savings, you'll actually only start paying for solar in 2023, when your net cost will be about $27/month.
  • By the time you've paid off your loan in 2031, you'll see yearly savings of about $1,100. After 25 years, your total profit will be $16,872! That's beyond any other "investment" that requires $0 of your own money..
  • On top of the green that will stay in your pocket, your system will mean green for the environment, too—104 trees-worth, every year!
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Washington DC. If you're ready for a custom quote for a solar loan, our network of experts are on call to assist you. Simply sign up for personalized assistance on our special solar deals page.

green square  Buying Solar in Washington DC

An outright purchase used to be the only way to get solar, and it's still the option that provides the "biggest" financial returns. The reason we put "biggest" in quotes here is because it's technically true—with lower equipment costs and that big Federal tax credit, solar costs less than ever before, and a solar installation pays itself off in just 6 years. But if you're interested in solar as an investment, taking a loan to pay for the system is a better option.

With a loan, you can make monthly payments instead of putting $20,000 down on a solar system, which means you save money on electricity (and make money selling SRECs) as you pay down the cost of your panels. If you have equity in your home or can get a large loan with a good interest rate, a loan is the option to go with. It's like being able to start a business that is sure to succeed, just by having a roof. Read about loans below.

If you've got cash and you prefer to pay up front, you'll have to plunk down $20,000, but SREC sales, tax breaks, and energy savings will erase a bunch of that after just 1 year. Over 25 years, your system will have produced over $27,000 in income, after your system cost is paid back. Solar offsets your electricity costs enough to save you $811 in year 1, and it just goes up from there. As the electric company raises rates, you save more and more, and more...

Here’s how the numbers work for a 5-kW rooftop solar system in Washington D.C.:

  • Installing a typical 5-kW solar system should start at about $17,500. That's cheaper than solar has ever been, but it still might seem like a big investment. Don’t worry, because after tax breaks and energy savings, your first-year costs will be considerably less than that.
  • The Federal government offers a great income tax credit of 30% of system costs. That's $5,250 you won't be paying to Uncle Sam this year, and it brings your first-year investment down to $12,250.
  • After that tax credit, we subtract your first year’s energy savings, which we estimate to be $811. That reduces your cost after the first year to only $11,439—a savings of about 35% off the cost of your system. That's a huge cost reduction!
  • But then comes the meat of this deal. Your SREC sales in 2016 will net you $2,355, bringing your final first-year cost of solar down to $9,084.
  • Those electricity savings will quickly pile up, and your system will pay for itself in year 6. But your panels carry 25-year warranties, and they'll likely keep on kicking out kilowatts for a few decades or more. You'll see a total net profit of $22,672 by the end of that warranty. The internal rate of return for this investment is an astonishing 19.1%. That's more than DOUBLE the return of an investment in stock market index funds, and it's more reliable, too!
  • And here's a nice bonus to consider: your home's value just increased by $9,871, too—the NPV of your expected electricity savings over 20 years—and thanks to Washington D.C.'s property tax exemption for solar, none of that is subject to taxation!.
  • In addition to all that cash (and home value), you’ve created some green for the earth as well by not using electricity from fossil fuels. It's like planting 104 trees a year, every year your solar power system is humming.
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Washington DC. If you're ready for a custom quote for a solar panel system, our network of experts are on call to assist you. Simply sign up for personalized assistance on our special solar deals page.

Washington DC Solar Policy Information

Ever wonder why solar seems to be everywhere in some states, but not in others? We did too.

State legislatures and public utilities commissions can enact rules to make solar power accessible for everyone. Favorable rules explain why some of the cloudiest states—New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, are doing so well with solar, and yet some of those with the most natural solar resources—like Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida—are doing so poorly.

Below is important information about the public policy, rules, and economic reasons that affect your ability to go solar here in Washington DC:

RPS

50% by 2032

Grade: A

Washington DC's Renewable Portfolio Standard grade

A Renewables Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) requires utilities in the state to eventually source at least a certain percentage of their electricity from clean, renewable sources like solar panels.

As of late 2016 Washington D.C. has a new RPS, mandating that 50% of all energy must come from renewable sources by the end of 2032. But the real big story here is that 2.5% of all energy in the district must be generated from solar power by 2023. This is also called a “solar carve-out” and it’s discussed in more detail below.

Washington D.C.’s RPS is critical to strong renewable energy policy. Utility companies aren't really all that gung-ho about you producing your own power. After all, it costs them money when you use less of their electricity. They also don’t naturally want to give you big payments for energy you're feeding back into the grid. The main reason the utilities are aiding your transition to lower electric bills and offering you incentives to put solar on your roof is because the state forces them to. If the utilities don't hit their RPS numbers, they have to pay large fees back to the state.

What's an RPS? Your state legislature paves the way for strong solar energy incentives to flourish by setting standards for renewable energy generation within their territories. Those standards are called the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). If utility companies do not meet these standards, they must pay alternative compliance fees directly to the state. Many utilities then determine the best ways to source their energy from renewable sources that are less expensive than this fee.

An RPS is a mandate that says "Hey utilities! Y'all now have to make a certain percentage of your electricity from renewable sources. If not, you'll have to pay us huge fines." The consequences are good, because utilities usually try to meet these RPS standards by creating solar power incentives for you, the homeowner. Read more about Renewable Portfolio Standards.

RPS solar carve out

2.5% by 2023

Grade: A

Washington DC's Solar Carve-out grade

D.C. has a District-wide performance payment plan that is built into the RPS’s solar carve-out.

In order to meet the RPS’ solar power targets, utilities must purchase Solar Renewable Energy Credits (“SRECs”) from folks like you (generators are issued one SREC for every megawatt-hour of solar power produced). For every megawatt (MW) of energy a utility falls short, they must pay an Solar Alternative Compliance Penalty (SACP)of $500.

That effectively means that SREC payments could get as high as $500, but it varies in practice, depending on how much the utility needs that SREC to avoid paying the $500 default. Read down below for an in-depth explanation of what these SRECs mean for home solar in D.C.

What's a solar set aside? A solar set aside guarantees a specific portion of the overall renewable energy mix generated comes from the sun. For those states with progressive standards, high alternative compliance payments, and clear solar carve outs, the faster those areas become ripe for solar.

Some states have higher alternative compliance fees than others, and some states have more progressive alternative energy standards and deadlines than others do.

For instance, New Jersey has an overall RPS of 22.5% by the year 2021. That requires local utilities to source 22.5% of their energy mix from renewable sources by the year 2021. Pretty good. However, New Jersey also has a specific solar set aside of 4.1% by 2028. That’s the type of firm commitment which really gets the industry rolling forward. No wonder why New Jersey is one of the hottest solar markets right now!

Washington DC Electricity Prices

$0.13/kwh

Grade: C

Washington DC's Electricity cost grade

D.C. pays an average of about 13 cents/kWh of electricity. That’s just a smidge more that the national average, but we still think that’s pretty cheap. Cheap electricity rates mean you’re probably not feeling too much of a strain in your pocketbook …. yet. Just don’t forget why electricity is so cheap.

That’s right, fossil fuels. Lots and lots on non-renewable, greenhouse gas-producing fossil fuels. When all those fossil fuels really start to bite us in the butt, or start to run low … or both … electricity rates are going to rise, and fast. When that happens you’re going to be really, really happy you switched early to all that efficient, clean solar power that will be in high demand. In the meantime, solar power will still save you a chunk of change. Win-win!

Why are electricity prices so important? Because that is what solar power is directly competing against. The cost to produce power with solar is relatively constant (of course how much sun hits your area has an effect), so if you are paying $0.40 per watt for power, then you make FOUR TIMES AS MUCH as the guy or girl paying $0.10 per watt electricity.

The caveat here is that if the $0.10 per watt person has a HUGE rebate, they may be better off than the $0.40 per watt person. Because of that, states without any renewable standards tend to be heavily reliant on cheap coal for electricity, and also have very low electricity prices. When electricity prices are artificially low, that hinders the ability of solar energy to achieve meaningful payback in the state.

Washington DC Net Metering

A

Grade: A

Washington DC's Net Metering grade

Net Metering requires your utility to monitor how much energy your solar power system produces and how much energy you actually consume, and make sure you get credit for the surplus.

Pepco (D.C.’s only electric utility) offers a standard net metering contract to all residential customers. For all systems under 100 kW, all surplus electricity is credited to your next bill at the full retail rate. Surplus may be carried over indefinitely. All that is superb, and net metering is very strong for residential customers here.

What is net metering? Net metering is the billing arrangement where you can sell excess electricity back to your utility for equal the amount you are charged to consume it. The more customer friendly net metering policies, the higher the grade.

The grade here specifically reflects individual solar system capacity, caps on program capacity limits, restrictions on “rollover” of kWh from one month to the next (yep just like cell phone minutes), metering issues (like charges for new meters), Renewable Energy Credit (REC) ownership, eligible customers and technology (the more renewables the better), being able to aggregate meters across the property for net metering, and safe harbor provisions to protect customers from solar tariff changes.

Washington DC Interconnection Rules

B

Washington DC's Interconnection Standards grade

The District’s interconnection policies are also very strong for residential customers. If your system is less than 10kW (most residential systems will be), you qualify for simplified interconnection procedures, and will not be required to install a redundant external disconnect switch nor carry separate liability insurance. Again, we gave interconnection a “B” here only because of some limitation for larger customers that don’t concern your residential system.

Interconnection rules are a little technical, but they basically allow you to “plug in” to the electric grid with solar panels on your roof. The more complex, out of date, or nonsensical the state rules are for plugging into the grid, the lower the grade.

Specifically, the grade reflects what technologies are eligible, individual system capacity, removing interconnection process complexity for smaller systems, interconnection timelines and charges, engineering charges, prohibiting the requirement of unnecessary external disconnects, certification, spot interconnection vs. wide area interconnection, technical screens, friendliness of legalese, insurance requirements, dispute resolution, and rule coverage.

Solar Incentives in Washington DC

Washington DC Solar Power Rebates

Affordable Solar Program

Grade: B

Washington DC's Solar Rebates grade

D.C. used to offer a strong district-wide rebate program, but as of 2016, that's ended for the general public.

What replaced it is much more exciting. Called the "Affordable Solar Program," it was designed to help bring solar to homes owned by families who make less than the median income for the area. As of September, 2016, the program ended, but we're feeling pretty confident they'll bring it back in some for for 2017.

How do solar rebates work? Similar to getting a rebate card from your local big box store for a dishwasher purchase, state legislatures also provide rebates for solar panel purchases to spur on investment and create new jobs. If you purchase the solar panel system yourself, you qualify for this free cash, which many times is a lump payment back to you. Some solar installers like to take this amount directly off the total installed price, and they'll handle the paperwork for you to make things a lot less complex.

The availability of state and utility rebates were sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency. The better the rebates, the higher the grade.

Washington DC Solar Power Tax Credits

None

Grade: F

Washington DC's Solar Tax Credits grade

While there are no tax credits available here, we can’t fault the city government too much. Those SRECs and rebates are still holding down the fort. Keep in mind, you can also take the 30% federal tax credit for your solar installation, putting thousands back in your pocket next April.

About state solar tax credits: State tax credits are not technically free money. However, they are 'credits' and not 'deductions' which means that if you have the tax appetite to take advantage of them, then they can be a 1-to-1 dollar amount off your taxes instead of a fraction of the cost of the system. So that means they can be an important factor to consider. In certain circumstances, state tax credits can provide a very powerful incentive for people to go solar.

(Keep in mind, we are not tax professionals and give no tax advice so please consult a professional before acting on anything we say related to taxes)

The availability of personal tax credits for solar energy were sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency. The higher the tax credit amount, the higher the grade.

Solar Power Performance Payments

~$380 per SREC

Grade: A

Washington DC's Solar Performance Payments grade

As we discussed above in the solar carve-out section, D.C. homeowners with solar on their roofs earn an Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) for every MWh of electricity generated by their system. A typical 5-kW system will generate a little over 6 MWh in a year, meaning 6 SRECs, each of which can be sold to the utility through a broker like SRECTrade

.

SRECs are sold through brokers because utility companies don’t engage the hundreds of individual sellers, instead preferring to purchase SRECs in large quantities to meet their compliance requirements.

The good news is that SREC prices are still pretty darn high—2015 prices have been consistent at around $480—but there's some less-good news, too. Those Solar Alternative Compliance Penalties (SACPs) we mentioned will be reduced in 2017, from $500 to $350. Then they'll be stepped down about every year until 2023, when they'll be just $50. After 2023, the District will have completed its journey to 20% renewables, and, without new legislation to increase that goal, SRECs from D.C. solar will be just about worthless (but solar will still save you tons of money).

What this all means for savvy homeowners like you is that your 6.24 SRECs in 2016 will make you about $2,700. In 2017, the reduction in SACP means your SRECs will net you about $1,900, and it goes down from there until 2023. That's not so bad, though! By 2023, sales of SRECs will have put over $10,000 in your pocket, making solar in the District of Columbia a completely brilliant investment.

Explanation of performance payments: Performance payments represent a big chunk of the financial rationale for going solar, and in many instances they make your decision a wise one. For certain states, if you’ve got solar panels on your roof, not only will you be cutting your electric bill down to size, but you'll be getting paid additional cash from your utility company. Pretty awesome, huh? Not only are you generating electricity for yourself, freezing your own popsicles with sun, and feeling like you’re doing something smart for your children or any of the other 4 reasons people go solar, but you are getting PAID!

Utility companies are paying people with solar panels on their roofs because their states say they have to, otherwise they will pay a fee. Therefore, the payment amount to homeowners is typically a little bit less than the amount they would be billed for by the state. For states with these alternative compliance fees, Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) exchanges have popped up. In the above chart, we outlined an estimate of yearly payments a homeowner might expect from the utility company for the SREC credits from their solar energy system.

Expected SREC payments were calculated by using the latest trade values in the SRECtrade database. The availability of feed-in tariffs were sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency. The higher the expected monthly payments, the higher the grade.

If you don’t know what an SREC is, or how they work, check out this great SREC video

Property Tax Exemption

100%

Grade: A

Washington DC's Solar Property Tax Exemptions grade

We can stand up and applaud, however, that the District gives you a 100% property tax exemption on all that extra home value you get from your solar power.

About solar property tax exemptions: Property tax exemption status is a pretty big factor when putting together your investment considerations. Many argue that solar power adds approximately 20 times your annual electricity bill savings (if you are owning the system and not leasing. Leasing still has a positive impact on the ability to sell your home though, in our opinion).

For many average-sized solar power systems on a house, that can mean $20,000 to your home value. (Edit April, 2014: Some companies, like Solar Mosaic, are starting to offer traditional style equity-based home loans for such a thing). An additional $20,000 in property tax basis in many states amounts to a big chunk of change owed back to the state. However, many states have complete exemptions from added taxes when you install solar on your home!

The availability of a property tax exemption for solar energy was also sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency. The stronger the tax exemption, the higher the grade.

Sales Tax Exemption

None

Grade: F

Washington DC's Solar Sales Tax Exemption grade

Sadly, D.C. offers no sales tax exemption, meaning you’ll pay the full tax of 5.75% on the purchase. But even with the tax, solar in D.C. makes more sense than almost anywhere in the country.

What's the deal with solar power sales tax exemptions? When states give you a sales tax break on solar, we notice. You should too. State sales tax exemption status for the purchase of solar energy systems were sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency. Sales tax exemptions, if present, were all 100%. A handful of states are completely exempt from sales tax regardless, and therefore received ‘A’ grades by default (OR, DE, MT, AK, and NH).

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The consensus on Washington D.C. solar power rebates and incentives

Our nation’s capital is certainly one of our nation’s leaders when it comes to strong solar energy policy. The picture here is sunny indeed for the switch to solar power; with a 1st year price break of over 50% and a lightning-fast 5 year payback timeframe, Washington D.C. earns a high “A” grade.

Again, if you are confused about how these numbers work and would like some personalized assistance or a quote of your own, simply connect with our network of solar experts. They’ll help sort out all the pricing, get you access to special deals, and they’re super friendly to boot!

11 thoughts on “Washington D.C. Solar Power for your house – rebates, tax credits, savings

  1. Anonymous says:

    If DC rates so highly for solar, shouldn’t the “See Your Roof’s Value” section include a pulldown code for “Washington DC” pulldown in the “State” tab (whether that pulldown is “Washington, DC” for purists who recognize that we’re not a state, or “DC” if, like most sites, it’s easier to pretend we’re a state and use a two-letter code)?

    1. Ben Zientara says:

      We realize it’s inconvenient, and we’re working on getting a DC option added to the dropdown. For now, the best bet is to choose Maryland, but put in your actual address. Our installer partners will be able to see that your home is in the District. Thanks!

  2. This story gives it five suns, but the side bar only says three. Looks like it’s not completely updated.

  3. Dave Llorens says:

    Michael… DONE!

  4. David says:

    I was wondering if of you have any resources you can point me towards in getting my PEPCO issue resolved. I’ve been setup and fully installed with solar panels for a little over a year and a half and PEPCO does not recognize ANY of the energy I put back into their system. There are no credits on my bill nor does the meter go in reverse when energy is produced. I am sure my system is generating electricity because I use another company to monitor the energy produced. ANY help is appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  5. Howard Lowe says:

    I would like your advice re solar power for residential. Based on usage I use 1,200 kWh on average per month how much would a residential system cost to install. Used 1.5 cents per kWh.

  6. bryan says:

    please see the link below. DC had ended their program and not paying some already in it:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/27/AR2011022702910.html?hpid=artslot

  7. John Loop says:

    Hi just thought you might want to know. The federal government has a rooftop initiative in the national capitol region. Participating companies can lease space on government rooftops. They can install PV or other green energy approved systems. GSA may purchase all the power, or even enable the companies to sell back to the grid. Its in its formative stages right now.

    Regards John

  8. Michael says:

    You should update your information to reflect that the $2,000 cap on the residential credit has been removed. The credit is now for the full 30%.

    1. Dan Hahn says:

      Glen,

      Thanks kindly for the update! We’re sure that will help our readers.

      Cheers,

      – Dan

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