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

2017 Policy

C

Avg. Yearly Savings

$655

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

2016 Policy

C

Avg. Savings/yr

$655

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.

Some may call it Dairyland, but folks here in the Badger State know that Wisconsin has a whole lot more to offer than its cheese. From the mighty Mississippi in the west to big ol’ Lake Superior in the north and everything in between, Wisconsin offers some of the most beautiful environments anywhere in the nation (and a few-thousand more lakes than that state just a little bit to the west). An astonishing 46% of the state is covered by forest, including the 1.5 million acre Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Needless to say, Wisconsin has a great deal to protect by promoting green energy. So how is solar policy doing out here? Let’s look.

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 $4,500/kW! This is paired with the Wisconsin solar incentives you see below.

Your guide to going solar in Wisconsin

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 Wisconsin. 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 Wisconsin. 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 Wisconsin. 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 Wisconsin is doing to make solar more affordable for its citizens, you'll find it here.

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 Wisconsin

Figuring out the best way to go solar in Wisconsin 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:

Compare the Return of Different Solar Investments in Wisconsin

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. All those bars going in different directions might look a little complicated, so let's break it down:

The green bars show the return if you pay up front for a 5-kW solar system. As you can see, there's a big payment (negative) in year 1, which gets slowly reduced over time. The green bars cross the "$0" line at year 13, which is when the system will have paid back your initial investment with electricity savings. Then, our example goes to year 25 (which is when most solar panel warranties end), where you'll end up with just about $19,000 in total profits. Not bad! That's because Wisconsinites enjoy a mix of above-average energy prices and enough daily sun to make the electricity savings substantial.

The orange bars, on the other hand, show what happens if you take a Home-Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) to pay for the same 5-kW system. You don't put any money down, but you do get the 30% Federal solar tax credit, meaning you actually come out several thousand dollars ahead in year 1. The bars dip below the $0 line after 6 years, because your loan payments (over a 15-year term) will exceed your energy savings by a little each year. Still, once you pay off the loan, the savings start stacking up quickly. In the end, you'll come out thousands of dollars ahead over the 25-year estimate.

Finally, the blue bars represent a similar HELOC option, but for a smaller, 2-kW solar system. This size system is great if you only have a little equity, and it still saves you thousands in the long term, while reducing the amount of CO2 pollution you're responsible for. The loan size is smaller and so are the first-year windfall and final profits, but if you love the idea of solar, this is a great way to go.

Keep in mind that these numbers are estimated for Wisconsin residents who qualify for rebates though the state's Focus on Energy program, which serves most—but not all—of the state. The best way to see if you qualify for the rebates is to connect with one of our partners in Wisconsin to get help with paperwork and make sure you get all the solar incentive money that you can.

Read on to find out more about each option!

 Buying Solar in Wisconsin

Paying up front used to be the only way to get panels on your roof, and it's still the option that allows you the most control. But it isn't the best option from a percentage return on investment standpoint—that award goes to the solar loan.

Still, an outright purchase returns the most money over time, because you own the system from day one and reap all the benefits—the state rebate, the Federal solar tax credit, and some nice energy bill savings.

In our example, you put down $17,600, but by the end of year 1, that tax credit and the energy savings will erase a bunch of it. Over 25 years, your system will have produced almost $19,000 in income.

Here’s an example of how the numbers work for a purchase of a 5-kW rooftop solar system in Wisconsin:

  • Installing a typical 5-kW solar system should start at about $17,600 after the Focus on Energy rebate.
  • The Feds offer a tax credit of 30% of out-of-pocket costs, so you'll get $4,560 back next April. Note: you can take the credit over two years if you don't owe $4,560 in Federal taxes this year.
  • Then there's your first-year energy savings. That's another $819, and it brings the cost after 1 year to just $12,221.
  • With all the energy bill savings rolling in, your system will pay itself back after 13 years. Once that happens, you’ll be seeing over $1,200 per year in savings until the end of your system’s life.
  • When all is said and done, our 25-year estimate shows a total net profit of $18,860 with an internal rate of return of 7.9%. That's basically the same as a high-performing stock index fund, and it has the added benefit of helping the environment!
  • On top of those returns, your home's value just increased by $16,380, too (your expected electricity savings over 20 years)!
  • And speaking of doing good for the environment... your system will create some green for the earth by not using electricity from fossil-fuels. In fact, the energy you’re not using has the carbon equivalent of planting 106 trees a year, every year your solar power system is humming.
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Wisconsin. 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.

 Solar Loans in Wisconsin

This is where we tell you that taking a loan for solar panels is a no-brainer, because it means investing in an income-generating asset. It's true! That's because the state gets a nice amount of sunshine, so even without huge incentives, it's enough to make solar worthwhile, generating a good deal of income for you after you pay your loan off.

Here's the important stuff:

As you can see from the chart above, you'll start out with a big windfall, because with a loan, you're not putting any money down, and you get the federal tax credit just like if you paid $17,600 up front for your system. You'll come out $3,709 ahead after the first year! In the 14 years that follow, your loan payments will actually cost a little more than the money you'll be saving in electricity, but just think of it like a monthly deposit into a savings account.

The rest of our estimate might look like a see-saw, because you start out with a windfall, drop down into "decent-sized investment" territory, and then rocket up again after the loan is paid off. That's when the solar "savings account" will pay dividends. You'll be saving tons of money every year because you'll own the system outright. At the end of our 25-year example, you'll be $11,408 to the good, which is great for an investment where you put nothing down!

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 $17,600 with a fixed rate of 5% or lower and a 15-year repayment period.
  • You have an appetite for making a little money with a long-term investment, while also producing benefits for the environment.

Here’s how the numbers pencil out for a Wisconsin solar purchase with a HELOC:

  • Installing a typical 5-kW solar system should start at about $17,600, after the state rebate. That's how big your loan will need to be to cover it.
  • The electricity bill savings in the first year of operation will total $819, but your loan payments will be $1,670, for a difference of $851, or about $71 per month.
  • But here comes the tax credit! Because you've technically "paid" for the system with your loan, you'll get the Federal tax credit of 30% of system costs, or $4,560! Even after you make those loan payments, you'll end up with an extra $3,709 at the end of the first year.
  • When your loan’s paid off in year 15, you’ll see over $1,400 per year in savings until the end of your system’s life.
  • For our 25-year estimate, you'll see pretty nice returns, to the tune of $11,408 after all the payments. That's a huge amount of money for a zero-down investment!
  • Finally, the environmental benefits cannot be overstated. Operating your system will take as much carbon out of the air as planting 106 trees every year!
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Wisconsin. 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.

 Small Rooftop Systems in Wisconsin

Let's say you don't have a ton of extra cash laying around, but you do have a bit of equity in your home. Can you get solar panels? YES! Is it a good idea in Wisconsin? Oh yeah! You'll take out a small loan that will be repaid with low monthly payments, and your electricity savings and tax credit will result in big savings. You'll end up with a little profit over 25 years, and you'll also help take a lot of carbon out of the air!

Here are the factors we'll look at for this example:

  • A 2-kW rooftop system that will cost around $7,800 installed (after rebate).
  • A HELOC for that amount with a 15-year payback at 5% interest.

Here’s how the numbers pencil out for a Wisconsin purchase of a small rooftop solar system:

  • Installing a typical 2-kW solar system should cost about $7,800. Your loan should be for this amount.
  • You'll gain $328 in electricity savings in the first year of operation, while your loan payments will cost $740. That's a net cost to you of $412, but...
  • At the end of the year, the Federal government will give you a tax credit of 30% of the cost of your system. That's $2,340 that you won't owe this year. You can take the Federal credit over two years if you don't owe that much in taxes this year. Here's how that looks:
    • First-year electric bill savings: $328
    • - First-year loan payments: $740
    • = First-year cost of solar: -$412
    • + First year federal tax credit: $2,340
    • Total in your pocket after year 1: $1,928
  • Your loan payments will exceed your electricity savings while you pay off the loan, by about $33 per month. But when your loan’s paid off in year 15, you’ll see upwards of $550 per year in savings until the end of your system’s life.
  • For our 25-year estimate, you'll end up with some pretty decent profits! We're talking $3,997 after 25 years, all without putting any money down. That should help your old, wiser self appreciate your young, forward-thinking self.
  • Your system will remove as much carbon from the air as planting 42 trees per year, which is a pretty great thing, we'd say.
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in Wisconsin. 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.

Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin:

RPS

10% by 2015 (met)

Grade: D

A Renewables Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) is a law requiring a certain percentage of a state's energy production comes from renewable resources by a target date in the future. Wisconsin was on board with a statewide RPS, under which 10% of statewide electricity production must have come from renewable sources by 2015, otherwise the utility companies needed to pay massive fees.

It's laudable that Wisconsin had such an early goal, but the state easily mat the 10% requirement way back in 2013, and there are no future plans to increase that 10% requirement.

A strong RPS with high targets is the core of all good renewable energy policy. Without mandatory renewable energy production levels, utility companies have no motivation to promote conversion to renewable energy sources like residential solar power system. With a strong RPS, it becomes cheaper for the utilities to help fund your solar power system than to pay penalties for missing RPS goals. That’s when you really see incentives kick in.

In short, a strong RPS is generally the single most effective law that state legislators can implement to promote renewable energy. Without a new commitment to a stronger RPS, Wisconsin will not be a solar leader in the future.

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

None

Grade: F

The best states for solar have not only aggressive RPS goals, but also specific goals (i.e. "carve-outs") for solar use. A solar carve-out is a great way to get utility companies even more interested in helping homeowners get solar, but Wisconsin lags behind the best solar states in this category.

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!

Wisconsin Electricity Prices

$0.14/kwh

Grade: B

Wisconsin pays an average of 14 cents per kilowatt-hour (“kWh”) of electricity, meaning a 5-kW solar system will save you about $800 a year here. Energy costs in the state from traditional sources are a bit higher the national average of 13 cents/kWh, but still pretty cheap. Too cheap, in fact.

Electricity is relatively inexpensive because most of it still comes from dangerous amounts of fossil fuels. The cost of those fossil fuels in dollars and cents may be low (for now), but the environmental costs are astronomically high. Switching to solar power already saves you money, but when scarcity and environmental costs drive up fossil-fuel based energy prices, the early switch to solar power is going to be saving you piles and piles of money.

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.

Wisconsin Net Metering

C

Grade: D

Net metering requires your utility to monitor how much energy your solar power system produces and how much energy you actually consume. If you produce a surplus, you get credit for it on your bill.

Net metering in Wisconsin is a bit scattered, but generally strong for residential customers. All investor-owned and municipal utilities are required to offer a net metering program, but electric cooperatives are exempt from the requirement. So, most utilities offer net metering, but there is a bit of variation among how the programs are implemented. Generally, all surplus kWh are credited at your retail electric rate, and applied to the next bill. If credit exceeds $25, the utility must cut you a check for the amount.

One way or another, you’re getting credit for all that extra energy at a pretty decent rate per kWh. Overall we gave net metering in Wisconsin a C because of system size limitations that prevent larger customers from efficiently meeting all on-site needs with renewable energy, and the law’s lack of a safe harbor provision that ensures the utility can’t charge you extra fees for net metering. But for a residential solar power system like yours, net metering is pretty solid 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.

Wisconsin Interconnection Rules

D

Wisconsin’s interconnection standards are more of a mixed bag. Your residential system is small enough (less than 20 kW) to avoid any fees for reviews or studies. That’s great. Unfortunately, the money saved there will be spent purchasing insurance coverage, and installing a redundant external disconnect switch.

And of course, if you’d like some personalized assistance, get in touch with us and we’ll have an expert contact you in a jiffy.

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 Wisconsin

Wisconsin Solar Power Rebates

$600/kW, up to $2,400

Grade: B

The statewide Focus on Energy program launched in July, 2012, and is ongoing. Homeowners whose utility company participates (most of them do) are eligible for up to a $2,400 rebate after they install a qualifying solar electric system. This solar rebate is a great way to help homeowners defray the costs of installation, but this rebate is a little smaller than those in the best solar states.

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.

Wisconsin Solar Power Tax Credits

None

Grade: F

Wisconsin does not offer any tax credits to promote renewable energy.

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

Up to $0.30/kWh

Grade: D

A couple years back, customers of two Wisconsin utilities were eligible to participate in solar power buyback programs, also known as parallel generation agreements. These are not true performance payments; you continue to purchase electricity from the utility at the normal retail rate, while selling all of the energy produced by your solar power system.

Madison Gas and Electric and River Falls Municipal Utilities have both offered the programs, but in both cases, the programs are "fully subscribed," that is, you can't sign up for them.

This is one of those areas that would be helped by a stronger RPS law in Wisconsin. With some aggressive goals for solar adoption, utility companies would have an incentive to pay homeowners for the solar energy they produce. Without those goals, Wisconsin will continue to lag behind in the solar race.

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

Fortunately there are tax exemptions to help bring down the cost of your solar power system. You’re exempt from 100% of the property taxes normally associated with with the big increase in home value you’re going to get from installing a solar power system. (we’ll get to that below).

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

100%

Grade: A

With Wisconsin’s sales tax exemption for solar systems, you save 5-5.6% right off the bat.

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).

Switch to solar and save $36.44/mo on avg ($0 installations available) - Click Here

The consensus on Wisconsin solar power rebates and incentives

Wisconsin is something of a mixed bag when it comes to solar. The statewide rebate program and tax incentives are a good start, but there’s no statewide policy that defines how homeowners should be paid by utilities, making each utility’s policies unique, and not as clear as a strong standard. If the legislature and the governor could agree on a more robust renewable energy standard with a big chunk dedicated to solar electricity generation and better rebates and tax credits, Wisconsin could take its place among the best states for solar. Still, the good policy, especially the RPS and tax exemptions, earn Wisconsin a strong B+. On, Wisconsin!

51 thoughts on “Wisconsin Solar Power for your house – rebates, tax credits, savings

  1. m says:

    I found out yesterday that the rebate for Wisconsin was cut from $600 per kw to 12% of installed system cost, max. $2000. For Me, that CUTS THE REBATE IN HALF, from about $2400 (for 4 kw system) to about $1200 (assuming total cost of around $10k). It just gets worse and worse…………………..

  2. Carol says:

    WE Energies in the SE corner of Wisconsin does not encourage producing extra energy. The first year we were on-line with our solar array they converted the extra kilowatts to $ on our time of use bill and by May we had accumulated over $500. In May they converted the $ back to kilowatts and put a tarriff on over-production and sent us a check for $132. This year we aren’t conserving our solar gain, we are using it.

  3. JP says:

    To Anonymous, posted Feb 24, 2015: You’re not understanding what a tax credit is. Tax credits certainly can be counted as savings. Whether you get a refund from the IRS and/or state or not is based on how much you’ve paid throughout the year. If you chose to pay a lot of taxes on your paychecks, then you are likely to get a refund. If you withheld little, you will probably get a bill. Either way, a tax credit reduces the total you owe. So you’ll get a larger refund or a smaller bill, depending on your situation. The only situation where you don’t benefit is if you do not owe any tax at all, and even then, credits can generally be carried forward for several years (though I do not know if these energy credits carry forward). It would be unlikely that you would not get the full benefit of the tax credit quoted on this site, and even less likely that you would get no benefit at all, regardless of whether you plan to get a refund or not.

  4. PMB says:

    You keep quoting electrical rates in Wisconsin as being 15 cents per kWh – that is WAY higher than what we are paying here in Wisconsin. I live here and I can tell you first, I am paying 9 cents per kWh. Also, I could sign up for a time of use program and drop it to 5 cents per kWh on off-peak times, 10-11 cents per kWh on peak times. My brother is on a different utility and he is paying 7.8 cents per kWh. These rates are as of October, 2015. Stop saying Wisconsin rates are 15 kWh. Businesses don’t pay any where near that either (the large users). They are down anywhere from 4 cents to 7 cents depending on usage, location, etc. in Wisconsin.

    1. Ben Zientara says:

      Thanks, PMB. We source our data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), which reports prices per kWh for all states each month of the year. The EIA publishes averages for all ratepayers in a state, so they include small co-ops and big investor-owned utilities.

      That said, we try to update our electricity price data once per year, and Wisconsin’s time is coming soon. Glancing casually at the EIA numbers for the year up to August, the average residential rate paid in Wisconsin is 14.38 cents/kWh. That might include delivery charges or other per-kWh add-ons that aren’t part of your 9 cents/kWh figure.

      And for reference, We Energies, the state’s largest electric provider, charges 13.28 cents/kWh for standard residential service, and 19.68/8.96 cents/kWh for time of use (see page 27).

      I’d love to hear more from you about where you live and how the rates from your electric company got so low. Drop me a line at ben@solarpowerrocks.com.

      Thanks!

  5. Anonymous says:

    WPS (Wisconsin Public Service) buy back rates are terrible. In simple terms, they bill at 0.10 and buy at 0.05 (45%-55%). Compare that to MG&E who bills at 0.10 and buys at 0.25. If you want solar in Northern Wisconsin, it seems that your best bet is to buy a battery rather than sell back excess energy to WPS. I really wish they would change this policy to at least buy and the same rate they bill at.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I have been crunching the numbers really hard recently and ran into your site while researching. I want to point out one small thing about your tax rebate in your cost calculation. The “credit” does not apply to your tax return, it only applys if you actually owe taxes. Will NOT increase your tax return. You cannot count this as a reduction of the cost of the system. Also, depending on which utility you go through, they pay much less for the energy. WPS only pays 5cents (.05) for every kWh while charging you 10 (.1027) for whatever you use during non generating hours.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Your pay back computations are based on over inflated estimates. The payback is more like 20 years using reasonable numbers and this doesn’t take into account maintenance and repairs.

    1. Ben Zientara says:

      Not necessarily. Even if you don’t get any rebates in Wisconsin, the payback time is around 15 years. The reason you’re getting higher numbers might be the way you estimate the change in electricity prices over time. Prices are around $0.15/kWh in Wisconsin right now, but they have traditionally risen by about 3.5% per year over the last 30 years. That adds up to a bigger yearly saving the longer the panels operate.

      Even if prices go up by only 2% per year, a 5-kW system that costs $22,000 up front still pays itself back in 16 years, even with no rebate from Wisconsin. 14 years with the rebates.

      As far as maintenance goes, solar panels don’t require much. Many installations have even survived hurricanes that destroyed other parts of the roof they’re attached to. You might have to brush some snow off them in the winter, and spray them off to ensure dust and leaves don’t reduce their efficiency. There will likely be the expense of replacing your inverter at around year 15, but if you get Wisconsin’s rebates, your system will have paid itself off before then.

      Worst case scenario: You pay $22,000 for a 5-kW system, but get no Wisconsin rebates. You get the Federal ITC that knocks 30% off the cost. You save $852 in utility costs the first year. Electricity prices rise by only 2% per year for the next 25 years. You spend $3,000 to replace your inverter in year 15. Your system pays itself back in 17 years, and your IRR is 3.94%. The investment isn’t as good as putting $22,000 in an index fund for 25 years, but you still make money and reduce your carbon footprint.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The Focus on Energy rebate program is exhausted, just some FYI for anyone looking at that incentive.

  9. Anonymous says:

    how feasible will solar power be when SRM solar radiation managemnent, SAG stratospheric aerosol geo-engineering,weather modification are blocking the sun?

  10. David Ziglin says:

    East Troy resident interested in solar information as in previous post. I forgot to include Edrress.

    Davidz@wi.rr.com

  11. David Ziglin says:

    I live in East Troy, Wi. I wish to have someone explain the entirety of a solar installation at my home including cost and cost benefit.

    Please contact me if you are in the business as above.

    1. Dave Llorens says:

      Hi David,

      Sign up here and a contractor should get in touch with you. https://solarpowerrocks.com/free-solar-estimates/

  12. Sandi says:

    My home currently has solar hot water and we supplement the heat in our shed workshop with solar. We are looking at putting in a 9kw tracker system in the near future. It is a growing business in this area and we are seeing more property owners investing in their futures. I want to be comfortable in my retirement and see this as a way to help the environment and eliminating the utility bill at the same time. Sure it’s an big investment but it’s also our future and the incentives are out there from the Feds and Focus on Energy in this area to do it.

  13. Quandry says:

    I have a home in northern Wisconsin which is off grid. I want to refinance so I can install a solar system. To run power into my property would cost 30k. The power line would have to pass through state and conservency (sp) land. That could take years to get permission to run the line, if ever. Why haven’t the Fed’s changed the underwriting procedures so a person can get the needed money? Every time you turn on TV or look at a newspaper or magazine that’s all you read about “going green”.

  14. Josh says:

    I used to work for a company that was trying to be a solar powered utility company. We built and installed Hydronic Solar systems to Schools to heat their pools. Basically we would install a system that would cut their heating bill by 50% but then we would charge them 25% so the customers bill would go down 25% total and we would end up with 25%. The problem was that we were spending way more putting the systems in than we were getting back every month.

  15. A Different Dave says:

    Why doesn’t a utility or co-op start providing solar installations for free or low cost or ongoing low monthly charge, and then recoup those installation costs over time by owning any excess power generated? The main difference from the current setup would be that, instead of the property owner selling excess generated power to the utility, the utility would be considered the owner of the power and could sell excess to other users. The utility makes money off by selling the property owner energy in excess of the system’s capability, also by selling to other customers the electricity generated in excess of the property owner’s usage. After the installation costs, there is relatively little cost to the utility for 25+ years (not much more than there would be for a traditional customer).

    This could be a way to overcome the up-front costs and paperwork that many individuals cannot manage but that a utility or co-op could build into its long-term financing.

  16. Fred H. says:

    Hello, I’m seeking to find an installer position with a reputible solar company based in the Milwaukee area. I have solar hot water & photovoltaic systems installation experience, as well as some experience with drawing plans with a CAD-type program. I currently live and work in Flagstaff, AZ but plan to relocate back to Mequon, where I grew up. Does anyone have any lead on quality outfits up there? Thank you–Fred H.

  17. Dave says:

    I read about a program that would give a low interest loan to home owners for going solar in the Madison area. The loan would be payed back to the City of Madison with your property tax payment every year until payed off. I believe it was in the WI State Journal a while back. I have since been searching for more info, with no luck. Madison was selected as 1 of @20 “solar cities” in the country. There is a really cool solar assessment tool on the “Madisun” website that shows ariel photo’s of homes in the City, and their potential hours per day of full sun. My house appears ideal at over 12hrs/day.

  18. Jill says:

    Please take note that the Focus on Energy incentives have changed significantly. See dsireusa.net for the most up-to-date info.

  19. Nikki says:

    Interested in solar power for our barn…great sun exposure where do we start??

    1. Hey, Nikki. I think you should peruse our FAQ sheet and then get a free quote from one of our partner installers or others in your area. I say this because every home is different, and since it’s a free estimate, the only thing you can lose is a bit of time, but you’ll get way educated about payback for you. Wisconsin has just passed a Feed-in-Tariff, so things are going to get even better there for incentives and quicker payback.

  20. Greggory Lawson says:

    Link: Wisconsin first in midwest to introduce feed-in tariff bill in 2010

    January 8, 2010
    Wisconsin First in Midwest to Introduce Feed-in Tariff Bill in 2010
    by Paul Gipe, Contributing Writer
    Wisconsin, United States [RenewableEnergyWorld.com]
    Powerful Wisconsin legislators were first out of the gate in a brewing race to be the first to pass feed-in tariff legislation in the Midwest…

    [NOTE: Due to copyright laws, we could not reprint the whole article that was left in this comment. Please RenewableEnergyWorld.com. The gist is that there is a Wisc. Feed-in-Tariff being introduced, but has not yet passed. Our apologies for not keeping up to date on every solar nook and cranny in every state. We have to eat sometime. ]

    Thanks for the heads up, Greg. You Rock.

  21. jan says:

    i have an inc. business with a flat 5000 sq ft roof in milw. i don’t know much about solar power, but am very interested. my biz is a day care and we would like to go as “green” as possible as a teaching tool. we have 360 degree exp. to the sun. is my building a good candidate? how many panels? would i be able to sell power back and how does that work? would i qualify for tax credits if i am a small corporation? thank you

  22. Bob says:

    Hi Dave,
    I wanted to know how did you calculate the cummulative savings and investment return percentage?

  23. Joe Pater says:

    Solar in Wisconsin! I’m very glad to see all this great info on the WI solar landscape.

  24. Thanks again, Dave! For saying what you said above, I’m recognizing you as a solar hero. I write another solar blog for the solar industry, and I’m including you on my solar hero list. You can see it here:

    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/blog/post/2009/10/send-me-your-solar-heroes

    Thanks again!

  25. Dave Cook says:

    Thank you Fred.
    For me putting in solar is a political/social decision even more than a monetary decision. I knew that we are not yet at a point where rebates are abundant, but I am hopeful they will as we need more clean energy. Even if I don’t fully recoop my expenses, my children and grandchildren will. I like reading your website, so thank you so much.

  26. Dave Cook says:

    I just installed a 7.5 kW system for our home at a hefty chunk of change. It is grid-tied and our co-op is happy to finally have someone install a system so they can evaluate how it works. But we have no grants available in the state from this co-op, and as far as I can see, I can only hope to recoop some of the cost through my federal taxes credit. I don’t see a state tax credit (only sales tax) and the property tax credit is only there so the assesor doesn’t assess my house at a higher rate because of adding in solar. Property tax credit won’t lower my property taxes.
    What is in the future to help offset the cost in terms of tax credits from the state or grants for homeowners.
    Dave in Rusk County

    1. Dave,

      first let me thank you for going ahead with your solar system despite the lack of rebates. You certainly rock, especially with a 7.5kw system. Sadly, you are accurate that the 30% federal tax credit is going to be the only real payback on that system if your co-op is not part of the Wisconsin “Cash Back Rewards” program.

      Furthermore, I do not have solar crystal ball to predict the future rebates and state tax credits that might defer further costs for you. Typically, these are not retroactive, but perhaps with a little letter writing and phone calling from you and your neighbors to your co-op. and/or public utility commission, you might be able to affect some grass roots change. You also might want to contact votesolar.org and see what they suggest in terms of being proactive with your local legislator yahoos.

      I’m sorry I can’t be more help. Any other Wisconsin lawyer/lobbyists able to help Dave? Please chime in. Either way, Dave, you’re a solar hero to us for installing the system. It should eventually pay for itself, just not as fast as people in the Rewards areas.

  27. JP says:

    I may have missed something, but why are the Federal/State tax incentives only listed at $6,750 (22.5%) when the US Treasury Grants alone will cover 30%? Is there a limit on what it can be used in conjunction with?

    1. JP,

      From our reading, if you are a resident, you must calculate the Federal 30% Investment Tax Credit AFTER any state rebate has been deducted. Businesses may take this cut from the top, but there are other tax considerations. Residents can also try this, but it’s unclear whether the IRS will accept this, and most of our installers have erred on the conservative side.

      Also, remember this is NOT a grant, i.e., cash for home owners and small businesses. This is a tax credit, which is sort of like a gift card for the IRS. So if you get a $6,000 solar tax credit (no matter how you calculate it) then you can use that $6,000 to pay your tax bill. If you owe $8,000, on April 15th, you only have to pay $2,000. However, if you owe less, say $5,000, you won’t get a $1000 back from the government. Instead, you’ll have to use that extra grand towards next year’s tax bill or the following years. Check with your own tax people about the 30% calculation, but this is our understanding. We’re also waiting for the IRS to actually print the tax form and give more specific guidance.

      Hope that helps.

  28. Pat Bajwa says:

    I would like to start out with an inexpensive kit. on a small scale to see how it works?

    Is there a place that sells everything included?

    Thank you, Pat

    1. Hey, Pat,

      Unless you’ve got some training, I really wouldn’t bother about size and testing things out. Solar is modular any way, meaning that you can always start small and add later if you want to test.

      These are some excellent incentives here in Wisconsin, so just get a free quote from one of our installers for a small system. The sales person should explain or show you models of different sizes. You really can’t lose and you will probably learn a lot, at worst. Again, it’s free, so nothing to lose here.

      FYI, I would NOT invest in any of these DIY kits that claim that you can find all you need to build your own solar panels at the local hardware store. Unless you have a great deal of time and energy and patience (as well as money) these are scams. Please trust me about this.

  29. Shirley says:

    If a Wisconsin LLC purchases solar panels solely for the manufacture of electricity of which they sell directly to Alliant Energy as a contractual 10-year agreement in the buy-back program, is the equipment purchased for that manufacture subject to Wisconsin sales tax?

  30. riley says:

    Great site! One helpful element that’s missing is a date on the information. It would be helpful to know how recent the data are! Thanks!

  31. d. reynolds says:

    Is it possible to get a grant to help put solar panels at our municipal pool to heat the water? Where would I find help with this?

  32. Adam says:

    What is the current situation for selling power back to the grid off solar?

  33. rachel says:

    Sharon, I am looking into solar energy to supplement electricity/contractors Milwaukee, WI.

  34. Neil says:

    I would like to put up a skystream 3.7 wind turbine but i am on bayfield Electric co-op and cannot use focus on energy incentives. Any one know if anything else is available.

  35. Cody says:

    On Wisconsin Packer Dog!!!!!!!!

  36. hayley says:

    that dog looks like an awesome fan, i would like that dog to be my fan!!!!!!!

  37. Becca says:

    that dog has number 4 for brett favre but he is retired so you should change it to a differant number!!!!!!!

  38. Sharon says:

    I work for a solar thermal parts and systems distributor in Milwaukee and have been in the solar industry for 8 years. There are a good deal of solar installation companies in WI and I’d be happy to help put people in touch with installers closest to them. Feel free to contact me at sharon hotwaterproducts com.

    Also, for certification questions, here are some important links:
    http://www.the-mrea.org
    http://www.focusonenergy.com
    http://www.renewwisconsin.org
    http://www.nabcep.org

  39. Ax says:

    Where do i go to learn about intstallation and design of PVC..I would be interested in attending a course.and get the certification in Wisconsin….

  40. Jerry McIntire says:

    It’s pretty easy and the incentives make it much less expensive. Any solar installer will be familiar with the incentives. Find a couple contractors near you to do a preliminary site assessment and give you an idea of the cost of a system. When you figure the ongoing savings, the systems are not overly expensive– especially if connecting to the grid is that expensive.

  41. jerome says:

    Why can’t they make this easry and cheaper for us.

  42. kim says:

    Can I get some help on recieving a grant to put in Solar power- we own 40 acres deep in the woods with no hope of electricity,, they have given us a quote of 60,000 to run poser to our place. We are hoping that there is some kind of grant we can apply for to get solar put in. We plan to build there but not until we can figure out our power situation..right now we run off a generator. Please contact me on where to start… kim_krull@yahoo.com

  43. Mark Meissner says:

    Is there a place or web site that is a collection of all you want to know about solar equipment and pricing and subsidies in WI?
    Mark

  44. Neil O'Connell says:

    Don’t forget the WI property tax exemption. Maybe this will elevate WI into the 5-star rating? :)

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