Can You Get Free Solar Panels In Ohio?

Can you get free solar panels in Ohio?

Solar panels are devices that convert sunlight into electricity. They typically consist of photovoltaic (PV) cells made from materials like silicon that release electrons when exposed to light. The PV cells are wired together into solar panels, which can then be installed on rooftops or other sunny locations.

The main benefits of installing solar panels include:

  • Generating clean, renewable electricity from the sun.
  • Reducing electricity bills since the panels can power your home during the day.
  • Lowering your carbon footprint as solar offsets fossil fuel energy use.
  • Increasing energy independence and insulation from utility rate hikes.
  • Earning tax credits, rebates, and other incentives to offset system costs.
  • Adding value to your home with an up-to-date energy system.

With the falling prices of solar panels and rising costs of traditional electricity from the grid, installing a solar energy system is becoming an increasingly appealing investment for many homeowners today.

Solar Panel Costs

In Ohio, the average cost to purchase and install solar panels is between $2.50 to $3.00 per watt, with most homeowners paying around $2.75 per watt according to Solar Panel Cost Guide in Ohio. So for a typical 6 kW system size, that works out to $16,500 on average. Keep in mind costs can vary significantly depending on system size, roof type, panel efficiency and the difficulty of the installation.

According to Solar Panel Cost Ohio, as of February 2024, the average cost per watt for solar panels in Ohio is about $2.50. That means a standard 6 kW system would cost around $15,000. However, costs can range from as low as $2.25 per watt to as high as $3.50 per watt depending on various factors.

Overall, solar panel costs in Ohio are very competitive compared to national averages. By going solar, most Ohio homeowners are able to achieve a full return on investment in under 7 years through energy savings on their utility bills.

Federal Tax Credits

The federal government offers a solar investment tax credit (ITC) that allows homeowners to deduct 26% of the cost of installing a solar energy system from their federal taxes through 2022. This tax credit will phase down to 22% in 2023 before expiring completely for residential projects in 2024 [1].

For commercial solar projects, the ITC starts at 26% in 2022 and 2023, then steps down to 22% in 2024 before expiring completely in 2026 [2]. There is no cap on the ITC, and it can be used to offset both regular income taxes and alternative minimum taxes [3].

To claim the ITC, the solar system must be placed in service during the tax year and provide electricity for a home or business in the United States. Purchased solar systems must be new, not used. There are no income limits to qualify for the federal solar tax credit.

State Rebates & Incentives

Ohio offers several rebate and incentive programs to make going solar more affordable for residents. The two main programs are the Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) program and the Qualified Energy Project tax exemption.

The SRECs program allows solar panel owners to earn credits for the renewable energy they produce. These credits can then be sold on the open market to utility companies who are required to meet renewable energy quotas. The income from selling SRECs provides an additional return on investment for solar panel installation.

The Qualified Energy Project tax exemption provides a 100% property tax exemption for the first 10 years after a solar energy system is installed. This enables substantial property tax savings for homeowners and businesses installing solar panels in Ohio.

Additionally, some municipal utilities and rural electric co-ops offer rebates and incentives for installing solar panels. For example, AEP Ohio offers a rebate of $250 per kW of installed solar capacity up to 25 kW for residential customers. It’s important to check with your local utility to see what solar incentives may be available.

Overall, the state programs and utility incentives in Ohio make solar power an attractive option by offsetting the upfront costs of installation and providing ongoing savings from property tax exemptions and SREC income.

Net Metering in Ohio

Net metering allows homeowners with solar panels to send excess electricity they generate back to the grid. Utility companies are required to provide bill credits for this excess electricity to offset costs for the homeowner. Net metering ensures that solar panel owners are fairly compensated for the renewable power they provide.

Ohio adopted statewide net metering rules in 2008. The state’s net metering law (per Ohio Administrative Code 4901:1-10-28) requires utility companies to offer net metering to customers with solar arrays up to 25 kilowatts for residential and up to 500 kilowatts for commercial systems. This means any excess power fed into the grid results in a kilowatt-hour credit on the customer’s next bill.

The credit compensates standard retail electric rates and allows monthly excess generation roll over to future billing cycles. Credits are reconciled annually, with utilities offering customers the choice to roll over remaining credits or receive compensation for unused credits. Net metering ensures solar homeowners receive fair value for the renewable energy they generate.

Low-Income Programs

There are several special programs available to make solar power more accessible and affordable for low-income households in Ohio. Some key programs to be aware of include:

The ECO-Link program provides reduced interest rates on solar loans for low-income households. Participants can receive a 3% interest rate reduction on loans up to $50,000 for a solar installation.

Some non-profit organizations like Solar United Neighbors help facilitate community solar projects that allow low-income households to purchase affordable solar electricity without installing panels on their own homes.

The federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program provides grants to help low-income families pay their heating and cooling bills, including electricity from solar panels. Ohio residents can apply through local community action agencies.

Some utility companies like AEP Ohio have special discounted rates like the GridSmart Community program to make solar power more affordable for lower-income customers.

Community Solar

Community solar allows multiple households or businesses to share the costs and benefits of a solar array located within their community. Participants subscribe to a portion of the solar installation and receive credits on their electricity bills for their share of the energy produced, even if they don’t have solar panels on their own property.

Currently, community solar is not legal in Ohio. However, there is proposed legislation in the works that could open up opportunities for community solar in the state. House Bill 450, also known as the Community Solar Access Act, would establish rules and standards for community solar projects in Ohio.[1] The bill has received bipartisan support, as advocates highlight the potential benefits of community solar, including increasing access to solar energy for renters, condo owners, and those with shaded roofs or other barriers to on-site solar. [2]

Going Solar through Your Utility

Many utility companies in Ohio, like AEP Ohio, have programs that allow customers to go solar by purchasing solar power directly from the utility. AEP Ohio has invested in developing large solar farms and allows customers to subscribe to a portion of the power generated from these facilities.

By going solar through your utility, there is no need to install solar panels on your own roof. The utility handles the installation and maintenance of the solar farm and credits your utility bill for the solar energy you purchase. This can be a convenient, hassle-free option for supporting renewable energy without major home upgrades.

Utilities like AEP Ohio are expanding their solar offerings in response to increased customer demand for clean energy. For example, AEP Ohio recently completed a solar + battery storage microgrid project to provide resilient green power to a water treatment plant (Source). Contact your local utility to learn about any solar power programs available.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding platforms like SolRiver Capital allow Ohio residents to go solar for free by investing in community solar projects. Community solar allows multiple investors to share the costs and benefits of a large solar array. SolRiver funds solar projects in Ohio due to strong state programs and incentives, then sells the power generated back to the grid. Investors who help fund projects receive returns in the form of bill credits, cash payments, or solar energy credits based on how much they invested. This allows Ohioans to support local renewable energy without installing panels on their own roof.

Crowdfunding makes solar accessible to renters and homeowners whose roofs aren’t suitable for panels. It spreads the upfront costs across many stakeholders. By pooling resources, regular citizens can help accelerate Ohio’s transition to clean energy while earning attractive returns on their investment. Crowdfunding solar democratizes energy production and gives more Ohioans a voice in the state’s energy future.

Conclusion

Getting free or low-cost solar panels in Ohio is possible thanks to federal tax credits, state rebates, net metering policies, community solar programs, and financing options. The most significant savings come from the 26% federal solar tax credit, which can reduce the cost of a solar system by thousands of dollars. Additional savings are available through Ohio’s net metering policy, which credits solar system owners at the retail electricity rate for excess power sent back to the grid. Low-income residents can benefit from special solar incentives and community solar programs to reduce or eliminate their electric bill. While “free” solar panels are rare, strategic use of tax credits, rebates, grants, and financing can significantly offset the upfront costs of going solar in Ohio.

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