Which states have solar incentives? [Top FAQs]
In addition to the federal tax incentive, many states and Puerto Rico offer incentives for going solar as well. Each state has different incentives and requirements, so it’s best to search for incentives in your region, or speak to a qualified Solar Energy Specialist to fully understand every opportunity available to you.
Solar Federal Tax Credit Incentive Explained
Here is a list of states that have solar incentives. Even if your state isn’t listed here, you could still be eligible for the 30% Federal Solar Tax Credit. To fully understand what’s available to you, it’s a good idea to speak with a qualified solar energy specialist.
Now that we covered which states have solar incentives, let’s find out what all those incentives are. Here’s some information about each type of solar incentive and what it could mean for you, depending on your eligibility.
What type of state solar incentives are available?
State tax credits
State credits are similar to the Federal Solar Tax Credit, but the credit is instead applied to your state taxes. Most often homeowners would be able to apply this to their taxes the year after their solar panel system was installed. State tax credit amounts vary widely state to state.
Sales tax exemption
Some states offer an exemption on the purchase of your solar panel system equipment. This means you’d pay zero sales tax on your system and depending on the size of your system could add up to a pretty substantial discount. Some of the states that offer this are Texas, Florida, California and New Mexico.
Property tax exemption
This exemption means your property taxes will not increase when you have a solar panel system installed on your home. As this is considered a home upgrade, your property taxes could increase like any other home construction project. However, not in the states with this exemption.
Some of the states that offer this are Texas, Florida and Arizona.
Net metering allows you to receive credits on your utility bills for sending your unused solar energy back to the grid. It’s a pretty important incentive for going solar. We’ll get into net metering in more depth further down this article.
State government rebates
State government rebates are when you can receive a rebate upfront during the year your solar panel system was installed. Most of these state rebates are available only for limited amounts and once the funds are used for a year, the state will stop offering them. A good idea is to get ahead of the crowd by researching rebates for your state and applying well before the deadline. Some allow you to only apply after your system has been installed, so it’s Smart to plan this out ahead of time.
Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC)
Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or more commonly known as SRECS, are offered by some state governments. This incentive is a certificate of the benefits your solar system provides to the environment. It works like this:
One SREC is generated for every megawatt-hour (MWh), or 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of solar electricity a solar panel system generates.
In the states where SRECS are in effect, utility companies will purchase SRECs under the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio (RPS) standards, which require utilities to generate a portion of their energy from renewable sources. This standard is determined by the state governments and varies depending on your state.
The states that currently offer SRECs are: New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington D.C, Delaware, and Ohio. New Jersey and Massachusetts are not currently accepting new applications for this program.
Which 11 states get free solar panels?
There is a rumor that the federal government is giving away free solar panels in 11 states. Unfortunately, it’s just that – a rumor. While there are many solar incentives including the federal solar tax credit, state tax credits and net metering, there is no government program in the United States that provides free solar panel systems.
You may have seen ads for “free solar panels” on social media. These ads are usually for power purchase agreements (PPA). In this arrangement, a homeowner rents or leases a solar panel system rather than buying it with cash or financing the purchase with a loan. Learn more about leasing versus buying solar panels.
Introduction to solar incentives
As the need for climate action has become ever more urgent, lawmakers across the country have stepped up to support solar power: the best form of energy generation there is (we had to say it). This support has come in many forms but is usually the result of legislative action.
Many state legislatures have passed laws called renewable portfolio standards (RPS) that require utility companies in the state to get a certain amount of the energy they sell from renewable sources. These laws often include funding for incentive programs to help home and business owners adopt solar. State public utilities commissions are often charged with designing these programs to meet the requirements outlined in the RPS law.
Solar incentives come in one of three major types:
- Tax breaks. Income tax credits are the most popular kinds of tax breaks, but state and local governments also commonly offer sales and property tax exemptions.
- Rebates. Usually offered directly to solar installers by utility companies using a pool of ratepayer funds specifically set aside to encourage solar development, rebates generally reduce the up-front cost of going solar.
- Performance payments. Performance payment programs offer a way for solar panel owners to make additional income based on the amount of energy their solar systems generate.
Here’s a bit more on each of the three main types of solar incentives:
Solar tax credits
People and businesses who purchase solar panels have long enjoyed tax credits that help ease the financial burden of going solar. Both the federal and state governments offer solar tax credits.
All federal and state income tax credits can be claimed when filing taxes in the year after installation. We’ve developed a helpful guide to claiming the federal solar tax credit using form 5695. State tax credits are usually fairly simple, and your tax software or preparer should be able to guide you through claiming them.
The federal solar tax credit
The current federal solar tax credit offers 30% of the costs of installing solar back to taxpayers in the year after the installation is completed. The federal tax credit is based on the purchaser’s income, and the credit can’t exceed the total tax owed in one year, but unclaimed credit can be carried forward to future years.
Say your solar installation costs 18,000 total. You are eligible for a federal tax credit of 5,400. Remember, the solar tax credit is non-refundable, so you can only claim the full 5,400 if you owe at least that much in taxes. If you owe less than that, you can claim the remaining tax credit value the following year.
This is where it gets complicated because the amount of tax you owe depends on your income, deductions, and other credits you qualify for.
Here’s a quick example: A married couple filing jointly with an income of 76,367, who take the standard deduction of 27,700 and qualify for no additional credits or deductions, will owe 5,400 in tax in 2023. Again, that tax changes based on whether the couple has dependents or qualifies for any other deductions and tax credits.
State tax credits
Many states also offer solar income tax credits, sometimes adding up to over half the cost of the system when combined with the federal credit.
Here’s a breakdown of the states that offer solar tax breaks, with links to each state’s incentive page on our site:
Find out what solar tax credit you qualify for
States and municipalities also offer sales and property tax exemptions for solar power. Sales tax exemptions reduce the upfront cost of going solar, and property tax exemptions prevent solar owners from paying more based on the value a solar installation adds to a property.
Tax exemptions differ from tax credits in that your eligibility is pretty much automatic if your state offers these incentives.
Your installer will take care of any necessary paperwork for sales tax exemptions, and property tax exemptions just mean the county assessor won’t be knocking on your door after you get solar installed.
States with tax exemptions
How Does The Federal Solar Tax Credit Work?
As a homeowner, you can claim a federal solar tax credit for the amount of money that you pay towards installing solar, and reduce the amount you owe when you file your yearly federal tax return. (The solar tax credit does not apply to state tax or any local taxes.) The Residential Clean Energy Credit can be filed one time for the tax year in which you install your system using Tax Form 5695.
The credit received is then calculated dollar-by-dollar as a reduction of your federal tax liability, so if you receive 450,000 in credits, you’ll owe 450,000 less in taxes. Once you calculate how many credits you’ve received, you will want to add your renewable energy credit information to a typical Form 1040 while filing your taxes.
Note that a tax credit is different from a tax refund. In order to claim a tax credit, you must owe taxes to the government, so that the tax credit can cancel out some or all of the amount that you owe.
How Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) Work in Virginia
If you don’t owe any taxes (for example, if you’re retired and don’t have any income) then you wouldn’t receive any money for the tax credit, because you didn’t owe any money to begin with. If you’ve already had those tax dollars deducted from your paycheck, then you can get that money back in the form of a refund, but you’re only getting back money that you’ve already paid.
Lastly, the solar panel federal tax credit can be used against either the federal income tax or the alternative minimum tax, so regardless of how you calculate the taxes you owe, you can be eligible to claim the value of the federal income tax credit for solar.
Value Of The Solar Tax Credit
In 2023, the Residential Clean Energy Credit covers up to 30% of the cost of your solar power system. However, you may be surprised to learn that there is no maximum dollar amount that can be claimed as a tax credit for your solar installation! As long as you owe enough in federal taxes for the credit to cover, you can claim up to the full 30%, regardless of how large your solar power installation is.
The solar tax credit covers any product that directly connects to your solar power system or is needed for the installation, such as solar panels, mounting equipment, inverters, wires, and battery storage systems. The tax credit also covers other items related to getting panels installed on your roof, such as labor costs, assembly, installation, inspection costs, and sales tax.
For any solar project that finishes construction between 2022 and 2032, the value of the solar tax credit is 30% of the project’s cost. After that date, the step-down schedule is as follows:
- 30%. Projects where construction finishes between 2022 and 2032
- 26%. Projects where construction finishes in 2033
- 22%. Projects where construction finishes in 2034
- 0%. Projects where construction finishes in 2035 or later
History Of The Solar Tax Credit
The current value of the Residential Clean Energy Credit is 30%.
However, renewable energy tax credits have gone through a variety of extensions, value changes, and step-down plans, including the following:
- 2005. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 created the U.S. Federal solar tax program and the residential “25D” investment tax credit equal to 30% of the qualified solar expenditures. The 25D tax credit had been set to expire just a year later, but was extended for one additional year in subsequent Legislation.
- 2008. The 2008 Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (aka the “bank bailout”) extended the ITC for eight (8) years (through 2016) and eliminated the 5000,000 monetary cap on the credit amount.
- 2009. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (or “Stimulus Bill”) broadened the definitions of qualified expenditures and technologies, and also supplemented the ITC with the Solar 1603 Grant program (funding since depleted) that provided payments in lieu of tax credits. These cornerstone policies are largely credited with jumpstarting growth and investment in the solar industry and sector.
- 2015. Legislation delayed the sharp and scheduled step-down from 30% → 10%, setting up a softer decline schedule (26%-22%) in 2020-2021.
- 2020. History repeated itself when industry advocates again delayed the ITC step-down schedule as part of the COVID relief bill. The ITC value was set to 26% in 2022, and 22% in 2023, before being scheduled to expire in 2024.
What are the benefits of going solar?
Tapping the sun for power offers several benefits. For example, using solar power rather than fossil fuels to produce electricity:
- Reduces pollution
- Reduces your individual carbon footprint
- Can lower the cost of powering your home
But since the installation of solar power equipment can be costly, the federal solar tax credit can help you offset some of the costs. Some states also offer incentives like sales tax rebates or other programs meant to lower the cost of going solar. Additionally, some utilities offer assistance in making solar more affordable for their customers.
What are the residential solar tax credit amounts?
Installing renewable energy equipment on your home can qualify you for Residential Clean Energy credit of up to 30% of your total qualifying cost, depending on the year the equipment is installed and placed in service.
- 30% for equipment placed in service in tax years 2017 through 2019
- 26% for equipment placed in service in tax years 2020 through 2021
- 30% for equipment placed in service in tax years 2022 through 2032
- 26% for equipment placed in service in 2033
- 22% for equipment placed in service in 2034
After 2034, the credit is scheduled to end.
As a credit, you take the amount directly off your total tax, rather than as a deduction from your taxable income.
Claiming the solar tax credit for rental property you own
You can’t claim the Residential Clean Energy solar tax credit for installing solar power at rental properties you own unless you also live in the house for part of the year and use it as a rental when you’re away.
- You’ll have to reduce the credit for a vacation home or part-time rental property to reflect the time you’re not there.
- If you live there for three months a year, for instance, you can only claim 25% of the credit. If the system cost 10,000, the 30% credit would be 3,000, and you could claim 25% of that, or 750.
- 10,000 system cost x 0.30 (30% credit) = 3,000 full credit amount
- 3,000 credit amount x 0.25 (25% of the year) = 750 partial credit amount
Filing requirements for the solar tax credit
To claim the credit, you’ll need to file IRS Form 5695 as part of your tax return. You’ll calculate the credit on Part I of the form, and then enter the result on your 1040.
- If in 2022 you end up with a bigger credit than you have income tax due — a 3,000 credit on a 5000,500 tax bill, for instance—you can’t use the credit to get money back from the IRS. Instead, you can carry the unused portion of the credit over to the following tax year. In this example, the 500 of credit that is greater than your tax bill (3,000. 5000,500) can be carried over to the following year.
- If you failed to claim the credit in a previous year, you can file an amended return to claim the credit.
The residential solar tax credit has been extended through 2034 and expanded in value, so now might be a great time to add solar energy to your home. The tax credit can lower the effective cost of going solar while also lowering your overall carbon emissions produced compared to using conventional power sources. When combined with other energy efficiency home improvement credits made more accessible and worthwhile by the Inflation Reduction Act, investments in qualifying energy-related improvements have become more financially rewarding for homeowners to install.
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