West Virginia. The greenest of states and the blackest of states. A land of rolling forests as far as they eye can see, and of deep diving coal seams where it can’t.
But there’s a new color starting to shine down on the Mountain State. Yellow. The golden promise of solar power.
Not that everyone in the state is a big fan of rolling out solar PV across the ridges and hollers of West Virginia. Especially not the state government.
Independence. Security. And savings.
1. If you install a solar system on your roof, you take a big stride towards becoming independent of the local utility company.
You can produce some or even all of your own energy. So you become your own power plant!
2. Add a battery-pack to your roof-top solar panels, and you take a giant step towards being completely secure from energy shocks. No more black-outs, brown-outs and days without power from a freak snowstorm.
3. With your solar energy stored, you’re ready for any emergency.
And with or without energy storage, one thing you’re guaranteed from a solar PV installation is savings.
West Virginia may not be the sunniest of states, and our utility rates may be among the cheapest in the nation. But PV costs have fallen hugely, and the technology is getting better all the time.
That means you can save thousands of dollars from switching to solar in the Mountain State.
Plenty of West Virginians have already made the switch, and banked those savings. They’ve done sowith hardly any help from the state government.
If they can, you can too—and going solar doesn’t even have to cost you a cent up-front.
But what about the sun part of the solar power equation? Is there really enough of it to make your roof-top system such a money-printing machine?
Yes, there is.
In fact, it turns out that West Virginia gets a lot more sunshine than others who’ve made a big success of solar PV—like the solar-crazy sunshine-poor Germans.
At 1,700 kWh per square meter of roof, that’s more than they get across the border in Pennsylvania.
And they’ve already got almost 100 times more solar PV on their roofs than we do.
But let’s put the inter-state rivalry to one side, and dig into those numbers some more. Then you can see all of the benefits of harnessing the sun in our own little corner of the Appalachians.
West Virginia Solar Power: Check your Savings, Costs, Tax Breaks, Incentives and Rebates
We reckon the best way to see how those numbers pan out is to give you an example of how solar works in the real world. Let’s say Charleston.
Now let’s assume that you’re buying a mid-sized system—5 kW solar panels on your south-facing roof should do it. And that they’ll be pumping out power for you for 25 years.
Based on all those numbers, we reckon you’d be saving tens of thousands of dollars by making the switch.
How do we work that out? Let us show you.
Buying a 5KW Solar System—a West Virginia case study
Costs for installing solar PV panels have come down hugely over the decade. Where once you might have been looking at $25,000 for a 5kW solar system, today it’s closer to $15,000.
1. Well, how about 17kWh of free electricity per day to begin with? 2. Over 12 months you’ll be looking at 6,200 kWh of power generated by your roof. 3. Given an average W Virginian uses 11,000 kWh in a year, your bill is being cut by more than half.
1. Well, how about 17kWh of free electricity per day to begin with?
2. Over 12 months you’ll be looking at 6,200 kWh of power generated by your roof.
3. Given an average W Virginian uses 11,000 kWh in a year, your bill is being cut by more than half.
Great for your bank balance, great for your sense of independence.
Double that to a 10kW system, throw in some batteries, and you can cut off your link to the grid entirely.
But what about that $15,000 outlay?
1. Start with your $15,000 sticker price, before tax.
2. Now add the 6% sale tax, and the price goes to $15,900.
3. But, if you’re a taxpayer, then a 30% Income Tax Credit (ITC)is yours to claim.
4. That brings the first year cost down to $11k.
5. But don’t forget your bill savings. In the first year they amount to $550.
6. So you’ll only have paid out a net $10,500 in those first 12 months.
1. In 25 years you’d save $13,900, if your utility bill never rose once. 2. But we know utility rates do rise. By 3% a year on average nationally. 3. That lifts your savings to a tad under $19k 4. Is that it? Not really. Because WVA rates have actually gone up nearly 6% a year. 5. Now your savings pile really swells—to around $23,000! 6. And don’t forget home will see its value rocket too.
1. In 25 years you’d save $13,900, if your utility bill never rose once.
2. But we know utility rates do rise. By 3% a year on average nationally.
3. That lifts your savings to a tad under $19k
4. Is that it? Not really. Because WVA rates have actually gone up nearly 6% a year.
5. Now your savings pile really swells—to around $23,000!
6. And don’t forget home will see its value rocket too.
So $23,000 saved from $10,000 invested. Whatever you think about going green, that’s quite a pile of green you’ll have earned.
And one more thing. If tree-hugging is your thing (and why not), you’ll have saved emissions that are about the same as planting over 140 trees a year.
Talk about ‘greening’ the Mountain State!
West Virginia Solar Power Incentives, Tax Breaks and Rebates
So far, so good. But now we need to look at what the state government has brought along to the solar party. Sadly, as we’ve already noted, those guys are looking pretty empty-handed.
But why exactly does solar PV need help from anyone? Shouldn’t it be standing on its own two feet by now?
In many ways, yes. The economics are good, and getting better all the time.
But it’s worth looking outside of West Virginia to see how other states have handled this exciting new energy source.
Most seem to have worked out early-on that solar is an all-round “good thing” for all concerned.
As well as helping out with the pollution issue of traditional energy,it brings in jobs. Not any old jobs either—both hi-tech systems designers and low-tech roof-monkeys are needed.
Rooftop solar also makes people less dependent on utilities, and reduces energy costs for us all. And of course, it makes solar homeowners a little bit richer into the bargain, too.
So,that’s a good news story that most U.S. states have been keen to encourage. Because without their incentives, tax breaks and rebates, the new kid on the block tends to get pushed around by the big guys at the back—the power utilities.
For now, that state legislature in West Virginia has decided that it’s on the side of the old way of doing power.
But let’s run through the things West Virginia could be doing to help. Even though these measure aren’t on the books as yet, remember that solar still works well for you in the Mountain State.
It would just do work better with a little encouragement.
West Virginia RPS
The state did once have an RPS. But as of 2015 it no longer does. But why worry about those three little letters, R, P, and S?
Well, an RPS is really just a target for renewables, set by the state, that the utilities must meet. If they don’t, they get penalized.
They’re common across the States these days.Where such targets are backed firmly they have transformed the local energy scene. And West Virginia did join the forward-looking RPS pack in 2009, with a 25% target.
But sadly some in West Virginia weren’t keen on things moving forward so fast. After all, change can be scary.
So the RPS was repealed in 2015, along with much of the rest of the state’s solar-friendly legislation.
What is an RPS really?
You’ll often hear those letters ‘RPS’ thrown about when talking about solar energy. They stand for ‘Renewable Portfolio Standard’? But what exactly is one of those?
Basically, it’s a state law setting binding targets for clean energy. They have been really useful in getting the utilities to take renewable energy generation seriously.
When a state sets an RPS target, it’s saying that utilities must generate a certain amount of their electricity from renewable sources, usually by a certain date. If not, they’ll be fined.
The threat of fines makes the utilities extra keen to offer their customers incentives, rebates, and grants for their solar systems. Everyone wins.
They avoid the fine, and you get the low-cost solar power. Without an RPS, utilities are less likely to help with solar power for their customers.
West Virginia Tax Credits
State income tax credit (ITC) would be another great way for encouraging West Virginians to embrace sun power. And the state did offer such a credit.
No longer. It was culled in the recent purge of anything that seemed to encourage alternative ways of doing energy.
But the tax credit story doesn’t end there. You can still claim your 30% federal ITC if you’re a taxpayer, and that makes a huge difference to the economics rooftop sun-power.
Are there any Rebates for Solar Power in West Virginia?
Sadly, another no here. Both the state and the utilities now steer clear of rebates that are relatively common in the more solar-friendly U.S. states.
West Virginia Tax Exemptions
It’s not unusual for states to tax–exempt things that are good for the health of its citizens. Like solar power panels, for example. But in West Virginia both state and local sales taxes will be applied to the installation costs of your solar system.
The other tax exemption that some states offer is from property tax. That’s because converting to solar power is a unique kind of home improvement—one that effectively prints the owner money. That adds a huge value to your home.
So it would be a real shame if you were taxed extra, just for installing a power system that does so much for the common good.
West Virginia Electricity Rates
Electricity costs in West Virginia were among the lowest in the country for a long while. That’s changed recently, with huge rate hikes seen over the last decade.
But rates are still relatively low here.
In 2015 the state-wide average was just over 10 cents per kWh.The average U.S. family pays out over 12.5 c/kWh to power their homes. So West Virginians aren’t doing too bad compared to some.
That’ll cost you dear. Which is why we think the time to make a move is now.
Is there Net Metering in West Virginia?
Guess what? There’s actually a welcoming oasis in West Virginia’s drought of measures to help solar along. And yes, you’re right—it’s Net Metering.
Only just though. The bill that killed the RPS, as well as other incentives for clean energy, very nearly did for Net Metering too.
It was only after a broadside of lobbying from concerned solar homeowners that it was kept in place.
It was worth the effort to keep it in place, though. West Virginia’s Net Metering rules are well-framed and relatively generous.
First off, all utilities in the state have to offer Net Metering.
Second, you’ll get any monthly credits applied to your next monthly bill. And last, any unused credits can be rolled over forever. So you don’t need to waste a drop of that precious sunlight.
What's Net Metering anyways?
Oh yes, we should probably explain. Net metering is a vital part of making solar power work for homeowners.
Done properly, it means none of your solar energy is wasted—even when the power you generate, and the power you use, aren’t exactly balanced.
Under net metering, that extra power gets sent to the grid. And you become the power station for the utility.
Rather than letting that spare power go to waste, Net Metering means your meter effectively spins backwards. And as it spins, it earns money for you.
Under a proper Net Metering scheme, the utility has to pay you for the energy you’re supplying to them.
Most often this is at the retail electricity rate, the rate you normally pay them. And it allows for rollovers of credits from one month to the next—or even year to year.
Are there 0 down payment financing Options in West Virginia?
Yes, but the complete range of pay-nothing-now options isn’t available in West Virginia. That’s because it’s still against the law to be a third-party supplier of energy.
What you can do instead is to take out a solar loan with no down-payment. But solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs)—where a third-party supplies your power—can’t happen here.
That’s a real shame. Elsewhere it’s been leases and PPAs that have driven forward rates of adoption of solar. You can power your home with the sun without needing cash in hand. And all of the hassles of ownership fall to that third-party.
Huge numbers of homeowners across the USA have switched onto solar as a result.
But in here in WV you’ll just have to rely on solar loans alone.That doesn’t have to be a problem, especially if you can tap the equity in your home to get lower rates.
Let’s run quickly through the different types of zero-down solar schemes,so you can understand what all the fuss is about in other states.
Solar Power Loan?
This zero-down option is a great way to be solar powered, without having to raid your cash savings. It also keeps you in-charge.
You’ll own your solar panels, and can choose whether to make a small initial payment, or no payment at all.
If you’re a taxpayer, you’ll also get the full benefit of the federal ITC.
You will, however, be on the line for any maintenance or cleaning your panels will need.
Solar Lease in West Virginia?
Leasing would work wonders for those who can’t tap the equity in their home for a loan. Or those who can’t access the upfront cash for a purchase. A lease would let you put $0 down, get those panels on your roof, and then watch the savings roll in.
The savings wouldn’t be as impressive as using your own money. But you could still be saving from day one of your lease, if the sun resource is good enough. Which in West Virginia’s case, it is.
But as we’ve said, the law in West Virginia doesn’t let you take his option yet. Hopefully it’s just a matter of time.
PPA Option on West Virginia?
This is the other approach for going solar with no (or little) upfront cost. PPAs are similar to leases, but rather than paying a fee to lease the panels from a third-party, you’re only paying for the power that they produce.
No hassles of ownership. No worries about performance. And no big down-payments.
Except that, again, West Virginia’s law stops you from using the services of a third-party energy supplier. It’s power the utility’s way, or no power at all.
What is PPA?
A Power Purchase Agreement, or PPA, is an agreement between you and your solar panel provider. You provide them with the roof for the panels. They provide you with power at a guaranteed price.
Most PPAs also have an option for you to buy the system at the end of the contract, which can add real value to your home.
One thing to look out for is the PPA price escalator. This is where the PPA price rises gradually throughout your PPA contract, according to an agreed schedule.
These escalators are a reasonable way for the solar panel company to take gradual performance and maintenance issues into account over its lifetime.
But you don’t need to worry about them, of course.
PPAs are not happening here in the Mountain state any time soon.
Is there Feed In Tariff in West Virginia?
No surprises to hear there’s a “no’ to this one too.
Admittedly, Feed In Tariff pretty rare in the U.S. anyway. But West Virginia also misses on the closely related cousins: performance payment incentives. So no ther;’s extra cash to help maximize solar production in the state.
Loans vs Purchase: What's best for West Virginia Homeowners?
As with many things, the choice between a loan and a purchase depends on how you see risk and reward. And on how much skin you want in the solar game.
A loan works well for the risk adverse. For those who want to help clean up our energy, and cut pollution, but without taking on the hassles (and big initial outlay) of purchase.
Purchasing is good for those with the money to invest. For those who also want to make the most of the benefits and incentives out there for switching onto the sun.
A solar loan will let you earn savings with little (or nothing) down, which effectively boosts the rate of return.
But remember that, because of the loan payments, your overall savings will be somewhat less.
What is the Solar Panel Installation Process in West Virginia?
The solar installation process starts with home visit by an energy assessment team. They’ll talk to you about your bills, how best to site your system, the best solar panels systems and the financial options available.
Once they’ve got the measure of your place, and found out exactly what your needs are, they’ll be provide you with a fully detailed PV quote.
This will highlight potential tax rebates, breaks, and incentives that may be available to you.
They’ll also give you detailed breakdown of the savings you can expect to make.
Once you’ve agreed and signed your agreement, the solar installation team can schedule a date for transforming your house from energy sink into a solar-powered energy producer!
The installation process usually only takes three to four days.
1. Fill in our simple solar form 2. Receive quotes from the best local solar suppliers 3. Choose the best money-saving solar option for you 4. Once your system is installed, just sit back, relax—and watch the savings roll in
1. Fill in our simple solar form
2. Receive quotes from the best local solar suppliers
3. Choose the best money-saving solar option for you
4. Once your system is installed, just sit back, relax—and watch the savings roll in
They say that the mountains are part of our blood here. And since we first picked up a piece of the black-stuff, the mountain has been our source of energy too.
But those rich black seams can only last so long. At some point the Mountain State has to start looking elsewhere for its energy. And turning to the sky, and the endless energy of the sun, seems quite fitting.
After all, coal power and solar power have more in common than you might think.
When you think about all those squashed swamp plants that coal is made of, it really is just fossilized solar power.
Those plants were also once harnessing the sun’s power, millions of years ago.
At some point the world will run out of our rich stores of fossilized sunlight.
Until then, why not make use of a few rays of that fresh clean sunlight now, to power your home?
It seems very apt for a state that’s been called “almost heaven,”in a certain song well-known to West Virginians whether they’re John Denver fans or not.