What You Need to Know About Solar

Many people are discovering the benefits that come from adding solar panels onto their property. But where to start? Well first, the process isn’t as daunting as you might think.

Location is important

Sure, Florida might be the “Sunshine State” but solar power works great here, too. And while it’s true Oregon is not known as one of the country’s sunniest spots, we do get more sunshine than Germany, which is the world leader in solar energy generation.

Southern exposure and no shading

Talk to solar contractors for details, but in short, solar requires southern exposure for maximum output, although east or west orientation may work.

For best performance, there should be little or no shading year-round. Even partial shade on one portion of a panel can seriously degrade its output. Consider not only current shade, but also what future shade might be caused by trees growing taller or nearby construction of tall buildings.

Connecting to the grid

Most PGE lines can easily support new solar projects; however, a few areas have limited capacity to connect solar without significant changes to the feeder or the substation. Small residential and business projects can still usually be accommodated but may require design changes to protect grid safety and reliability.

Check your address here.

The right system for your space

Your PGE bill shows how many kilowatt-hours you use each month and your average kWh use per day. You can use this information to calculate what size solar system will meet electrical needs. Remember, the output of a solar system will vary depending on weather, season and time of day. There’s a lot to consider, but a qualified contractor can help with this. The early planning phase is also great time to think about battery storage and resiliency.

Attend a workshop

It also helps to have the big picture. Solar Oregon, a solar education non-profit, offers Solar Basics workshops and an easy overview of How To Go Solar to help you.

Solar Costs & Incentives

There are a lot of expenses associated with a new solar power system, but you can cut your net costs by thousands with Energy Trust of Oregon incentives and federal tax credits Energy Trust of Oregon. Plus, through net metering, get ongoing credit for the power you generate.

Calculate it

Use the Energy Trust of Oregon solar cost calculator PGE to see how installing a solar system might impact your budget.

Incentives and tax credits

If you participate in the PGE Net Metering program, you are still eligible for tax credits and Energy Trust cash incentives.

If available, and you choose the PGE Solar Payment Option instead, you may receive federal tax credits, but you are not eligible for Oregon tax credits and Energy Trust incentives.

Getting ongoing credit

With your system installed and your enrollment in the Net Metering program, PGE handles both your regular PGE bill and the credit you get for the extra power your solar panels are contributing to the grid.

Use an approved solar contractor

You’ll want the job done right, but it’s also important to note that Energy Trust incentives require installation by approved contractors. There are requirements for credits and incentives that may apply as well. Be sure to ask your contractor for details.

Choose wisely

We recommend hiring a qualified contractor to design and build your system and assist with the Net Metering application process. Be sure to:

  • get at least three bids

  • research contractors online and read reviews of them

  • ask contractors for examples of their past work

  • verify with third parties that the contractor is legitimate

Visit Energy Trust of Oregon PGE to connect with a contractor.

Get real

Make sure any estimate you get from your contractor is based on a realistic projection of your current and future electricity prices. Between 2010 and 2015, our medium and large business customers saw a compound annual growth rate of 1 percent. While that’s not an indication of future rates, it can help you assess the projections on which your bids are based.

Questions for your solar contractor

Let’s face it, installing solar isn’t just a plug and play operation. There’s a ton of things to think about before you make the sun your new best friend in the energy business. Below are some of those considerations and resources to help guide you towards the best decision for your circumstances.

Connecting to the grid

The first place to start is to make sure your property is approved to connect to the grid. Sometimes upgrades can be made but these may be cost prohibitive. Take the time now to find out by looking up your property on this map.

Picking an installer

Visit Energy Trust of Oregon to find a qualified trade ally contractor. Remember, only Energy Trust qualified contractors can be used to receive the incentives provided by Energy Trust of Oregon.

Energy generation and consumption

How much energy will your new solar panels generate? How will this compare with the energy you consume? These are just a couple of the many questions a qualified installer will map out for you at your specific location.

Owning solar panels

How’s your savings account looking? Purchasing solar system outright will give you the quickest payback and the highest return on investment but can be cost prohibitive. Be sure to check with you bank about available financing. Also, some installers offer financing and/or leasing options.

Avoiding sticker shock

Speaking of costs, here are some great resources to help you reduce the upfront costs of your solar system:

Energy Trust of Oregon incentives are available when you use a trade ally contractor.

Federal Incentive tax credit

  • Solar systems installed after 2020 can receive up to 26% of the cost of the solar system

  • Solar Systems installed after 2021 can receive up to 22% of the cost of the solar system

  • Expenses that are included to claim the tax credit are: solar panels/modules, contractor labor and costs, balance of systems equipment (i.e. wiring, inverters, and mounting equipment).

Oregon rebates for solar with storage

  • Under the HB2618, Solar systems combined with storage (batteries) can qualify for a rebate. Rebates are on a first come, first served basis for complete applications.

  • The maximum rebate that can be claimed for solar + storage is $5,000 for the solar portion and maximum of $2,500 for the energy storage portion

Solar + Battery = Peace of Mind

It’s simple math. When you add battery storage to your solar or wind, you make your home more prepared during an emergency or outage. Plus, if you join our new Smart Battery Pilot program, you’ll help add even more renewable energy to the grid.

Benefits of solar for your business

Investing in solar systems not only saves you money over time -- it demonstrates your commitment to addressing climate change. With a solar electric and solar water heating system, you can:

  • Reduce your carbon footprint

  • Reduce your operating costs

  • Add value to your property

  • Help you qualify for LEED certification

Incentives, tax credits and financing help you see payback sooner than you might think, and you’ll produce clean renewable energy for decades to come.

If generating your own power isn’t a good fit for you, consider PGE’s renewable power options: Green Future Choice, Clean Future Block or Green Future Solar.

More resources to help you understand your solar options