Washington is one of the greener states in the land, and not just because it has so many trees. (How many does it have? Lots!) In 2011, it won first place by the American State Litter Scorecard for cleanest public spaces and highest-quality public environmental practices. Their hefty hazardous substance tax, or “gas tax", which was recently upheld in the Supreme Court, has successfully been used to keep the state clean for more than twenty-four years. It’s also one of the first states in the nation to have banned highly toxic brominated flame retardants known as PBDEs from common household products.
With so many eco-friendly brownie points, it must follow that Washington is way ahead of other states in regards to renewable energy, right? Well yes as far as wind and hydro power go. During the Great Depression, a series of hydroelectric dams were constructed along the Columbia River. Today, Washington produces more electricity from hydroelectric sources than any other state and produced 29 percent of nation's electricity in 2011. Washington ranked sixth in the Nation for wind generation.
What about solar? A lot of folks think there isn't enough sun in the Northwest to go solar. Washington has the same amount of sun as Germany, and Germany has the most photovoltaic installations in the world. Washington has plenty of sun to harness, room to grow, and some very decent solar incentives to support “going solar”.
What types of solar incentives are available in Washington?
Washington's Feed-in Tariffs
A maximum of $5,000 is available to Washingtonians via the state Feed-in Tariff. Owners of grid-tied solar power systems will be awarded $0.15 for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) that their system generates. Multiply this rate by 2.4 if Washington-made solar panels are included in their system and 1. 4 if Washington-made inverters are included.
If you're a customer of one of the following utility companies, you're in luck! You can supplement the state's Feed-in Tariff' with what is offered by your utility company.
Only One Solar Rebate Program
Snohomish Utility Company is the only utility company that offers solar rebates.
Net metering is available to owners of grid-tied systems. It allows a customer to get credits on their power bill for any excess power their solar power systems generate over and above what they use. In Washington, any excess credit not used is forfeited back to the utility company at the end of April each year. If you’re a customer of Grays Harbor PUD, any excess credit will be reimbursed at 50% of the utility’s retail rate at the end of each year.
- Homeowners can receive $500 per kilowatt with a maximum of $2,500.
- Business owners can receive the same, $500 per kilowatt, up to $10,000.
- Systems must be grid-tied and have a net-metering agreement.
- Read more.
Washington residents can take advantage of the 30% Federal Tax Credit, whether they’re on or off the grid. This credit can be applied to solar equipment and installation costs. If you don’t have enough tax liability to take advantage of it, the credit can be rolled over to the following year. Read about the residential and corporate tax credits.
Combine incentives and get two-thirds of a grid-tie system paid for. If you take one of our medium sized grid-tied system, and combine the $5,000 Feed-in Tariff with the 30% Federal Tax Credit, you’ll have almost two-thirds of your expenses covered. And, that’s not including the credits you’ll receive from net metering.
Tax Exemptions and Reductions
Solar Loans in Washington State
While there is no income tax to speak of, purchases of solar power systems no larger than 10 kilowatts are 100% exempt from sales tax. Larger system purchases qualify for a 75% tax exemption.
Manufacturers of solar power equipment qualify for a 43% reduction of a state’s business and occupation (B&O) tax.
We don’t usually recommend them, but Washington does have some with very low interest rates. If you don't see a program that applies to you in the table below, consider a low interest loan from your local bank or credit union. And beware of "no money down" leasing programs. If they seem to good to be true, then they probably are. Read more.
The following loans can be used for photovoltaic systems.
Solar for Schools
This competitive grant program seeks to install small-scale photovoltaic systems at K-12 schools interested in increasing the visibility of renewable energy. Successful projects will include outreach and educational components to encourage community adoption and use of photovoltaics. The application process is very competitive. Washington has 125 schools that have benefited from this program.
Energy Efficiency Rebates and Loans
The first step in "going solar" is making your home or business more energy efficient. A more efficient building translates to a smaller price tag when it comes time to buy. Washington utility companies offer a great deal of loan and rebate programs for energy efficiency. Look up your utility company here.