Best Solar Companies in Alaska – CNET

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Alaska may be known for its long winter nights, but it’s also the land of the midnight sun — and solar panels can help residents mitigate some of the nation’s highest energy costs.

The Last Frontier ranked 49th nationwide for solar capacity in the second quarter of 2023, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Despite the slow adoption, Alaskans have many reasons to consider solar panels, according to Chris Rose, founder and CEO of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project, a clean energy nonprofit. 

“In Alaska, there used to be the question, ‘Well, why get solar if it’s pretty dark three months a year?'” Rose said. “That made sense when the price of solar was so much higher than it is today, but there is such a good solar resource for seven or eight months a year in Alaska that it’s way more likely [for someone] to consider solar.” 

Even still, going solar may not be ideal for you. Your location and relationship to the grid both matter. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about going solar in Alaska so you can make the best decision for your home — starting with the best solar installation companies operating within the state.

Best national solar panel companies in Alaska

The Solar Energy Industries Association reports just seven solar installers in Alaska.

When choosing a solar provider, it’s important to shop around to find one that ticks all your boxes.

Some things to consider are whether the company offers long warranties and how good its customer service ratings are, as well as the products and services it offers. Especially in Alaska, you’ll want to make sure your installer offers high-efficiency panels so you can capitalize on every bit of sunshine.

Here’s a list of solar companies you might consider, based on our research, expert input and CNET’s review of the best solar companies.

SunPower Solar

Best solar panels

If you’re looking for top-of-the-line solar panels, SunPower is your best choice. But don’t write it off if you’re looking for a less flashy installation that will get the job done. This year it started installing Qcells panels, which should make an installation from the longest-tenured company on our list available to more people.

Tesla Solar

Most affordable

Tesla’s solar branch seems to be the least loved of Elon Musk’s ventures. Even Tesla’s Solar Roof seems to get more love.

If price is the thing you won’t budge on, consider Tesla. By all accounts, Tesla installs quality panels and makes the closest thing there is to a household name in solar storage: the Powerwall.

Where you might miss out is customer service. Discussion online seems to suggest Tesla’s service is a bit of a gamble.

Local solar panel companies in Alaska

Based in Anchorage, Alaska Solar installs grid-tied and off-grid solar as well as battery systems. While Alaska Solar only offers one solar panel brand — Qcells — the panels’ better-than-average efficiency rating (20.6%) makes them suitable for low-light conditions. However, Alaska Solar has limited financing options (no leases or power purchase agreements) and only offers the manufacturer’s warranty for the equipment.

Founded in 2015, Arctic Solar Ventures installs grid-tied solar systems and solar batteries in and around Anchorage. The company specializes in residential solar installations and solid-state battery systems. ASV primarily installs REC solar panels — but the panels do have a high efficiency rating of 22.3%. ASV provides a 30-year insurance-backed warranty. While ASV doesn’t offer leases or power purchase agreements, you can take advantage of its loan options through Clean Energy Credit Union and Mosaic. ASV does not install off-grid solar.

Since 2006, Renewable Energy Systems of Alaska has provided a variety of renewable energy systems, including grid-tied and off-grid solar systems in addition to solar batteries. RES serves Anchorage, Fairbanks, Wasilla and the surrounding areas. The company offers a selection of panels, including Trina and Canadian Solar — both of which have above-average efficiency ratings. RES offers strong warranties — 50 years for the equipment and 30 years for the power output — but has limited financing options (no leases or PPAs).

How to determine which solar installer in Alaska is best for me

Solar is expensive. And you’ll want to make sure you’re picking the right installer for the job. Here are some tips to help you find a reputable installer.

  • Understand federal, state and local solar incentives. Make sure your installer can accurately explain how tax credits and incentives work.
  • Read online reviews from multiple sources. Google and Yelp are a good place to start.
  • Get recommendations from neighbors who have solar installed.
  • Check an installer’s licensing and certifications. Look for installers who are certified by NABCEP
  • Compare multiple solar quotes.
  • Ask your installer all your questions, even the difficult ones.
  • Assess your potential savings cost and your solar payback period. Your installer should be able to explain this to you.

Cost of solar panels in Alaska

Installing a solar system is a big investment, but just how much it will cost you is going to vary. The cost is measured in dollars per watt, which means the bigger your system, the more expensive it will be. However, the cost of your solar system will depend on more than just the system size and the pitch of your roof. Whether you live in a rural area or not will impact the cost as well as your eligibility for net metering.

The average system size in urban Alaska is between 4 kW and 6 kW, according to Rose. Nationwide, the average cost of an 8 kW system is $23,920 — $2.99 per watt — according to consulting firm Wood Mackenzie.

National average cost of solar panels

Typical system size (kW) Price per watt Total installed cost Cost after 30% federal tax credit
National Average 8.6 $3.67 $31,558 $22,091

Alaska’s low level of solar adoption means there isn’t a lot of information on the exact price of installing solar in the Last Frontier. However, based on research by academic experts at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks and our conversations with other experts, the cost can fall anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000. 

Installations in urban Alaska typically range from $1.25 to $3.50 per watt, while remote installations range from $2.20 to $4.60 per watt, according to a 2019 report from the Alaska Center for Energy and Power. 

The cost of installing solar is typically more expensive in rural Alaska due to the high transportation and labor costs.

The map below displays the average total cash price, cost per watt and system size for a solar panel system in your state, according to data from Prices shown don’t represent fluctuations from rebates due to tax credits or state incentives. Certain states don’t have any FindEnergy solar data and are grayed out on the map.

Read more: Just looking for an emergency backup? Check out portable solar panels and solar generators.  

Alaska solar panel incentives or rebates

The cost of going solar has fallen significantly in recent years, but it’s still a big investment no matter where you live. Alaskans can take advantage of a few government incentives and community projects, where available, to make solar more affordable and accessible. 

The federal residential clean energy credit is one of the main incentives for solar-curious Alaskans, and it was recently extended until 2034 through the Inflation Reduction Act. This credit allows you to deduct 30% of the cost of your solar system — including installation costs — from your federal tax bill

The value of your home can increase when you install solar panels. This means your property taxes will too. But some Alaskan cities don’t increase your property taxes when you add solar panels. Check with your local government to find out. 

In 2010, the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (PDF) approved net metering regulations, which allow Railbelt residents to sell excess solar generation in exchange for credits equal to the wholesale rate, which is lower than the retail rate (what you pay for electricity). Alaska’s net metering system currently operates on a monthly basis. 

“Monthly net metering doesn’t incentivize solar quite as much as an annual system, particularly in a place that’s so seasonal like Alaska,” Rose said. “My system might make six or seven times more power than I used in June, but I can’t roll over those credits on a retail basis. Instead, I get an avoided cost credit that can help defray the cost of my bills in the winter.”

The Solarize Program helps communities buy solar panels as a group and receive significant discounts. Those discounts can range from 10 to 17% before applying the federal tax credit, according to The Alaska Center, an environmental advocacy group that coordinates the effort.

While you can find a complete list of incentives in Alaska on the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, here are some major ones worth noting: 

Alaska solar incentives

Program Description
Net metering Since 2010, Alaska net metering law requires certain electric utilities to offer net metering. If your solar system’s capacity is less than 25 kW, you can sell your excess solar energy back to the power company in exchange for credits.
Property tax exemption (varies) Alaska law allows municipalities to create their own property tax exemptions for residential renewable energy systems, meaning you won’t see increases to your property taxes when you install solar panels. However, not all municipalities offer this exemption, so be sure to check whether this is an option where you live.
Residential clean energy credit You can claim up to 30% in tax credits with the federal residential clean energy credit when you purchase solar panels.
Solarize Alaska campaigns The Solarize Program allows communities to purchase solar panels as a group and receive discounted rates on panels and installation. This program was piloted in Oregon and is now available in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Mat-Su.

How to pay for solar panels

There are plenty of options when it comes to financing your solar system. You can pay upfront in cash, take advantage of solar leases and power purchase agreements, borrow with a loan or tap into your home’s equity. 

  • Cash: If you can afford it, consider paying for your solar system in cash. You won’t have to cover any loan fees or interest costs, nor do you need a qualifying credit score. If solar panels don’t fit into your budget right now, you can take advantage of rising interest rates by saving for your future array in a high-yield savings account
  • Solar loan: Some solar providers partner with credit unions or other financial institutions to offer solar loans to their customers. Solar loans from your installer may carry higher fees than ones from a bank or financial institution. Your credit score can also impact your eligibility.
  • Home equity loan or line of credit, aka HELOC: You can tap into your home’s equity with a home equity loan or HELOC to finance your solar array. Home equity loans and HELOCs allow you to finance home improvements, like solar panels, without disturbing your primary mortgage. There is a risk, though: If you default on your payments, you could lose your home. 
  • Lease or power purchase agreement: Some solar providers will allow you to enter into a lease or power purchase agreement at a rate typically lower than what you pay your utility. You won’t own your solar panels. Instead, you’ll pay for the equipment (via lease) or the power your system generates (via power purchase agreement).

Your location matters if you’re going solar in Alaska 

Where you’re located in Alaska impacts how you get your power and the practicality of solar panels. In simple terms, Alaskans either live on the Railbelt or off of it.

The Railbelt is an electric grid covering the area from Fairbanks through Anchorage to the Kenai Peninsula. It’s home to most Alaskans and consumes nearly 80% of the state’s electricity. Six electric utilities — each with its own generation sources — operate along the Railbelt. Residents looking to add solar panels to their home have the opportunity to take part in net metering, which allows you to sell excess solar energy back to the grid in exchange for credits.

Outside of the Railbelt, most of the state’s remote communities rely instead on tiny, disconnected grids — many of which use diesel-fueled generators. The cost of transporting diesel means electricity costs in rural areas can be three to five times higher than in urban areas along the Railbelt, according to an analysis by the Energy Information Administration. Because of these high costs, the state offers economic assistance to customers of rural electric utilities through a Power Cost Equalization program. 

That high cost also drives innovation, Rose said. “We’ve seen so many of these remote communities be interested in adding renewables on top of their diesel grid.” 

Going solar looks different in rural communities compared to those along the Railbelt. It’s often done on a community-wide scale, meaning their systems are significantly larger than an individual residential system. Rose said there isn’t a lot of data on residential rooftop systems in those remote places because it’s not encouraged by the utility. 

“There’s no net metering in rural Alaska because the smaller grids would have a much harder time absorbing electricity from rooftop consumers. If a small village utility loses a couple customers and also has to start paying them [through net metering], that’s going to be a real problem for their bottom line,” Rose said.

However, it’s not unheard of for Alaskans in rural areas to invest in solar panels for their homes. There are a few more hurdles — like the higher cost of transportation and labor as well as the lack of access to net metering — but solar systems in rural areas can help residents offset diesel use during the spring and summer months.

Installation factors to consider

Solar panels may be the right fit for your home — or they might not be. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Lack of sun in the winter months: Solar panels still work in extreme cold temperatures — in fact, they may even work better. However, snow and the long winter nights of Alaska mean your panels will produce significantly less (if any) power during the winter. As a result, your solar panels are unlikely to be a year-round solution.
  • High-efficiency solar panels: Because Alaska sees fewer sunny days — 121 days per year compared to the national average of 205 — experts recommend opting for high-efficiency panels to maximize your solar’s system’s productivity. Solar panel efficiency measures how well the panel converts sunlight to energy. Top tier panels have efficiency ratings of 20% and above. While high-efficiency panels can increase the upfront cost of your solar system, they can increase your savings in the long run. 
  • Energy storage system: While solar batteries add value to any solar system, they are particularly useful in rural areas with no grid connection. Since rural Alaskans are likely ineligible for net metering, solar energy storage systems allow them to store and draw on excess solar generation. Solar batteries can be a costly investment, ranging from $5,000 to $20,000. However, you can apply the 30% federal solar tax credit towards them. 
  • Roof condition and pitch: Make sure your roof is in good condition before installing solar panels. A reputable company will inspect your roof’s condition and pitch prior to installation. If your roof’s pitch isn’t suited to Alaska’s latitude, you may consider ground-mounted solar panels if you have the space. 
  • DIY installation: Some Alaskans, particularly in rural areas, consider installing their solar system themselves. DIY solar panels are not designed to be hooked up to the grid, which is why this method is more common in remote areas. Installing solar panels yourself requires at least some knowledge of electrical work. While it may be cheaper to install your solar array yourself, you’ll lose out on the additional benefits of expert installation. 

How we evaluate solar companies

Our methodolgy

The companies we listed above as “the best” are curated from CNET’s best solar companies list. Companies making the best list are scored on the equipment, warranties and customer service they offer. Then, we make sure these recommendations are available in your state. You can read a full breakdown of how we review solar companies here.

Companies listed under the local installers were chosen in a less rigorous way. We chose them because they offered something unique or notable to customers in the state, they seemed well-regarded by internet reviewers or because they were one of the few installers we could find information on in the state.

Whether we’ve completed a full review on a company or not, it’s always a good idea to get multiple quotes from different installers before choosing a company.

Alaska solar panel FAQs

What is the average solar system size in Alaska?

In urban areas, the average system is around 5 kW. That number is often much larger in remote areas that opt for community-scale solar systems. 

How much sun does Alaska get?

Alaska averages 121 days of sunshine per year. In certain parts of Alaska, the sun will shine for most, if not all, of the day during the summer months. 

Do I need to clean snow off my solar panels?

In Alaska, snow is bound to land on your solar panels. Light snow will likely melt quickly but heavy snow can put too much weight on your solar panels. Before attempting to remove snow from your panels, be sure to check with your provider to see if they can assist. You want to make sure you don’t void your warranty. 

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