The 7 Best Solar Companies in California of January 2024 – MarketWatch

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Compare Our Top Installers

Based on our 2023 surveys of a total of 2,000 homeowners with solar, the average cost of a solar panel system with installation is between $15,000 to $20,000. Compare our picks for the best installers in California based on price using the table below.

*Note: All quoted prices in this review are for a professionally installed 8 kilowatt (kW) system and are based on our March and October 2023 solar cost survey of 2,000 homeowners with solar panels.

California’s Top Solar Energy Companies

Based on our research and methodology, these are the best solar companies in California:

Are Solar Panels Worth It in California?

California has the most installed solar capacity of any U.S. state. Solar panels are usually worth it in California because the state receives abundant, year-round sunlight, and available solar incentives can significantly reduce the total cost. Additionally, because the cost of traditional energy in California is significantly higher than the national average, you stand to save more when you switch to renewable energy.

Despite all the reasons solar is worth it in California, it is not for everyone. For instance, if your home’s roof is shaded, your solar system may not generate enough energy to sufficiently offset your energy usage. You can speak with a solar installer to learn more about solar and if it is right for you.

Pros and Cons of Going Solar

What To Look for in a Solar Company

We recommend looking for a solar company that offers fair pricing, considering a 6 kilowatt (kW) system has a typical cost of $15,060 in California. You can also do a quick background check of each company by reading verified reviews on sites like the BBB and Trustpilot.

However, each state has unique opportunities and challenges for solar energy systems. Here are some specific recommendations when comparing solar providers in California.

  • Energy storage options: If you plan to install a home solar system in California, we no longer recommend participating in net metering. The state’s updated NEM 3.0 policy drastically reduced the payments you would get for sending excess solar energy to the grid. However, you can save the full value of solar electricity by storing excess energy in a battery bank and using it later. For these reasons, we recommend looking for a solar company that has experience with battery systems and installation requirements in California. As a consequence of NEM 3.0, solar battery systems can now achieve a shorter payback period than stand-alone solar panels.
  • Knowledge of incentive programs: Your chosen solar installer should make sure you claim all the incentives available in your location. For example, adding an energy storage system to your solar panels can be expensive, but California offers rebates through the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP). If you plan to install a battery, it is worth looking for a solar company to help qualify you for this incentive since it greatly reduces the cost.
  • Experience with state codes and regulations: Building codes in California not only apply to new constructions but also to home improvement projects — such as solar panel systems. To ensure a quick project approval and avoid permitting delays, we recommend looking for a solar company with local code experience.

California has always been a leading state in the adoption of new technologies, including solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and battery storage. Other states such as Texas and Florida have now emerged as solar industry leaders, but California has more solar capacity than both states combined. Here are some key facts about the solar industry in the Golden State that we gathered from the state’s SEIA profile:

  • California had 41,675 megawatts (MW) of installed solar capacity by mid-2023, more than any other state. For comparison, Texas and Florida come in second and third place with a combined capacity of 31,413 MW.
  • California could add 21,002 MW of solar capacity during the next five years, which represents a 50% increase beyond its current capacity.
  • The Golden State has the largest solar industry in the U.S., with a — the total investment adds up to $92.8 billion with over 2,400 solar companies in operation.
  • Solar energy has created 78,116 jobs in California.
  • The state issued an updated net metering policy, NEM 3.0, into effect in April 2023. The program drastically reduces the tariffs paid to solar owners for excess energy production. However, this also creates an opportunity to increase savings with battery storage.

Solar Incentives in California

There are a variety of California tax credits and incentives you can apply to lower the cost of your solar investment. We’ve listed some of the most significant statewide incentives below.

As a note, solar panel incentives are not currently available from the four largest California utilities: Southern California Edison (SCE), Southern California Gas (SCG), San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). However, you may find incentives from municipal utilities and electric cooperatives with smaller territories.

Federal Solar Tax Credit

Officially called the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), the federal tax credit is available nationwide and was extended through 2034 with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. In short, if you install a home solar system, you can claim 30% of the total cost as a federal tax credit. So if you install a 6 kW solar system for $15,060 in California, you would get a $4,518 tax credit and your net system cost drops to $10,542.

Net Metering in California

California used to have a favorable net metering policy that paid residents nearly 100% of the value of excess solar energy sent back to the grid. Unfortunately, net metering tariffs have been drastically reduced with the introduction of NEM 3.0 in April 2023. As a result, it now makes more sense to store excess energy in batteries instead of selling it to a utility company. However, NEM 3.0 was not retroactive so solar owners who qualified for the older tariffs can still benefit from the initial rates.

Other State Solar Initiatives

California has two major incentive programs that can benefit solar panel and home battery owners.

  • Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP): This program offers $150 per kilowatt-hour for battery systems in the SCE, SCG, SDG&E and PG&E service territories.
  • Property tax exclusion: With the state’s property tax exemption, you will not have to pay additional property taxes as a result of installing a solar system. It is available for systems installed before Jan. 1, 2025.

California also offers the DC-SASH and Equity Resilience Incentive programs, which are exclusive for low-income households that meet certain requirements.

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