Key takeaways


olar power, a once alternative choice, is increasingly becoming the norm for many households. While this trend is nationwide, certain regions stand out, and California shines brightest among them. Let's delve into the specifics of solar adoption in the state and understand the costs of making the switch.

PV Industry in California: Champion of the Solar Race

Installed Solar Capacity in the State

California has always been the golden child when it comes to solar adoption. So much so that it managed to achieve a truly massive solar capacity approaching 41 GW and rightfully takes the first spot in terms of solar installations. This success is connected to a multitude of factors, including the state's commitment to renewable energy, abundant sunshine, and forward-thinking residents who are interested in self-sustainability and reducing their carbon footprints.

Sun Hours and Solar Potential

The graph: Sun Hours in Sacramento in 2023
Sun Hours in Sacramento

The state enjoys around 5.38 peak sun hours per day. With such extensive sunlight, the solar potential is impressively high. Consequently, more and more Californians are adopting solar, as it presents an effective way to capitalize on this vast, untapped energy resource.

Role of Solar Energy in the State's Electricity Mix

Solar energy makes up around a third of California's total electricity generation, thanks to the state's progressive renewable solar energy policies and goals. By prioritizing clean energy, this state is setting an example for others, illustrating the fact that renewable energy can and does reliably meet a significant proportion of a region's electricity needs.

Solar panel battery packs, also known as solar battery storage systems, store excess energy generated by solar panels for later use. They help to increase self-consumption of solar power and provide backup power during grid outages. Popular brands include Tesla Powerwall, LG Chem, and Sonnen.

Use your own personal savings calculation to shop and compare top providers

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Solar Panel Cost California: How Much Are Photovoltaics?

Factors Affecting Solar Costs

Various elements influence the price of a solar system California. They range from the panel’s size and efficiency to the complexity of your installation. Also, the angle and panel direction of your roof, as well as the amount of sunlight it receives, can impact the costs.

The Costs of Solar Panel Systems in CA

Photovoltaic Panel Costs

Solar prices have been falling consistently over the past decade. As of 2023, the average national solar panel price is around $2.95. However, due to factors such as labor and permits, the cost of solar panels in California is slightly higher, averaging around $2.97 per watt.

Solar Installation Costs

Installation costs make up a large part of total solar costs and can vary based on a number of factors. For example, a complex roof layout or a roof that requires reinforcement can add to the costs. Nonetheless, as more and more contractors are becoming proficient in solar panel installation, these costs are beginning to decline, and as a result, total solar system costs in the state are also decreasing.

Return on Investment and Payback Period with Solar

Installing solar panels is an investment that pays for itself over time through savings on your electric bill. The exact ROI and payback period heavily depend on a number of factors, including the cost of your solar panels, your electricity rate, and the amount of sunlight in the area. It's worth noting that with the slightly higher electricity rates, solar panels often pay for themselves quicker here than in other states. On average, the payback period in the state is around six years.

Incentives and Rebates for Solar Panels in California

Federal Investment Tax Credit

The biggest incentive for going solar is the Federal Investment Tax Credit or ITC. In 2023, this credit reduces solar system costs by a generous 30%, which significantly lowers the solar panel cost California residents have to shoulder. Remember, though, that you need to have a tax liability to take benefit from this credit.

Net Energy Metering

Net Energy Metering is a billing arrangement that allows residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed electricity they do not use back into the grid. However, this year, the value of energy credits has been cut by 75% in the state, making it a better choice to either store or fully use the energy generated by the system.

DAC-SASH Program

For low-income customers, the Disadvantaged Communities – Single-Family Solar Homes program provides a great opportunity. Administered by GRID Alternatives, DAC-SASH offers Californians $8.5 million in incentives annually. Eligible customers can receive up to $3 per watt in incentives for solar installations. Given the current solar panel costs are around $3.00, the participants could save up to 100% on solar installations.

PACE Financing

Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing is another useful program. This innovative financing solution allows homeowners to pay back solar loans with their property taxes, spreading out the cost over a longer period and making solar more affordable. It is not a free government program, and it involves certain risks, so be sure to research this financing option before committing to it.

Use your own personal savings calculation to shop and compare top providers

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Best Solar Panel System Companies of California


While a bit on the pricey side, SunPower is a favorite for those seeking premium solar systems. With their high-efficiency panels and decades of experience, this California-based company offers performance that's hard to beat.


Next up, we have Elevation, a company that provides a holistic approach to energy efficiency. Elevation upgrades your home to be more power efficient and creates a custom, fully-integrated solar panel system for each client. Moreover, they boast a price match guarantee, easing concerns about the price of solar system California homeowners might have.

Palmetto Solar

Palmetto Solar stands out with its comprehensive service offering. They manage everything from custom design to permits, ensuring a seamless solar panel installation experience. With a 25-year warranty, Palmetto Solar offers peace of mind to Californians looking to invest in solar energy.

California's Clean Energy Targets: How Far Can We Go?

The state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard is perhaps the most ambitious in the U.S. The goal includes having 60% of electricity generated from clean fuels by 2030 and a whopping 100% by 2045. These ambitious targets are a testament to the state’s commitment to a sustainable future. To achieve these targets, the state is banking on solar power, among other renewable sources, to play a crucial role. This emphasis on solar power is the key driver behind the increasing adoption of solar systems in the state.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is solar worth it in California?

A: Absolutely. Thanks to the state’s abundant sunshine, the system can produce more electricity with fewer panels, while the higher electricity rates mean the payback period for the system is much shorter than in other regions. All that, paired with generous incentives, make solar a smart move in the state.

Q: Is solar more expensive in CA?

A: While the costs per watt are often a bit higher when compared to the national average, it is also worth noting that the locals actually pay around 30% less for their solar systems. Why? Because they need smaller systems to generate a comparable amount of power, and small systems mean lower overall costs.

Q: How many panels do you need to power a house?

A: There is no universal answer to this question, as it all depends on who’s asking. The deciding factors are energy consumption and budget. If you consume 5,000 kWh early, 8 highly efficient panels might suffice, while higher energy consumption and a tighter budget could require 25 panels. It’s best to consult with a professional to get the exact estimate.

Q: Can I install my solar panels myself?

A: It is possible but generally not recommended. A professional installer will make sure that everything is mounted and connected safely, which might not be the case if you do that yourself. Besides, many incentives and warranties associated with solar panels are voided with a DIY installation, so hiring a professional is usually a much better choice.

Q: Do I need any permits for a DIY installation?

A: Yes, you typically do need permits, even if it’s a DIY installation. These could include a building permit, an electrical permit, and sometimes even a site plan review, depending on where you live.

Use your own personal savings calculation to shop and compare top providers

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Final Thoughts on PV Costs in California

California's fusion of abundant sunshine and forward-thinking policies make it a beacon for solar energy. Although the initial investment is considerable, the combination of long-term savings, numerous incentives, and the invaluable benefit to the environment make solar power a truly worthwhile venture. In the Golden State, the sun doesn't just light the way, it powers it.

Key takeaways

California's Solar Leadership:

  • California boasts a formidable solar capacity of 41 GW, driven by renewable commitments, ample sunlight (5.38 peak hours/day), and forward-thinking policies.Contribution to Energy Mix:
  • Solar accounts for one-third of California's electricity, aligning with targets for 60% clean fuels by 2030 and 100% by 2045.Cost Dynamics:
  • The average solar panel cost in California stands at $2.97/watt, slightly above the national average, with installation costs decreasing as the industry matures.Return on Investment (ROI) and Payback Period:
  • The payback period for solar installations is approximately six years, bolstered by higher electricity rates.Incentives and Affordability:
  • Incentives like the Federal Tax Credit (30% reduction) and programs such as Net Energy Metering, DAC-SASH, and PACE Financing enhance affordability.Key Players:
  • Leading solar companies in California include SunPower, Elevation, and Palmetto Solar, offering high-efficiency solutions.Clean Energy Targets:
  • California aims for 60% clean fuels by 2030 and 100% by 2045, underscoring the pivotal role of solar energy.Frequently Asked Questions:
  • Despite slightly higher costs, solar in California yields a shorter payback period, making it a worthwhile investment.
  • The number of panels required varies, necessitating professional consultation.
  • While DIY installation is possible, it's not recommended due to permit requirements.In Conclusion:
  • California's solar trajectory promises a bright future, blending abundant sunlight, progressive policies, and financial viability for a sustainable energy transition.
Jul 22, 2023
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