Are solar panels worth it in West Virginia?

7 considerations in the Mountain State

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two story house with solar panels on the red roof

ConsumerAffairs has heard from thousands of solar customers who have already gone through the solar installation process. It’s generally worth it if you like the idea of lowering your monthly utility bills, helping the environment and gaining more energy independence.


Key insights

Depending on the size of your system and what financial incentives you qualify for, a typical residential solar panel installation costs $10,238 to $29,250 in West Virginia.

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On average, it takes solar panels approximately 10 years to pay for themselves in West Virginia.

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Over 25 years, West Virginia homeowners with solar panels avoid $63,114 in total utility costs on average.

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7 factors to consider before getting solar panels in West Virginia 

The main drawback is the high upfront cost of purchasing and installing the panels and equipment. For many West Virginia homeowners, the long-term savings can outweigh the upfront costs over time. But it doesn’t work out for everyone. Here’s what to consider before making the switch.

  1. Solar panel installation costs
  2. Your energy consumption
  3. West Virginia solar incentives
  4. Net metering buyback rates
  5. How long you stay in your house
  6. How you pay
  7. The solar company you hire

1. Solar panel installation costs: $10,000 to $30,000

Average solar panel costs in West Virginia are comparable to the national average. Before the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC), a typical residential system ranges from $14,625 to $29,250. That price drops to $10,238 to $20,475 after the full 30% tax credit.

Most installers set the price according to the system's wattage, with a typical cost between $2.50 and $5 per watt. “Cost per watt” is a little like looking at the price per square foot when you buy a house. It helps you compare the value of solar energy systems in different sizes. In West Virginia, the average cost per watt is only $2.85.

Average solar panel installation cost by system size in West Virginia

2. Your current energy consumption

Look at your most recent utility bills to see how much electricity your house uses each month. This tells you what size and capacity your solar system needs to be. A typical West Virginia household needs a system with a capacity of 9.3 kW to offset its electricity needs with solar energy. You might need a larger or smaller system, depending on your current energy consumption.

Once you know your current energy consumption, you can calculate your potential savings and the time it should take for your solar installation to pay for itself. In West Virginia, solar panels usually pay for themselves within 10 years.

3. West Virginia solar incentives: federal tax credit and net metering

There are few statewide solar financial incentives in West Virginia. Still, the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) is the most significant way to make solar panels more affordable. The ITC provides a 30% tax credit on your total system costs, including equipment, labor and permits. It will drop to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034.

The ITC drops to 26% in 2033 and then 22% in 2034.

The ITC is a credit, meaning it directly decreases the amount of taxes you owe. It’s not a credit or a refund. It only offsets your tax liability; you can't take advantage of the ITC if you don’t owe taxes in the first place. However, the credit rolls over to the next tax year if you don’t use the full amount.

4. Net metering: retail buyback rate

Net metering is a system of give-and-take between you and your utility company. It lets you access power from the grid when your panels don’t generate enough electricity. You can also earn credits for sending any excess solar energy to the grid.

These credits can offset the cost of electricity consumed at other times. West Virginians get a better deal on net metering than residents in some other states. As of publishing, the credit you receive is based on the retail rate you pay for your own electricity use.

“You get one credit for a kilowatt-hour for every kilowatt you put on the grid,” Dan Conant told WV Metro News. “So, a full one-to-one retail net metering if you apply to hook in your panels by this December.”

However, some changes to the state’s net metering policy could be on the horizon. Solar advocates fear a request from West Virginia utilities to change how they compensate homeowners for excess power generated from rooftop solar systems could reduce interest in going solar.

5. How long you plan to stay in your house

It takes years for electric bill savings to make up for the initial cost. In West Virginia, solar panels typically pay for themselves within 10 years. If you sell your house and move before then, you might not fully realize the financial benefits of the investment.

Solar panels last 25 to 30 years.

A Zillow study found that, on average, houses with solar panels sell for 4.1% more. Let’s say you spend $25,000 putting solar panels on a house that costs $400,000. It might sell for $16,400 more in a few years, according to Zillow, but you miss out on some of that $63,114 in total avoided utility costs over 25 years.

In other words, don't get solar panels just because you want to sell your house soon. Instead, consider a home improvement project with a better return on investment, like remodeling the bathroom or kitchen.

6. How you pay

If you can, it’s often financially strategic to pay for the whole thing upfront. You own the system from day one and receive the benefits of available tax credits; plus, you don’t have to pay interest on a loan. Of course, paying cash is not always an option. That’s when loans, leases and other agreements come into play.

  • Solar loan: Solar loans work like any other type of loan. They have relatively low fixed interest rates. Once you pay it off, you own your system outright.
  • Solar lease: Leasing panels is one way to get the benefits of solar energy without the high upfront cost. A solar lease works like a car lease — you get to use the panels but don’t own them. Leasing can be good if you have limited savings. Solar lease agreements typically last 20 to 25 years.
  • Power purchase agreement: Similar to leasing, a power purchase agreement (PPA) lets homeowners install solar panels without the upfront costs. You sign a long-term contract with a solar services provider to purchase the electricity generated by the panels at a predetermined rate. The provider owns and maintains the panels throughout the agreement, which usually lasts 10 to 25 years.
  • Home equity loans or lines of credit (HELOC): Eligible homeowners can borrow against equity in their house to finance a solar panel system. These often have variable interest rates, meaning monthly payments can increase over time.

7. The solar company you hire

People have had mixed experiences with solar companies. In the best-case scenario, it’s easy and you’re happy with the system’s performance. In the worst-case scenario, you end up paying thousands for mid-tier solar equipment from a company with poor customer service and no follow-up or support.

One of the most common complaints is related to pushy sales reps who make promises that can’t be delivered. That’s why it’s so important to thoroughly research and verify claims made by sales teams before making a decision. Use the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s PVWatts Calculator to estimate how much electricity a solar panel can produce over a year on your house — just type in your address. Project Sunroof is a free solar savings estimator powered by Google Earth imagery.

Monthly costs: solar payments vs. savings

Think of going solar in terms of your monthly costs. Given rising energy costs in West Virginia and elsewhere, financing solar panels makes sense as long as your monthly loan payment is less than what you would be paying the utility company.

Is my house a good candidate for solar panels?

Going solar ends up being worth it for many homeowners as long as their house is a good candidate to support a solar panel installation. Here’s what to think about before you commit:

  • How old are my appliances? The first step is to ensure that your electrical loads are as small as possible. If you have an older refrigerator or air conditioning unit, for instance, it’s smart to upgrade those before investing in solar panels. That way you can get a smaller system, which will be cheaper overall.
  • How much sunlight do I get? Solar panels need regular exposure to sunlight to produce the most energy possible. West Virginia averages three to five peak sun hours each day. However, lots of shading — like trees or tall buildings above your roof — could make your solar system less efficient.
  • What is the size and angle of my roof? West Virginia (and the rest of the United States) is in the Northern Hemisphere, so solar panels perform best on south-facing roofs. The worst place to install would be on north-facing roofs, especially if those roofs have a high pitch. For example, if the only place you can install is a north-facing roof with a 30-degree pitch, your costs will likely go up by 30% to 40%.
  • What is the condition of my roof? If you have to replace your roof, do that before you install solar panels. Solar panels are designed to last up to 30 years, so you want your roof to last just as long. Otherwise, it could cost thousands to remove the panels, fix your roof and reinstall the panels.

Pros and cons of solar panels in West Virginia

It’s a common misconception that solar panels will completely eliminate your monthly power bill — this is not always the case. Still, you’ll likely be paying much less than you would for traditional utility bills.

Pros

  • Long-term savings
  • Better for the environment
  • Low maintenance costs
  • May increase home resale value
  • Financial incentives

Cons

  • Upfront costs
  • Seasonal production variations
  • Potential roof leaks
  • Possible net metering rate changes

Benefits of solar panels in West Virginia

  • Better for the environment: Traditional energy sources like coal and natural gas release carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants into the air. Solar panels generate electricity from sunlight, a clean and renewable energy source. Installing solar panels on your roof helps the environment primarily by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Higher home resale value: Installing solar panels can significantly increase a home's value. According to the study mentioned above, houses with solar panels sell for 4.1% more on average. The exact increase in value varies by location, with homes in active solar markets sometimes seeing even higher boosts.
  • Cheaper energy bills: The average homeowner in West Virginia uses a lot of power, which adds up to a lot of savings when you switch to solar. Going solar now means that your monthly energy expenses will be more predictable (and very often significantly lower). Solar panels also protect you from future energy cost increases.

Drawbacks of solar panels in West Virginia

  • Solar equipment is expensive: Even with rebates and other financial incentives, the price typically starts between $10,000 and $30,000. It’s even more expensive if you want a solar battery for energy storage. Solar battery costs are generally between $7,000 and $18,000.
  • Potential roof leaks: The installation process involves drilling holes into the roof to anchor the panel mounting systems. If not done correctly, this can lead to leaks or structural damage.
  • Energy production varies: Solar panels are dependent on weather conditions and seasonality. Solar panels still work on cloudy days, but less available sunlight does affect how efficiently they produce energy. Snow cover may also temporarily reduce efficiency until it's removed or melts off.

» MORE: Solar energy pros and cons

Find solar companies in West Virginia

A good solar company helps you navigate local incentives, permitting and net metering policies. Compare our picks for the top solar companies in West Virginia to learn more.

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West Virginia solar FAQs

How does the federal solar tax credit work?

The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) reduces your federal income tax liability by 30% of what you spent installing solar panels on your home. It’s nonrefundable, meaning you can only claim a credit up to the amount of tax you owe for the year. In other words, you won’t get the excess amount refunded to you if the credit is larger than your tax bill.

Don’t get confused: The ITC is a credit, meaning it directly decreases the amount of taxes you owe. This is different from a deduction, which reduces your taxable income. It also isn’t a rebate or a refund. It only offsets your tax liability; you can't take advantage of the ITC if you don’t owe taxes in the first place. However, the credit rolls over to the next tax year if you don’t use the full amount.

Can I get a power purchase agreement in West Virginia?

Yes, solar power purchase agreements became legal in West Virginia in 2021.

How long does it take to install solar panels in West Virginia?

Installation times depend on a range of factors, especially seasonality and supply chain issues. The actual installation might take only a day, but it takes time to design and plan; you also have to activate the system.

Does West Virginia really pay for solar panels?

No, the state does not offer any specific incentives for solar panel installation. However, you can lease or enter a PPA with little to no upfront costs.

» FREE SOLAR PANELS: Are they really free?

What solar scams are common in West Virginia?

Some solar scams involve companies promising “free” solar panels from the government as a way to lure in homeowners. Be wary of offers that sound too good to be true; there are often hidden costs and unfavorable terms. Check the state’s business license database to make sure the company you’re considering is currently licensed.

Bottom line: Is going solar in West Virginia worth it for you?

Going solar in West Virginia might be easier than you think. The main obstacle to going solar is the high upfront cost of purchasing and installing solar panels, inverters and other equipment. For a lot of homeowners, it ends up being worth it as long as their cost savings over time outweigh the initial investment. Others are happy to go solar for the environmental benefits alone.

Solar costs vs. savings: West Virginia and nearby states

*For 100% usage offset; **Over 25 years

Guide sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. DSIRE, "West Virginia Programs." Accessed March 29, 2024.
  2. EnergySage, “The cost of solar panels in West Virginia.” Accessed March 29, 2024.
  3. Solar Energy Industries Association, "West Virginia Solar." Accessed March 29, 2024.
  4. SolarReviews, “How much do solar panels cost in West Virginia?” Accessed March 29, 2024.
  5. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, "Homeowner's Guide to the Federal Tax Credit for Solar Photovoltaics." Accessed May 6, 2024.
  6. West Virginia Metro News Network, “Net Metering proposed settlement welcomed by solar advocates.” Accessed April 29, 2024.
  7. West Virginians for Energy Freedom, “About PPAs.” Accessed May 23, 2024.
  8. Environmental Protection Agency, “Solar Power Purchase Agreements.” Accessed May 6, 2024.
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