Cost of solar panels in Montana (2024)

How much is it to go solar in the Treasure State?

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home in montana hillside with solar panels on the roof

The average cost to install solar panels is $22,860 in Montana before using the full federal solar investment tax credit (ITC). The price drops to $16,002 after the ITC.

Going solar in the Treasure State is about 4% cheaper than the national average. The out-of-pocket investment might be lower than in other states, but a little planning and taking advantage of some solar incentives can make going solar even more affordable.


Key insights

  • The average cost per watt is $2.42 in Montana.
  • The average payback period in the state is 10 years if you pay for your system upfront.
  • Montana homeowners with solar panels get an estimated net savings of $15,189 over 25 years.

How much do solar panels cost in Montana?

Installing residential solar panels can cost between $10,000 and $30,000 or more, though individual costs vary. On average, residents of Montana pay $22,860 before tax credits for their system.

The size of your system can play a big factor in how much you pay overall. Not surprisingly, the smaller your system, the less you pay. The average size of a solar energy system in Montana is 9 kW (kilowatts).

Average cost by system size in Montana

Source: EcoWatch

Are solar panels worth it in Montana?

Solar panels aren’t as popular in Montana as in some other states, but going solar can be worth it for savings on energy bills. Montana homeowners with solar panels save an estimated $15,189 over 25 years.

Generating your own electricity reduces your reliance on the grid while reducing your carbon footprint.

Montana receives an average of 4 to 5 hours of peak sunlight a day. 

Another benefit is Montana’s solar incentives — the state’s solar property tax exemption means that your property tax bill won’t go up if your solar panels increase the market value of your home. It’s estimated that homes with solar panels sell for 4.1% more.

Solar panels are still a big investment for most people. In the worst-case scenario, you spend thousands on a system that doesn’t work as expected. Financially, solar panels are only worth it in Montana (or anywhere else) if what you’re paying for the panels is cheaper than your current electric bill. The panels also have to keep working for it to pay off.

» STILL NOT SURE? Solar energy pros and cons

Cost factors of going solar in Montana

In Montana, as in other states, your solar energy system will cost whatever you put into it. Higher quality panels, optional equipment and permits will raise costs. Here’s what to expect.

Size of your system

The number of solar panels you need depends on how much electricity your household uses. In Montana, the average monthly energy consumption is 872 kilowatt-hours (kWh). The more energy your household uses, the bigger your system needs to be.

It’s relatively easy to determine what size system you should have. First, find out the amount of electricity in kWh you used in the last year. You can find this information through your electric bill’s online account dashboard.

Then divide your annual kWh by 1,200 to find the system size you need. For example, the typical Montana household uses 10,464 kWh per year. Using this formula, the typical household would need a 9 kW system.

» WATT’S THE DIFFERENCE? kW vs. kWh

Solar equipment costs

Equipment prices vary due to the quality of the equipment and the company you buy from. Solar panels are typically priced around $2.54 per watt in Montana. Here are some average costs you can expect for panels and other equipment:

» COMPARE: Most efficient solar panels

Condition of your roof

Your roof plays a big part in your solar adventure, and it's important to factor in a few extra steps. Solar panels should last 25 to 30 years, so you need your roof to last just as long.

Getting your roof inspected is an extra factor, which does add a bit to your costs. And if it turns out your roof needs some repairs or a replacement, this will also add to your overall solar budget.

» SHOULD YOU: Replace your roof before going solar?

Permit costs

Most homeowners have to apply for an electrical permit, which costs $110. Your city or town might also have rules about permits needed to install a solar energy system. For example, city governments in Bozeman and Helena both charge different permit fees. In Helena, there is a discount on regular permitting fees if it’s for alternative energy.

If you're outside the city limits, you might not need a permit, but it's always best to check before you start your installation. On the bright side, many local solar companies take care of the permit process for you.

Other cost factors

Solar panels require minimal maintenance, but potential repair or replacement of components, periodic cleaning and system monitoring do add to the lifetime cost.

» GUIDE: Solar panel installation

Solar incentives, tax credits and rebates in Montana

The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) is the biggest factor in reducing the cost of going solar in Montana. If you install a residential solar panel system by the end of 2032, you will receive a federal income tax credit equal to 30% of the system's total cost, including equipment, labor and permits. The credit drops to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034.

The average federal solar investment tax credit value in Montana is $6,858 in 2023.

Montana also has two statewide solar incentives. Residents can get a property exemption for up to ten years if they go solar. Those who can’t pay cash for their system can also apply for a low-interest loan.

» EXPLORE: Montana solar incentives

Compare solar installation companies in Montana

Compare popular solar companies available in Montana below. Read our guide about finding the best solar companies for more.

Do you own or rent?

FAQ

Can I get free solar panels in Montana?

There are no programs for free solar panels in Montana at this time, but you can lease solar panels with little to no upfront costs. Solar leases generally require a flat monthly fee.

» FREE SOLAR PANELS: Are they really free?

How are solar costs trending in Montana?

The cost to go solar in Montana has fallen 42% over the last 10 years, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

How much can I save with solar panels?

When you pay cash, the average 25-year savings with solar is $15,189 in Montana.

» EXPLORE: Where your solar savings go the furthest

How does net metering work in Montana?

Net metering is when you sell surplus solar energy to your local electric company. In Montana, you get compensated for this energy through credits on your electric bill. The amount you can earn and the specific limitations differ among utility companies.

» COMPARE: Best solar monitoring systems

Bottom line

Going solar in Montana is more affordable than in nearby states. Along with the lower cost of solar panels, you can also take advantage of the federal solar investment tax credit, property tax exemption and low-interest loans to help you save thousands.

Solar costs: Montana vs. nearby states

*Before the federal investment tax credit (ITC); **When you pay in full upfront

Article 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. EcoWatch, “How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in Montana?” Accessed Dec. 12, 2023.
  2. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Homeowner’s Guide to the Federal Tax Credit for Solar Photovoltaics.” Accessed Dec. 12, 2023.
  3. Solar Energy Industries Association, “Montana Solar.” Accessed Dec. 12, 2023.
  4. DSIRE, “Montana Programs.” Accessed Dec. 12, 2023.
  5. Montana Department of Labor & Industry, “Residential – Permit Requirements for Alternate Energy.” Accessed Dec. 12, 2023.
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