The 2019 Guide to Solar Panel Costs and Savings in California

With California’s high electricity costs, low solar panel prices and new construction mandates, 2019 is the best year yet as a Californian to install solar panels on your home.

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In 2018, California produced 19.02 percent of its energy from solar power — enough to power 6,368,607 homes. In total, the state produced 24,463.96 megawatts of solar energy, the largest in the U.S., and the solar industry employed 76,838 people.

By 2020, the Golden State hopes to produce 12 gigawatts of electricity with clean fuel sources like wind, solar, and hydrogen fuel cells. To give you an idea of the magnitude of that goal, one gigawatt of solar electricity can power 700,000 homes. From a solar power perspective, we trust the energy goal is attainable. This achievement is thanks to a 47 percent drop in solar panel costs since 2014, more than $60.07 billion in renewable energy investments, solar mandates backed by state legislature, and more than 2,700 solar companies that operate in California.

Average California Electric Bill: $91.26/mo

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You can find this on your latest electric bill.
You can find this on your latest electric bill.
How to Calculate Your Peak Sun-Hours.
How to Size a Solar PV System for Your Home.

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Daily Savings:

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Average California
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$91.26/mo See what you can save with solar

California Solar Panel Cost

The cost of solar panels in California ranges from $3.03 per watt to $3.75 per watt. If you follow the national average and install a 6kW solar system, your costs would range between $15,840 and $20,520 before local or federal tax rebates, according to information gathered by Energy Sage. In comparison, in 2011 the average cost to install a 4kW solar system in California was $34,000.

Now that photovoltaic cells are cheaper to manufacture and install, it’s even more affordable for homeowners to purchase solar panels. Given the average monthly electric bill in California is $91.26, breaking down to 16 cents per kilowatt of energy and 562 kWh of energy use per month, California homeowners can save most — if not all — of their electric bill by switching to solar energy.

How Californians Can Save With Solar Incentives and Rebates

Good news! Californians who install solar panels have 260 money-saving incentives and policies. Here’s what to look for to save even more on your energy bills:

Federal Tax Credit

As of August 2016, Californians (and every homeowner in the country) who own solar panels can get 30 percent back in federal tax credits. While this only applies to those who own solar panels (no lease, financing or PPAs), it’s a big incentive that can put thousands of dollars back in your pocket. The current federal tax incentive will expire in 2021.

Local Utility Incentives

Individual utility companies typically offer solar energy incentives. We recommend performing a web search for “California solar tax incentives” or “California solar panel rebates” and include your zip code in the search to see if you can save even more on solar costs.

Excess Energy Rebates

If your solar panels produce excess energy throughout the billing cycle, utility companies will owe you money. This process is called net metering. Essentially, the utility company’s electric meter will run backward. You’ll be eligible for this incentive if you own your solar panels or if your lease or loan allows for net metering.

Top Solar Companies in California

The 2,700+ solar companies in California include installers, manufacturers, dealers, and more. Of those, here are the best solar companies that offer money-saving solar PPAs, leases, financing, and purchasing options.

Sunrun sets itself apart with 20 percent energy savings, solar PPAs, and stellar reviews with the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List.

This company is headquartered in San Francisco, California, and currently serves more than 100,000 customers. Homeowners who want flexible payment options, reliable solar panels, large energy savings, and quality monitoring should choose SunRun.

Sungevity is a reborn company after acquiring and combining solar installers Horizon and Solar Spectrum.

The combination creates a great experience for customers by fusing each company’s stellar reputation for customer service while offering great products and installations without cumbersome upfront costs. Plus, the combination makes Sungenvity the fourth-largest solar power installer in the nation.

SunPower leads the industry with innovation.

For more than 30 years, SunPower has filed 600 patents for solar technology and propelled the first solar-powered plane, Solar Impulse 2, on a worldwide journey. On top of that, SunPower’s high-tech solar cells produce 60 percent more energy than conventional panels over 25 years, so customers can get more energy for less.

Vivint is a one-stop-shop for energy savings, security, and convenience.

The company started as a home automation and home security company in Utah. Then expanded, giving customers the opportunity to save 10-30 percent on their utility bills. You may choose from solar PPAs, leases, financing, and buy-out packages that come with flexible payment options. Plus, Vivint has home security systems and home automation devices to fortify and upgrade your home.

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Solar Legislation in California

California lawmakers are committed to creating more sustainable energy, and aim to generate 12 gigawatts of electricity from wind, solar, and fuel cells by 2020. Although that seems like a small number, 12 gigawatts of electricity can power millions of homes with clean energy. To achieve this goal, state officials have shifted their focus to solar energy and making it more attainable for homeowners.

In 2014, California lawmakers passed a bill that excludes solar equipment from being added onto property value (until 2025). This keeps property tax on homes lower, so more people can afford solar panels. While it’s unclear if California homeowners will eventually incur property tax on solar panels, there are savings to be reaped in the meantime.

Additionally, in 2018, the California legislature passed a law that requires solar panels to be installed on any future houses. The new law goes into effect in 2020 and exempts homes that are often shaded. It also provides a financial incentive for people to add a high-capacity battery to their home’s electrical system, which further helps store the sun’s energy and reduces reliance on the city electrical grid.

California Solar Facts

California aims to produce 12 gigawatts of electricity from solar panels, wind, and fuel cells by 2020.

More than 76,800 people are employed at more than 2,700 solar companies in California.

In 2018, California has installed 24,463.96 megawatts — the most in the country.

Since one megawatt can power 1,000 homes, California’s current solar equipment can power nearly 6.36 million homes.

California has invested $60.07 billion in solar energy development and installation.


Learn about solar power legislation, solar tax credits, and more with the help of these resources:

California Public Utilities Commission

This organization regulates privately owned gas and electric companies in California. You can read up on news, file complaints, look up utility pricing, and more on the CPUC website.

California State Legislature

Contact local representatives, learn about laws that impact solar energy, and see if any bills are pending that could impact your solar savings.

U.S. Energy Information Administration

Explore energy trends in America, how solar and renewable resources can power the nation more efficiently, and more on this government site.

California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission’s goal is to reduce energy costs and promote environmentally safe energy solutions. Read up on news and projects that could affect your energy bill and community.

California Solar Initiative

See if you qualify for energy rebates that can save you even more on your solar panels.

DSIRE Incentives Database

Learn about California solar power incentives that benefit specific zip codes.