Choosing the Top Government Solar Panel Program: 4 Ways To Go Solar

January 16, 2024

Going solar is not the cheapest process. It can cost you thousands of dollars and months of your time. The overall expenses on solar panels may vary from $10,000 to $80,000, depending on the manufacturer. Thus, many people are thrilled to find free solar panels to save their hard-earned money.

We understand this desire to retain earnings. Unfortunately, there are no free solar panels in the market. You’ll pay for eco-friendly electricity one way or another. We highly encourage you not to fall into scammer’s traps that promise free solar panels without any payment.

There are no ways of getting solar panels for free, but there are many options to lower your bills. You can participate in a government solar program to reduce your taxes. You can lease those panels or even rent them from a farm temporarily. Check this article for the 4 most affordable ways to go solar.

What Are Free Solar Panels?

Top Government Solar Panel Program 4 Ways To Go Solar

A “free solar panel” is a marketing term that often misleads the potential customer. Thus, we encourage you not to cooperate with brands that promote free solar panels. It will be better to stick with installers that give you feasible ways to try eco-friendly power production, such as:

  • Traditional loan
  • Lease without first initial payment
  • Government programs
  • Power purchase agreement
  • Community solar subscription
  • Promotional offers from companies

4 Ways To Go Solar With Minimal Upfront Costs

Almost half of Americans intend to adopt solar energy, but more than a third express concerns about the initial expenses.

Top Government Solar Panel Program 4 Ways To Go Solar

Source: Forbes

As of early 2024, there are no programs where you can get free solar panels without any payment. However, there are 4 ways to protect your wallet from excessive spending.

  1. The first option for free solar power is the solar lease, where you must pay a predetermined sum throughout the contract period. There are no upfront costs or huge hidden payments.
  2. Another way is using power purchase agreements, where a solar company installs free solar panels on your roof and maintains and fixes them wherever needed. But you must pay predetermined monthly payments for 15-20 years. You, basically, rent those panels for decades.
  3. The third option fits those who have money to make the initial payment. With government solar programs, you still need to pay for solar installation, but federal or local authorities can give you a huge amount of money back.
  4. The last option will suit those who are not sure whether they need solar energy in their life. It’s the solar communities where you and your neighbors can rent part of the solar plant for a few years. It lowers your electricity bills while you remain untied by long-term contracts.

Read on for more details about each of those options.

Signing the Solar Lease

This agreement is similar to the car lease, where you can get a car without an initial payment and ride it for a few years until you decide to buy it. However, until the “moment X,” you don’t own the car since you still pay for it. A similar scheme applies to solar panels.

A solar lease is an agreement where a solar company installs and maintains a free solar panel system on your property, but you don’t own the panels. Instead, you lease them for a fixed monthly fee over a long-term period (usually 5-15 years).

Some marketers can call it getting free solar panels, but it’s a lease contract where you still need to pay monthly. It doesn’t have an initial payment, so some businesses say it’s “almost for free,” while you may end up paying the same over the years.

With a solar lease, you can enjoy solar energy benefits without paying the hefty upfront cost of purchasing and installing your system. Here’s how it works:

  1. You contact a solar leasing company. They’ll assess your roof suitability, energy needs, and budget to determine the best deal.
  2. The company installs the system. They’ll handle all the logistics, including permits, installation, and system monitoring.
  3. You start to generate and use solar energy. The panels convert sunlight into electricity.
  4. You pay a monthly lease payment for a predetermined period. The amount is typically fixed, predictable, and often lower than your previous electric bill.
  5. You choose whether to own the system at the end of the lease. Usually, you have several options. You can pay off the lease and own the panels, renew the lease to get a newer system, or ask the company to remove the panels.

This method has no upfront costs, making solar power accessible to more people. Solar panels lower your traditional electricity usage, potentially saving your electric bill. You’ll have predictable energy costs throughout the years.

Make sure to carefully review the contract before signing, as there could be fees for canceling early, possibly ranging from 7-10% of the initial agreement or even up to $10,000.

Transferring a lease to a new owner will be challenging if you decide to sell your house. If they don’t want to pay this lease, you might have to pay to move the panels to your new home or even be forced to cancel the lease and pay the cancellation charge.

You also won’t have access to excess energy, as most leasing companies get the credit for it. If you are looking for a government program for free solar panels, the solar lease doesn’t suit you, as you don’t own the panels. Thus, you can’t ask for government stimuli.

Using the Power Purchase Agreements

Under this concept, the developer installs and maintains solar panels on your property, and you “rent” the energy they generate at a fixed rate. Typically, it’s cheaper than traditional utilities. So, many people refer to PPA as a free solar installation.

This method has zero upfront costs since you don’t need to pay that much for equipment or installation. You’ll also get predictable monthly bills while technicians care for the system.

However, no system is perfect — PPA is a long-term commitment, too. While you can stop the lease anytime with some additional fees, it’s far more complicated to stop the collaboration with a PPA provider. Canceling later may result in higher charges, and you might miss out on the chance to own, essentially remaining a perpetual renter.

Exploring Government Programs

These programs can be a game-changer in making solar panels more affordable. You can find a US government solar program that suits your lifestyle and significantly reduces the upfront cost and ongoing expenses of installing a new system.

Discover the top 9 states providing generous tax incentives for solar energy adoption, making it more beneficial and accessible for residents.

Top Government Solar Panel Program 4 Ways To Go Solar

Source: EcoWatch

The most popular government solar programs to get free solar panels are:

Tax creditsWith a federal solar tax credit, you can deduct up to 30% of the solar panel cost from your federal income taxes. It can result in thousands of dollars of potential savings. Think of it as a voucher to pay off your tax bill; however, you still need to pay for the system. You will get this “voucher” a few months later.
Tax exemptionsThey are another government stimulus to reduce solar panel costs. Exemptions minimize the amount of income you are taxed on — it’s like filtering your income before applying the tax rate. They don’t directly impact tax liability, while reducing your taxable income with credits may indirectly lower your tax liability.
RebatesMany states and local governments offer rebates on the purchase and installation of solar panels. They can reduce the upfront cost of going solar; thus, people call it free solar panels from the government. In California, the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) offers a partial return on the purchase and installation of solar panels. The amount of solar power rebates depends on the system size and your location.
Net meteringThis government solar panel program allows you to sell excess energy to the grid at the retail electricity rate.

Net metering can cut down your electricity costs if you maintain a connection to the grid at night. Alternatively, with batteries storing excess energy, you can sell surplus electricity to your local community, potentially eliminating power bills.

Single-family affordable solar housing programIt offers $3 per watt of solar power installed on single-family houses with families who make less than 80% of the median income in their area. It’s a program for customers of Pacific Gas Electric, Southern California Edison, or San Diego Gas Electric.
Additional programsSome states and municipalities offer additional government solar programs, such as low-interest loans or property tax exemptions, to make solar panels more affordable. For example, Minnesota exempts the state’s 7% sales tax for solar-related equipment purchases. At the same time, Michigan provides affordable solar loans with rates lower than the market to assist homeowners in financing their solar projects.

We recommend you have a conversation on free solar panels with a local solar installer team. They can help you understand the peculiarities of each suitable government solar panel program. Obtain quotes from multiple installers to compare prices and identify the most favorable deal. Make sure to apply for all eligible government programs to maximize the benefits of the situation.

Join Community Solar Opportunities

Top Government Solar Panel Program 4 Ways To Go Solar

Subscribing to a community solar farm is an alternative way to access free solar panel solutions without installing panels on your roof. Imagine a large solar farm owned and operated by a company that generates electricity. You and your neighbors can “subscribe” to a part of this farm, buying rights to a portion of the energy it produces for a chosen period.

You don’t physically own any panels, but you see how solar energy lowers your electricity bills. Think of it like renting access to a solar power source without investing in panel installation. That’s why many renters call community farms a free solar panel opportunity.

Whether it’s worth it depends on your circumstances. It’s an environmentally friendly, hassle-free method to save money. However, the savings might not be as significant as owning your panels, as you share the station with others. It’s also a long-term commitment. Most subscriptions often have contract terms of at least 2-3 years.

Free Solar Panels: Exploring Budget-Friendly Solar Panel Financing Solutions

Transitioning to eco-friendly energy provides substantial long-term benefits, but navigating the various financing options can be challenging. You should understand the nuances of each solar financing option to make an informed decision.

  1. With an upfront purchase, you’ll get complete system ownership. Feel free to update the system as you see fit and receive various government incentives. But there are substantial initial expenses, and you’ll be the only one responsible for ongoing maintenance.
  2. With a solar loan, you’ll get full system ownership once you make the last payment. You still own the system and are eligible for government incentives. Meanwhile, loan payments include interest charges, increasing the total cost compared to an upfront purchase.
  3. Solar leases have zero upfront costs and predictable monthly payments. Once the lease is over, you can redeem the current panel. But until you pay the full price for panels, you don’t own them and can’t sign for most government incentives. Leases lock you into fixed payments over 15-25 years.
  4. Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is another way to get free solar panels, eliminating the initial financial barrier. Predictable energy costs offer budget certainty and protection from volatile utility prices. However, you still miss the ownership benefits, government incentives, and flexibility.
  5. Community solar is an option for a group of people who are interested in eco-friendly electricity production, eliminating upfront costs or rooftop requirements. You and your neighbors simply rent part of a solar farm. Beware that savings may not be as significant as with previous methods.

Uncover your perfect solar choice by defining budget limits and assessing energy needs. Calculate system parameters and explore financing options for cost savings. Transition seamlessly to professional advice — consult solar installers for personalized, cost-effective solar power solutions.

Jed Hilton
Jed Hilton

Jed Hilton, our Founder and CEO, has over a decade of experience in the solar industry. His innovative leadership and expertise in solar technologies guide our company's vision and strategy.

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