Below you’ll find the top solar companies in Illinois as ranked by us and reviewed by verified solar customers. To learn more about what goes into our “Best Rank” score for each company, visit our How We Rank page. For our full Illinois Solar Overview, keep reading:
Although Illinois is well below the national average in terms of sunshine, the state’s favorable solar policies and myriad solar incentives offset whatever disadvantages foul weather can throw at someone who is interested in making the switch to clean energy. And as the price of solar everywhere continues to drop, solar power adoption in Illinois might be on the rise.
Read on to learn more about the ins and outs of going solar in Illinois.
Here's an at-a-glance description of the current benefits and drawbacks of switching to solar in Illinois:
The levelized cost of solar — meaning the cost of the solar PV system divided by its total expected kilowatt output over the course of 25 years — in Illinois comes out to about 7 cents per kWh, which is higher than some states, but still much lower than the 28 cents per kWh Illinois residents could expect to pay in utility costs over 25 years.
As far as the cost of the solar panels themselves, the average hardware cost in Illinois ranges between $9,000 and $12,000, with labor contributing up to an additional $3,000. The 30 percent federal solar tax credit will reduce that figure significantly after the first year; so, although the upfront cost of solar in Illinois is significant, it’s still not quite as high as it is in other, less solar-friendly states.
Residents in the Land of Lincoln have a full slate of financing options available to them. In addition to cash purchase, customers can also finance their system through a solar loan, rent the system through a solar lease, or pay for the electricity using a power purchase agreement (PPA).
Of the four available financing options, cash purchase is the fastest way for solar customers to experience the money and energy savings of solar energy. Assuming a 7.5 kW system, customers should expect to pay approximately $15,000 upfront. Thanks to the federal tax credit and state solar rebates, solar energy system owners could see returns in as little as eight years, meaning over the course of 25 years, they could see as much as $31,000 in total energy savings.
Financing a solar panel system through a loan or home-equity line of credit (HELOC) is an effective path towards solar ownership without fronting a substantial payout, and in some cases may even provide a more profitable return than outright purchase. Assuming a zero-money down loan for $15,000 with a 5 percent APR and 15-year loan term, plus the federal solar tax credit and other rebates applied after year one, solar customers could come out ahead by upwards of $4,000. And the savings will only grow from there, accruing to more than $25,000 in savings over 25 years.
Leasing solar is another viable option for customers who lack the thousand of dollars needed to purchase their system, but would still like to invest in solar power. This is because the monthly lease cost will likely rise by less than the monthly utility costs over the course of 20 years.
Although you’ll obtain a lower savings potential with a PPA than with either the purchase or loan options, it still represents a low-cost, low-obligation option to go solar. Similar to a solar lease, most PPAs have rate hike protection built into the contracts, or will otherwise increase the monthly rate at a slower pace than what the utility company will charge for electricity. Either way, you’re saving money. For a 7.5 kW system, PPA users could see upwards of $7,000 in total savings over 25 years.
In addition to the Federal Solar Tax Investment Credit, Illinois offers few incentives to help alleviate the solar installation cost in the state. As of 2020, Illinois no longer offers its solar power rebate program, which provided customers with one of the following solar renewable energy credits (SREC), depending on what was valued the least: $10,000, 25 percent of solar project costs, or $1,500 per kW back on system production.
Illinois does have a property tax exemption of sorts for solar systems, which values the system at no greater than a traditional energy system; so it’s more a property tax reduction than a full-blown exemption.
Illinois’ solar policies, meanwhile, have more to offer residents. Along with a mid-grade renewable portfolio standard and solar carve out, the state also provides statewide net metering, and straightforward interconnection rules:
Illinois’ renewable portfolio standard (RPS) has committed utility providers to at least 25 percent renewable energy output for the entire state by 2025; failure to do so will bring stiff penalties, so power companies in Illinois certainly have an incentive to make room for solar power, wind power, and other forms of alternative energy. As part of that RPS, the state has mandated that at least 6 percent of the 25 should be dedicated to solar energy in what’s known as a solar carve-out.
That said, this goal is not quite as ambitious as other states with loftier goals of 75 percent or more, but at least Illinois is on the right track toward promoting solar power in the state.
Illinois has implemented a statewide net metering policy, which requires utility companies to credit solar owners for any surplus energy their solar PV system produces each month.
A state’s interconnection rules sets standards that solar panel owners must meet before they can be plugged into the utility grid. Utility providers will at times try to complicate these rules and thus disincentivize their customers from switching to solar; but thankfully, these Illinois’ standards are simple and straightforward: no additional liability insurance is required, and as long as the equipment has met industry standards, customers can plug in as soon as the system is installed.
Illinois ranks in the 40th percentile for solar output and investment among all reporting states. Solar power accounts for about 0.21 percent of all energy output, well below the 1.5 percent the state’s RPS requires. To date, more than 300 megawatts of solar energy (enough to power 45,000 homes) have been installed in Illinois. The state hosts about 300 solar companies employing 5,500 people.
Interested in a solar quote? Check out the top-ranked solar companies in Illinois and read reviews from verified solar customers.