Below you’ll find the top solar companies in Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin Solar Overview, keep reading:
With more than half of the state’s 237 megawatts of solar energy being installed by utility companies in 2017, residential solar adoption in Wisconsin still has a long way to go. Thankfully, the state is offering residents a number of incentive programs and pro-solar policies aimed at making solar power more affordable and accessible.
Read on to learn more about the ins and outs of going solar in Wisconsin.
Here's an at-a-glance description of the current benefits and drawbacks of switching to solar in Wisconsin:
Cost of solar power in Wisconsin can be thought of in two different ways. First is in relation to traditional electricity through what’s known as levelized cost. Levelized cost refers to the total upfront costs divided by the total energy output and is represented in cents per kilowatt-hour. The levelized cost of solar in Wisconsin is about 5 cents, which, when compared to the much steeper levelized cost of 34 cents per kWh for traditional utilities demonstrates the high savings potential residents have to gain by switching to solar.
The other way to look at solar prices is through the upfront value of a typical 5 kW system. In Wisconsin, that price comes out to around $17,500, which is considerably lower than the cost of a similar system in other states by at least 13 percent. Factoring in the 30 percent federal tax credit, that number shrinks even further down to the $12,000 – $13,000 range.
Residents of America’s Dairyland have only two options to finance a solar project: direct purchase or solar loan; they can neither lease a system nor sign up for a power purchase agreement. That said, direct purchase and solar loans carry a number of advantages, not least of which is the 30 percent federal tax credit that will significantly reduce the cost of the solar PV system.
Direct purchase of a solar power system is by far the fastest and most effective way to achieve high long-term returns on solar energy. Assuming a typical 5 kW system, residents would pay somewhere around $17,500 upfront, and have 26 percent of that cost refunded to them from the federal government after the first year. State-level solar rebates (more on these later) may also apply, and can result in thousands more dollars in savings.
Because electricity rates are higher in Wisconsin than in other states, residents who pay for their systems out of pocket can expect the savings to offset those costs after about 13 years of operation — or half the system’s lifespan. This leaves another 12 years for the system to turn a profit, and customers could expect to save upwards of $18,000 after 25 years of operation. Meanwhile, home values will increase by an average of $16,000 over that same span.
A solar loan or home-equity line of credit (HELOC) can be an effective way to enjoy all the benefits of solar without having to pay a substantial cost upfront. Most solar loans require no down payment, and considering solar borrowers are still entitled to the federal tax credit, the first year’s savings will be well over $4,000.
As loan payments tend to be more expensive than the monthly utility bill, savings will decrease with each year of the loan; in fact, by year 15, customers will actually be paying $5,000 in loan payments than they would have to the power company. Thankfully, once the loan is paid off, they’ll be able to recoup their losses each year for the next 10 years.
By year 25, customers will have netted an average of $11,000. Not a bad sum for no money down!
Solar incentives in a state are designed to alleviate the overall cost of solar in some way, either through a utility-funded rebate, tax breaks from the state, or community or low-income solar initiatives. In Wisconsin, residents will have access to the following incentives:
Wisconsin’s statewide Focus on Energy program gives solar users a rebate worth up to 12 percent of their total upfront costs, cap at $2,000 for urban and suburban solar installations, and $4,000 for residents with rural zip codes! This means a rural solar owner in Wisconsin could earn up to $8,000 in rebates and credits after just the first year!
Wisconsin offers two different tax exemptions for solar PV systems: sales tax and property tax. The sales tax exemption applies to the physical equipment (e.g. solar panels, solar inverters, rooftop mounting equipment, etc.) used to build the solar array, and can save customers hundreds of dollars in taxes.
The property tax exemption, meanwhile, pertains to the value increase of a home or property brought on by the installation of a solar panel system. Considering a typical solar energy system can increase property value by up to $16,000 after 25 years, this exemption can save hundreds of dollars each year.
Solar policy in Wisconsin is a mixed bag. On the one had, the state’s renewable portfolio standard of 10 percent renewable energy by 2015 is long met and outdated, and in desperate need of an update. Furthermore, the state does not require utility providers to carve out part of their energy portfolio to solar energy.
On the other hand, Wisconsin does have a fairly solid net metering policy in place. Net metering requires utility providers to credit solar users for their surplus solar energy, and in Wisconsin, this policy applies to most utility companies and investor-owned solar projects. That said, inconsistencies exist among providers as to solar system capacity restrictions and the rate of return for credited energy.
Residential solar systems in Wisconsin under 20 kW in capacity are not required to undergo additional reviews or environmental impact studies before they’re allowed to connect to the utility grid, neither are fees applied; however, almost all system in the state require additional insurance as well as an external disconnect switch in order to qualify to plug in.
With more than 7,000 solar installations sending clean energy to more than 37,000 homes, Wisconsin has reached the middle of the pack in terms of solar output and investment. The state hosts more than 140 solar companies, installers, and manufacturers employing a total of 2,800 people.
Interested in a solar quote? Check out the top-ranked solar companies in Wisconsin and read reviews from verified solar customers.