Solar Electric for Homes

Your home resource for clean energy

Solar Electric

What could be more natural than using the sun to generate clean, renewable energy for your home? Throughout Oregon, there’s plenty of sun to make installing solar panels an attractive route to energy independence and sustainability. With cash incentives and state and federal energy tax credits, you can offset up to 80 percent of your initial investment—making solar much more affordable than you may think. View this simple diagram, use our interactive solar calculator to explore how much a solar electric system might cost or check out a few Oregon home solar installations.

How can we help? For more information, questions or comments, call us at 1.866.368.7878 or email our solar team.

Note: Energy Trust provides technical assistance and financial incentives but does not develop, sell or install energy systems or equipment. This work is done by independent businesses that are solely responsible for the quality and performance of their installations.

How do solar incentives work? Energy Trust provides funding to reduce the upfront cost of installing a qualified home solar electric system. The amount of the cash incentive depends on a) the size of the solar electric system you install, and b) your electric utility.

To make it easy for you, the cash incentive for purchasing a system is applied upfront—like a coupon—reducing the amount you pay to your contractor. Once your project is complete, we verify that it was properly installed and then reimburse your contractor for the amount of the cash incentive.

Energy Trust Incentives

Homeowner purchased systems 

I'm a customer of: Incentive/wattDC    Maximum incentive   
Pacific Power $0.75/wattDC $7,500 per home
Portland General Electric     $1.00/wattDC $10,000 per home

Incentive offer is subject to availability of funding and may change.

Leased or power purchase systems

If you choose to lease your solar electric system or purchase just the electricity (not the equipment) through a power purchase arrangement with a solar service provider, the incentives for the system will go to the solar service provider. You receive the benefit of the incentive indirectly through a more affordable lease or power purchase price. Depending on the arrangement with your solar service provider, you may still be eligible to claim certain tax credits.

Third-party solar service providers: please read and follow the provided information to determine whether your offer meets Energy Trust requirements and is eligible to receive cash incentives. Note that the incentives for third-party owned systems may be different than those for customer-owned systems.

How do I determine how much cash I will receive?

The amount of your cash incentive depends on the size, in watts, of the solar electric system you install. Solar electric systems can be designed in any size—from tiny systems that power a few lights to big systems that could power a neighborhood. Home solar electric systems usually range between 3,000 and 6,000 watts in size. A 4,000 watt system will receive a $4,000 incentive from Energy Trust if the home is served by Portland General Electric or $3,000 if the home is served by Pacific Power.

Use our interactive solar calculator to explore how much a solar electric system might cost.

What’s a watt?

The size of a solar electric system is often described in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). One kW is equal to 1,000 watts. Watts are a unit of power, just like the horsepower of an engine.

Solar electric modules are sold with a power rating measured in direct current (DC) watts, often seen as wattsDC. This rating represents the DC power produced by a module under ideal solar conditions. An inverter converts DC electricity from the solar panels to alternating current (AC) electricity that can be used by the appliances and lights in your home.

What’s a kilowatt hour?

When sunlight strikes solar electric panels, they produce electricity that is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh), which are the units of energy you buy from your utility. A good rule of thumb is that 1,000 wattsDC of solar electric panels require approximately 100 square feet of space, and will typically produce 1,000–1,300 kWhs of electricity each year in Oregon.

What are Renewable Energy Certificates?

Renewable Energy Certificates, RECs, are tradable financial instruments that represent the environmental attributes of electricity generated from renewable resources.

When Energy Trust provides funding for a renewable energy project, it takes title to a share of the project’s RECs proportional to its share of the above-market costs and in relation to the market value for those RECs.

For example, if a project has $1 million in above-market costs, and Energy Trust provides $500,000 in incentives, Energy Trust may take one-half of the RECs generated in each year of the project’s estimated operating life. If Energy Trust offers less funding than the RECs are worth in credible REC markets, Energy Trust will reduce its share of RECs on a negotiated basis. Energy Trust holds the RECs in trust for the ratepayers who contribute the funds we invest in renewable projects.

Tax Credits

In addition to our cash incentives, your project may be eligible for a state energy tax credit from Oregon Department of Energy and a federal energy tax credit from the federal government. Tax credits, sometimes called tax incentives, reduce the amount of tax you owe dollar for dollar.

Oregon Residential Energy Tax Credit: An Oregon tax credit may be available. View availability and requirements. Ask your tax professional for complete details.

Federal energy tax credit: A federal tax credit may be available. View availability and requirements. Ask your tax professional for complete details.

State and federal tax credits are subject to change.

Oregon’s solar incentive option (feed-in tariff)

The Oregon legislature passed a law in 2009 establishing a new solar incentive option (feed-in tariff). Oregon customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power and Idaho Power can apply to be part of the program as capacity is available; however, a solar electric system installed through the feed-in tariff does not qualify for an Energy Trust incentive. A feed-in tariff is an incentive program in which the electric utility pays the owner of a solar electric system a fixed premium rate for every renewable kilowatt-hour generated over a period of time. Those payments allow the owner to recoup their investment over time. This model has been used successfully in Germany.

Portland General Electric Solar Payment Option
Pacific Power Oregon Solar Incentive Program
FAQ

You must be an Oregon customer of Portland General Electric or Pacific Power to qualify for Energy Trust’s solar electric incentives. Systems must be installed by a qualified Energy Trust solar trade ally contractor. Self-installed and feed-in tariff systems do not qualify.

If you are not an Oregon customer of Portland General Electric or Pacific Power, please visit www.solaroregon.org/otherincentives to learn if your utility provides incentives for solar installations.

Incentives are not intended to influence consumer decisions on fuel sources.

Follow these steps to install a home solar electric system and get your cash incentives and tax credits:

1. Establish your eligibility. Contact an Energy Trust or Solar trade ally.

2. Get bids from several Energy Trust solar trade ally contractors. Your contractor must be listed with Energy Trust if applying for cash incentives or GreenStreet Lending financing.

3. Select a contractor. Need help comparing bids? Read the How to choose a solar contractor fact sheet.

4. Sign a contract with your installer. Your contractor will complete and submit your Energy Trust incentive application form on your behalf. Your Energy Trust cash incentive is applied to the cost of your solar installation upfront—like a coupon—reducing the amount you pay your contractor.

5. Sign a net-metering agreement with your electric utility. Your contractor will provide the form.

6. Your contractor installs your system. Typically, it takes anywhere from two weeks to two months from the time you select your contractor to the completion of your installation.

7. Complete and submit the application for your Oregon Residential Energy Tax Credit. Your contractor will provide the form and assist you.

8. Claim your federal energy tax credit when you file your taxes. Complete the IRS Residential Energy Credit Form and submit it with your federal tax return.

9. Enjoy your clean, free, renewable energy for years to come!

Questions? Call us at 1.866.368.7878 or email our solar team.

Your contractor will work with you to complete the proper form for your Energy Trust cash incentive. They will also provide assistance with completing your utility net-metering agreement and state energy tax credit application.

Have questions? Call us at 1.866.368.7878 or email our solar team.

Energy Trust offers helpful resources for installing a solar electric system at your home. Here are great places to begin gathering information about going solar:

Other Resources

Oregon’s solar incentive option (feed-in tariff)

Third-party purchased and owned residential systems

Fact sheets

Consumer guides to solar electric systems

Tax credits

Tools and other resources