As the fourth-largest state in the country, Montana has an abundance of open space and sunshine, making it an ideal location for harnessing solar energy. Over the past few years, the use of solar panels in Montana has been on the rise, driven in part by the state’s favorable net metering policies and federal tax incentives.
In this article, we’ll explore the costs and savings associated with installing solar in the Treasure State, as well as the rebates and incentives available to homeowners and businesses looking to go solar. Keep reading to learn how to save on an installation.
Average Cost of Solar Panels in Montana
Montana has some of the lowest prices for solar panels in the country. At a rate of $2.42 per watt, homeowners in the Treasure State can expect to pay around $14,520 for a 6kW system. This makes Montana the 7th most affordable state for photovoltaics.
However, we really understand that value when we compare it to the average cost of electricity. Despite freezing temperatures, Montanans use only 858kWh of power a month. When coupled with the state’s affordably priced utilities, homeowners in Big Sky Country tend to spend a little more than $100 a month. Well below the national average rate for power, residents don’t have a whole lot of motivation to purchase solar panels in Montana.
That being said, those that are interested in making the switch can save a decent amount on installation costs when applying for the federal solar tax credit. This program returns 30% of all solar purchases in the form of an income tax credit. Those taking advantage of this incentive could see the price of a 6kW system drop from $14,520 to $10,164.
How Much Solar Do Montanans Need?
While the number above represents the cost of an average size solar panel system, it might not reflect the amount of power your household needs. To find the appropriate wattage for your new array, you’ll have to take your standard electricity usage and divide it by the number of peak sun hours you get in your nearest town. Let’s show what this looks like using Montana’s averages.
Residents in Big Sky Country use about 28.6kWh of power a day (858kWh a month). When we divide that by the average peak sun hours in Montana, about 4.93, we learn that a solar panel system in this state needs to produce around 5.8kW an hour. Homeowners could expect to spend $14,036 an initial saving of about $500.
Now that you know how to find the right amount of wattage for solar panels in Montana, you can build a budget that fits your needs. Because direct sunlight varies depending on location, you can use this Montana sun chart to find the average for your nearest town.
Montana Solar Cost Factors
We touched on it above, but sunlight and location can have a noticeable influence on the price of solar. In Montana, where some cities can experience major snowfall, the amount of peak sun can vary greatly. For example, Missoula might only receive 4.3 hours of direct sunlight, almost 45 minutes less a day than in other locations. To learn more about how this aspect drives solar costs, compare Montana to the states that neighbor it.
Alongside the snow factor, homeowners should seriously consider the type of solar panels they use in their array. While purchasing polycrystalline equipment could help save money for those with decent sunlight, it might prove more cost-efficient to go with monocrystalline panels in snowy cities. Mono equipment has better manufacturing and energy efficiency and will last longer in rough conditions than its alternative.
As far as ensuring the longevity of your system, the installation company you go with can influence the value of solar. While some installers undercut the competition with low prices, they may skimp on equipment quality, labor, or warranties. With over 20 installers in the Treasure State, homeowners have a few options to choose from before defaulting to a national company.
Best Solar Installers in Montana
When recommending installation companies for solar panels in Montana, we try to use EnergySage’s pre-screening checklist. Because the company has endorsements from reputable associations, they tend to help separate good installers from great ones. Characteristics that we look for in an installer include:
- Years of experience installing solar panels
- High-quality equipment
- Technician transparency
- Warranty coverage
- Certifications and licenses
These companies below meet our standards. Let’s take a closer look.
One of our favorite solar installers in Montana is OnSite Energy. With its headquarters in Bozeman, this local installation company has 11 years of experience in the solar industry. OnSite Energy is slightly more expensive, but their equipment, labor, and 25-year warranties speak for themselves. The installer is also certified B-Corp, meaning they give back to conservation efforts. Very fitting for the Treasure State.
Of course, if you’re looking to save a little money without sacrificing quality, Big Sky Solar is a great alternative. The Missoula-based installer has 20 years of experience, nearly twice that of OnSite Energy. They use high-quality equipment such as Panasonic, LG, and Tesla, and have a similar workmanship warranty. You can trust Big Sky Solar to take care of your solar panel array without breaking the bank.
Can Solar Energy Save Montanans Money?
Now that you understand the price of solar panels in Montana and the factors that affect it, you might want to know if there’s money to save on utilities. With a well-maintained system, homeowners in the Treasure State can see thousands of dollars in return on electricity offset. Let’s take a look at what those returns could look like.
First, we need to know how long it would take to pay off a solar array. With residents of Montana typically spending $1,219.08 a year on power, this amount could cover the total cost of a 6kW solar panel system in 11.9 years. This is a couple of years longer than average but still results in a decent payout over time.
When properly taken care of, solar panels in Montana could last 20 to 25 years. After paying off the array, homeowners get to see that offset come back as net returns of as much as $9,875 to $15,969. So not only will your solar panel system help reduce your carbon footprint, it could save you thousands of dollars over time. And there’s even more to earn back with federal and state incentives.
Solar Panels in Montana: Rebates, Credits, and Incentives
Despite wild winter conditions, the Big Sky Country has surprising support for solar panels. These come in the form of federal credits, financial incentives, and government regulations.
Starting with the federal solar tax return, residents of Montana could save 30% on installation costs. Those purchasing a 6kW array in the Treasure State could cut the price by nearly $4,500. And with incentives ranging from state credits and rebates, net metering, and tax exemptions, Montanans could see that price drop even more. For a detailed breakdown of all the available solar programs in Montana, check out this list.
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