Florida may be called the Sunshine State, but Georgia sits right above and receives as much sun as many parts of its neighbor. This makes Georgia perfect for powering one’s home with solar energy. Elon Musk’s company, Tesla, is one of many companies that offer solar panels and solar roofs to Georgia residents to help save money on bills.
Saving on your electric bill and helping the environment are the main reasons to go solar. There are tax incentives and solar buy-back programs aimed at Georgia residents as well. You will need to consider factors such as the size of the system that works best and whether you can afford initial costs.
Tesla does offer its solar panel services to Georgia residents, although their rental options are not yet available in the state. Georgia, however, is one of only a few states that does not offer tax incentives that can be maximized with the tax deductions given by the federal government. Read on to see if Tesla’s solar program will work for you in Georgia.
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How Tesla’s Solar Panels Help Save You Money
Tesla’s solar panels “collect” the solar energy from the sun during the day and stores it in its Powerwall battery device during off-peak hours when energy is less expensive. This energy is stored and used later by your household during peak hours when the demand for energy is higher and more expensive. This is how you save money on bills.
This time-based control system is not unique to Tesla, as other solar batteries do the same process of storing energy during off-peak hours and then releasing it when energy costs are high. However, Tesla has maintained that their solar panels are less expensive than their competitors so that customers can save even more money.
The question is whether or not these savings are lucrative for Georgia residents when you are purchasing the solar options Tesla provides:
- The solar panel system
- The Powerwall
- Other expenses like installation and maintenance
Purchasing Tesla solar panels depends on the budget you are willing to spend, how you will pay for it, and your family’s energy use.
You can review your home’s energy consumption on your electric bill to see if you can save money by going solar. You should also review the federal tax breaks and additional options to saving money as a Georgia resident. Some individuals have even wondered if solar power is legal in the area of Georgia in which they live.
Are Solar Panels Worth the Cost in Georgia?
Solar power is legal in Georgia, and the state is even offering incentives for families to switch to this type of clean energy. The question should be – is the cost of solar panels or an entire solar roof worth the savings in Georgia? Georgia’s electricity costs are less than the United States’ average, so you should calculate savings versus solar cost.
Tesla’s solar panels are placed on top of an existing roof and convert the sun’s rays into solar energy. You should first review your electric bill to see if the savings you will receive through solar energy is worth the cost of the panels. Then, you can decide if the investment in solar panels is worth what you are currently paying to power your home.
Now, in June 2020, Tesla did announce it would be offering the lowest cost for solar panels in the United States, one-third less expensive than the industry average. Tesla’s cost for solar panels (before incentives) depends on the size of the system. They currently offer four different sizes, which have a base-line cost for the system:
- $8,200 for a 4 kW system size = $2.04 per watt
- $16,400 for an 8 kW system size = $2.01 per watt
- $24,600 for a 12 kW system size = $2.01 per watt
- $32,800 for a 16 kW system size = $2.01 per watt
The above prices and where they equate to costs per watt is impressive compared to other solar companies out there today. And Tesla also offers a lowest-price guarantee, which means it will review a quote from another company within fourteen days of your order and, if it represents the same financing option, Tesla will match the lower price.
How to Save Money Upfront
Tesla does guarantee the lowest price for solar panels, but the cost of going solar is not just the panels themselves, as you also need to figure in the Powerwall device, installation costs, and any maintenance issues involved with solar. There are ways, however, to avoid paying for all of these needed items upfront without tax incentives.
So, how can a homeowner save money on purchasing solar panels upfront? There are currently three ways you can enter into an agreement with Tesla to purchase their solar panels without having to have the huge chunk of change upfront:
- Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)
- Solar loans
Another option that other companies in Georgia promote is a leasing program. This is when you can lease the solar panels by paying a low monthly fee. Tesla does offer leasing options at only $50.00 a month; however, this leasing opportunity is only offered in a few states, and Georgia currently is not one of them.
Other companies may offer cost-saving leasing options, but the Power Purchase Agreements and outside solar loans can be used immediately to help you avoid a huge down-payment on your solar panels while enjoying the benefits of saving money on your electric bill.
Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)
Power Purchase Agreements are now legal in Georgia and are similar to leasing solar panels. However, Tesla currently only allows their specific leasing options in a few states, and Georgia is not one of them. The PPA is a form filled out for Georgia residents to help you move to solar energy with little or no upfront cost.
Through the PPA, you are paying for the power produced, so you basically offer up the roof, they offer up the solar panels, and then your power is provided at a guaranteed price. Paying one guaranteed price also helps you not have to worry about extra fees, including:
- The ancillary costs of the installation
- Any equipment upgrades
- Maintenance needed throughout the duration
In addition, many PPAs give customers the option to buy the entire solar system at the end of the contract. This type of ownership can add substantial value to your home since you are no longer in a contract but, instead, actually own the solar panels and system. However, like all contracts, you should read the fine print before signing a PPA.
You should review what is called a “PPA price escalator” to make sure it is not unreasonable over time. This is where the price of the PPA rises gradually throughout the contract schedule. If it escalates unreasonably, the cost of your solar bill may end up being more than the normal utility rates you were paying beforehand.
Solar Loans versus Solar Leases
Tesla offers rental options for their solar panels, but this option is currently not available to Georgia residents. This could change in the near future, but if you are looking to purchase your solar panels right away, you may want to instead look into a solar loan. That way, you will own the panels outright and then pay a monthly fee to the loaner.
The best type of solar loan is probably through the equity you have in your home. This can be through a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit. That way, you can fund the loan for a longer period – 15 or more years – to help keep the monthly payment low. Your loan also may have additional tax write-offs available.
If you have the desire to own your solar panels outright but do not have the thousands of dollars available to put down initially, a solar loan probably makes the most financial sense. That way, you do not have to deplete your savings to get the benefits of Tesla solar panels while having additional tax savings on certain home loans during that year.
It is important to note that your solar loan may only cover the initial costs of your solar panels and installation. Unless you have a home equity line of credit, the maintenance and cleaning may not be covered. You will probably save on low-interest rates from the loan.
Are There Solar Tax Credits in Georgia?
Unfortunately, Georgia does not offer tax credits for homeowners switching over to solar. The Georgia state legislature had passed a very lucrative tax credit for solar power in 2015, but that tax credit ended up dying in the legislature. The politicians then passed an act called the Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015.
The act opened Georgia to power-purchase agreements and solar leasing, but Tesla does not currently offer its leasing opportunities to Georgia residents. The only tax credits available are through the federal government. This tax credit allows homeowners to claim 26 percent of the cost of a solar system as a tax deduction on income taxes.
If you calculate the federal tax incentive you will receive as a deduction (and possibly money back on your taxes depending on what you owe), this 26 percent discount on your Tesla solar purchase would bring the costs of the system down to the following prices depending on which size system you need to power your entire home:
- $6,068 for a 4 kW system size
- $12,136 for an 8 kW system size
- $18,204 for a 12 kW system size
- $24,272 for a much larger 16 kW system size
You will need to apply for the tax credit after you purchase your solar panels by filling out Form 5695 for the year they were purchased when you are filing your yearly taxes. You will note the solar costs on this form for the 26 percent deduction. Then, you will receive the deduction back from the federal government (or help offset any taxes you owe).
Net Metering in Georgia
Net metering is a common term you have probably seen when researching whether or not you should get solar panels. This concept is another way for homeowners to save money on their electric bills in that the extra power that they do not use is sent to the grid. You can then earn money on that extra power instead of letting it go to waste.
As stated earlier, Tesla’s solar panels are timed to grab the solar energy during the non-peak time when prices are low and then distribute the energy to your home during peak hours when prices are high. That way, you are saving on your electric bill because you are not consuming energy from the grid during those more expensive, peak hours.
- Sometimes your solar panels will garner more energy during the day than is needed to power your home.
- This is where net metering comes into play – excess power produced by your solar energy system is exported to the grid.
- Under net metering, your utility is required to compensate you for that excess at the rate you are paying for that power.
Net metering is essential to the environmental benefits of solar power because it makes sure no energy that is being consumed by the sun is wasted even if the power you generate through panels and the power your home uses is not balanced. When the sun is higher in the summer, you will probably produce more electricity than you use.
New Changes for Additional Savings
The Georgia Public Service Commission filed a decision about a 2019 Georgia Power rate case that requires Georgia Power to offer net metering. What does this mean for Georgia households that have Tesla’s solar panels? As a Georgia resident, you can get credited by the utility company for your excess power that is pumped back to the grid.
However, this savings in Georgia is limited compared to neighboring states like Florida.
- Georgia’s net metering is capped to a monthly netting of the first of 5,000 rooftop solar panel customers or 32 megawatts (MW) of capacity.
- This monthly excess of solar power will be credited to customers at the utility’s solar avoided cost rate.
- Once the threshold is met, Georgia Power will return to only offering net billing. This means the excess power is credited to the customer’s electric bill at a predetermined rate with the Georgia Public Service Commission.
- Customers can also choose to sell the electricity from the system instead of using it by connecting ahead of the meter.
This means customers can sell their excess power back to Georgia Power through the company’s Solar Buy Back program to reduce their electric bills without net metering. This is an opportunity for only Georgia residents to sell their excess solar energy back in exchange for credits on their electric bills.
An example of this would be if a customer stored more energy in July than they used that month. That excess energy would then be carried over to August. If the customer used more energy in August, they could use the carried-over power to cover that and, in turn, save money on their August electric bill.
How to Benefit From Georgia’s Solar Programs
The Solar Buy Back program means the unused energy that is produced by your solar panels turns into credits on your electric bill that carries over to the next month. If net metering is available, you will be paid directly by the utility company for this unused energy that you send over to the grid—either way, the size of your battery matters here.
- Tesla recently unveiled its Powerwall 2 battery system, which has 13.5 kilowatt-hours of storage capacity.
- This battery may be too big for some homes since you will need more than 13.5-kilowatt hours to fully charge the battery.
- In addition, you will need to figure out which of the four sizes of solar panel systems will benefit net metering or buyback.
As long as you choose the correct Tesla size and not choose a solar panel system that is too big, the options of net metering or solar buyback may end up paying for part or even all of your electric bill. It depends on which size solar panel system is best to cover the electrical power needs of your home throughout the day and night.
Tesla also offers warranty programs on their equipment. The warranty for the solar panels is 12 years, while the Powerwall warranty is 10 years. If you are charging your Powerwall 2 100 percent by solar power, it will be unlimited in both cycles and kilowatt-hours.
Georgia’s current state policies and incentives are not as beneficial as other states that offer more lucrative tax incentives and net metering options for Tesla solar customers. The state legislature is slowly seeing the importance of clean energy, but the thousands of dollars that are needed to purchase solar power may not balance the savings in energy over time.
Tesla’s solar panel services can be financially lucrative for Georgia residents if the savings on your energy bills maximize the money spent on Tesla’s solar panels, battery, and maintenance services. There are federal tax incentives that can be deductive on one’s income tax bill and other state-only incentives similar to net metering.