New Washington State Solar Incentive Program Details

Now that the so-called Solar Jobs Bill has been adopted by the Washington State Legislature as part of the state operating budget passed last month, solar owners and installers are starting to get a picture of what new incentives will mean for home and business owners who rely on solar systems to power some portion of their monthly electricity needs.

Existing Solar Owners

Existing solar owners can expect to be paid at the same rate they were paid by their utility in 2016. There are no reductions to this rate, but the program ends on June 30, 2020. Additionally, some additional paperwork may be required to keep incentives flowing.

Up to this point, incentives have been administered by the state Department of Revenue and will continue to be until Sept. 30, but starting Oct. 1, administration transfers over to the Washington State University Energy Extension Program. Because of this, existing solar owners must reapply to WSU by April 30, 2018 in order to finish participation in the program through the June 30, 2020 end date.

Incentive payments remain limited to $5,000 per participant per year. Systems under 10 kilowatts are exempt from sales tax, while systems 10 kW or greater are eligible for 75 percent remittance.

Although the legacy program is technically limited to projects completed by June 30, 2017, there is a short window from July 1 to Sept. 30 when solar customers may opt to enroll in either the existing program or the new program. Starting Oct. 1, all solar projects will only be eligible for new incentives.

Future Solar Owners

Future solar owners are encouraged to act quickly, as the new program incentives step down each year from 2018 to 2021. Projects are eligible for a base rate plus a bonus if solar panels were manufactured in Washington state.

Year Residential Base Rate ($/kWh) Commercial Base Rate ($/kWh) Made-in-WA Bonus ($/kWh)
2018 $0.16 $0.06 $0.05
2019 $0.14 $0.04 $0.04
2020 $0.12 $0.02 $0.03
2021 $0.10 $0.02 $0.02

Under the new program, solar owners receive the same flat rate over the life of incentive payments, determined by the year when the project was completed. Incentives run for eight years or until 50 percent of the project cost is recouped, whichever occurs first. Projects 12 kW or smaller are capped at $5,000 per year, while projects larger than 12 kW may be paid up to $25,000 subject to a 25 percent program cap on total funds for these larger (usually commercial) projects.

Sales tax is required to be paid under the new program for all systems under 500 kW, while systems 500 kW or larger are subject to 75 percent remittance.

Full details are available on this handy summary produced by the Solar Installers of Washington.

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