Solar energy is growing in the Show-Me State. Here's how you can take advantage of it.
Missouri may lag other states in its adoption of solar energy, but the industry is growing quickly, proving going solar can help you save on your bills and help the environment.
Falling prices for solar panels, new financial incentives and the fact that solar installations have more than tripled since 2014 might be all the proof you need if you live in the Show-Me State.
Unlike some states, the state's laws around solar panels have changed little in more than a decade, according to James Owen, executive director of Renew Missouri, a clean energy advocacy group. "It hasn't really created a robust industry here but it is an industry that is moving in the right direction," Owen told CNET.
Can solar panels save you money?
Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.
Here's what to know if you're considering getting solar panels and you live in Kansas City, St. Louis or anywhere in between.
Here's a look at the average cash price for a 5-kilowatt system before factoring in tax credits incentives, according to data from FindEnergy.com.
|System size (kW)||Price per watt||Total cost|
Solar panels are a major investment. A system can cost tens of thousands of dollars, even after tax credits and rebates. And while it should pay for itself eventually, that takes years. So you need a way to pay for it now. There are several paths you can take. Here are a few.
Cash: Paying cash is one way to avoid financing and the extra costs that go along with it. And if you're not ready to flip the switch on solar panels just yet, you can start saving up now to maximize your cash on hand when the time comes. Consider regularly stashing money away in a high-yield savings account to prepare.
Solar loan: Your solar installer might have a partnership with a bank or credit union to offer financing specifically tailored for solar systems. Other financial institutions might also offer loans designed for solar. Shop around to make sure you're getting the best deal.
Home equity loan or HELOC: You don't have to get a solar-specific loan to pay for solar panels. Banks and other lenders offer home equity loans and home equity lines of credit, which can be used to pay for major home projects like solar panels. These may offer favorable terms compared to solar loans, but as always, shop around and find the right loan for you. Know that home equity loans are secured against your home's equity, meaning if you fail to pay, the bank can foreclose.
Personal loan: Another type of loan you can get from a bank or other lender is a personal loan. This differs from a home equity loan in that a personal loan isn't secured by your home or other property. As a result, they typically come with higher interest rates.
Lease or power purchase agreement: These are ways to get solar panels without buying solar panels. Leases involve you paying a solar company to put panels on your roof -- they'll be in charge of maintenance, while you get savings. Power purchase agreements involve a company putting panels on your roof, and you pay them for the power you use. These allow you to avoid the upfront costs while still benefiting from the power generation.
The biggest incentive available to you in Missouri is the federal Residential Clean Energy Credit, which will cover up to 30% of the cost of your solar installation. The credit, recently extended and expanded under the Inflation Reduction Act, has no limit on how much you can claim.
Here are some other programs that can help you cover the costs of solar in Missouri.
|Residential Clean Energy Credit||This federal tax credit will cover up to 30% of the cost of a solar system. You claim it on your taxes the following year, meaning you don't get it upfront, and you can't claim more than you owed in taxes for that year.|
|Rural Energy for America Program||This initiative of the US Department of Agriculture is a loan guarantee program for agricultural businesses to develop renewable energy and energy efficiency. If you're a farmer or you have a small business in a rural area, you can get a loan guarantee for a wide variety of energy projects.|
|Net metering||This is what allows you to sell excess power back to the grid. In Missouri, regulated utilities including rural electric cooperatives are required to have net metering policies, although they don't have to pay the full retail price per kilowatt-hour.|
The Show-Me State has 137 solar companies, according to data from the Solar Energy Industries Association, including 42 installers or developers. You only need one.
It's important to do your research when you choose a solar company. "Make sure you pick a reputable dealer that's got a good reputation," Owen said. "There are a lot of fly-by-night companies out there."
Shop around and get quotes from different companies to make sure you'll get the best system for the best price. Each firm will have different equipment and options, so it's best to compare. Here are a few selected based on our research and CNET's list of the best solar companies nationwide.
Headquartered in St. Louis and serving Missouri and Illinois, StraightUp Solar is a certified B Corp, committed to social and environmental standards. The company provides solar panels and battery systems. It also offers a 10-year workmanship guarantee and a 10-year guarantee that the system will produce at least 85% of the company's estimated generation, or StraightUp Solar will repair or upgrade the system, or reimburse you for the value of the missing production.
Operating in all 50 states, SunPower Solar is CNET's top choice nationwide. The company is known for the efficiency of its panels, which at 22.8% are top in the industry. That means a SunPower system will convert more of the sun's rays into energy. It also offers strong warranties. You have to pay for that quality, however, and its panels aren't the most affordable.
Sun Solar, which is based in Missouri and also operates in parts of several bordering states, has been around since 2012. The company installs and services solar panels and battery systems. Sun Solar emphasizes that its work includes energy efficiency -- its energy experts will first help you to maximize your home's efficiency, meaning you won't need as much energy from your solar panels.
One of the most recognizable names in solar, Tesla offers popular and affordable solar panels. The company's solar panels, commonly installed by other companies, offer a lower profile than many competitors, so they look more seamless on your roof. It also offers a price-match guarantee. Tesla's customer service has drawn some complaints from consumers, however, so there are tradeoffs.
Is your home right for solar panels? It's an important question. Many houses are less than ideal for solar panels because of their orientation, the amount of sun they get or other reasons. If you can't get your own solar panels, you can still get energy from the sun through community solar.
Here's what you should consider before making the decision to go solar:
It doesn't have to, although you can completely disconnect if you want. Most solar systems are still connected to the grid. You can sell the excess power you generate back to your utility company, and buy energy from the power company when it's dark and your panels aren't generating. If you decide to go off-grid, you'll need a battery or other type of generation source.
For a system connected to the electric grid, you won't need a battery. Batteries are expensive, but they can provide value even if you don't need them. They provide a backup in case the power goes out, and allow you to pull even less power from the grid.
They don't. Solar panels can be mounted on structures on the ground, if you have the space. You can also put them on your garage, carport, shed, barn or doghouse.