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How Rhode Island Makes Solar Panels More Accessible

High electricity costs and clean energy incentives make solar more attractive for homeowners in Rhode Island.

Sarah Drolet Associate Writer
Sarah Drolet is an associate writer at CNET covering home energy, residential solar power and emerging energy technology. She previously wrote about home and moving-related topics for MYMOVE. Sarah graduated from Coastal Carolina University with a bachelor's degree in communications.
Sarah Drolet
8 min read

Rhode Island has high electricity rates, making solar panels more appealing for some. 

Alex Potemkin/Getty Images

For such a small state, Rhode Island has big plans for renewable energy -- and big ways to save on your power bill by going solar. 

Rhode Island has an ambitious goal of supplying 100% of the state's electricity from renewable sources by 2033. This is a big undertaking due to the state's reliance on natural gas, which fueled 87% of its electricity generation in 2021, according to the US Energy Information Administration

In order to reach its 100% renewable electricity goal, Rhode Island's government is encouraging an expansion of solar energy by providing a variety of solar incentives for homeowners which already accounts for the majority of its clean energy portfolio

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"The interconnection queue here in Rhode Island is very high," Shauna Beland, the administrator of renewable energy programs with Rhode Island's Office of Energy Resources, told CNET. "We have quite a few projects in the queue not only for residential projects, but also for some of the larger-scale projects. So we're on track to meet that 2033 goal."

With the help of state solar incentives and the state's big push for clean energy, solar in Rhode Island is looking promising. Here's what you need to know if you're considering getting panels for your home. 

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.

Why are electricity prices so high in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island consumes the second lowest amount of energy per capita in the US but pays the fourth highest electricity rate in the country at 27.50 cents per kilowatt-hour. That leads to an average monthly electricity bill of $160.88, according to CNET's sister publication SaveOnEnergy

So why is electricity so expensive? Blame natural gas, which saw prices spike in 2022 after Russia invaded Ukraine.

"Most of our electricity generation comes from natural gas," Beland said. "We're one of the most highly dependent states on natural gas." 

Average cost of solar panels in Rhode Island

Here's a look at the average cash price for a 5-kilowatt system before factoring in tax credits incentives, according to data from

Rhode Island solar panel costs

System size (kW) Price per wattTotal cost
5 $4.07$20,350

How to pay for solar panels in Rhode Island

Solar panels are an expensive investment no matter where you live. If you're serious about going solar, take some time to work out all your options and find the best payment method for your needs. Here are a few of the most common ways to pay for your solar panels.

Cash: If it's in your budget, paying for your solar panels upfront with cash is your best payment option. You won't have to worry about high financing fees or interest rates, and your eligibility for tax incentives and rebates won't be at risk. If you have plans to go solar in the future, consider putting some money into a high-yield savings account, which will help you generate more money over time. 

Solar loan: Solar providers usually offer financing options for solar panels, often referred to as a solar loan. These loans are typically overseen by a third party, so carefully inspect any associated fees and interest rates.   

Other loans: If cash isn't an option, you have other financing possibilities beyond a solar loan. Taking out a personal loan with your bank or opening a home equity line of credit are a couple other options. However, if you do choose to go with a HELOC, it's important to be aware of the risks. If you can't pay back what you owe, your home could face foreclosure.   

Lease or power purchase agreement: If you aren't interested in owning your own solar panels, you can sign a solar lease or enter a power purchase agreement. A solar lease means paying for the use of a company-owned solar system. Entering a power purchase agreement means you'll pay for the electricity generated by a company-owned solar system at a fixed rate. This rate is typically lower than the retail rate provided by the local utility company. Ask your solar provider which options are available for you.   

Rhode Island solar panel incentives and rebates

The Ocean State offers a wide variety of state solar incentives and programs. These programs can help make going solar more affordable and accessible to Rhode Island residents.

Along with state solar incentives, Rhode Islanders can also take advantage of the federal residential clean energy credit, which allows you to claim 30% of the total cost of your solar system in tax credits. The state has a net metering policy as well, allowing you to sell your excess solar energy back to the grid.

"With net metering, customers are eligible for the Renewable Energy Fund Grant, which is currently, for 2023, 65 cents per watt, with a cap of $5,000," Beland said. "The way the program works is that the selected solar installer applies to the Renewable Energy Fund on the customer's behalf and the installer is required to pass through the incentive to help reduce the total upfront cost of the system."

It's also worth noting that solar panels are viewed as a home improvement. Installing solar panels can increase the value of your home by about $15,000, according to the US Department of Energy

Here are a few noteworthy Rhode Island solar incentives. A complete list of incentives can be found on the Database of State for Renewables & Efficiency. More information on state specific solar incentives can also be found in Rhode Island's Office of Energy Resources residential solar guide.

Rhode Island solar incentives

IncentiveProgram description
Net metering Rhode Island net metering law allows you to sell your excess solar energy back to the grid in exchange for credits. You can apply those credits to electricity bills to reduce or eliminate what you owe.
Property tax exemption You won't see any increases to your property taxes when you install solar panels in Rhode Island.
Residential clean energy credit The residential clean energy credit is a federal tax credit offering solar owners 30% of the total cost of their solar system back in tax credits.
Renewable Energy Growth Program REG is a solar incentive program, administered by the utility company National Grid, offering solar owners bill credits for energy based on the state's Performance-Based Incentives system. The REG program is different from the state net metering policy, and you can't participate in both at the same time.
Renewable Energy Fund REF is a grant program provided by Rhode Island Commerce Corporation to support the upfront cost of a net metered renewable energy system. This program can't be paired with the REG program offered by Rhode Island Energy.
Rhode Island sales tax exemption for renewable energy All solar equipment purchases are exempt from the Rhode Island sales tax. The exemption will automatically be applied at the point of purchase.

Rhode Island solar panel companies

Rhode Island is ranked 31st (out of 51) in the US for installed solar capacity, according to SEIA. There are 27 solar companies in the state, with only 11 of them being solar installers. Even though you have relatively few options for installers, getting several solar quotes from different installers can help you find the best price possible for your system. 

"We recommend that customers get at least three to four quotes before they decide on a solar installer," Beland said.

Take customer reviews, warranties, installer fees and maintenance fees into account as well when choosing your solar installer. Here are a few solar companies to consider in Rhode Island.   

Green Power Energy

Green Power Energy is headquartered in New Jersey and has been installing solar since 2009. The company mainly operates in northeastern states and installs solar panels, home batteries and electric vehicle chargers. Green Power Energy offers a 25-year workmanship warranty, with specific solar panels and inverters coming with a 25-year product and performance warranty. You can buy your solar panels with cash, a solar loan or sign up for a solar lease.

Summit Solar

Summit Solar is an up-and-coming solar company, beginning service in 2016. The company currently operates in nine states, and has North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners-certified professionals. Summit Solar installs solar panels, solar batteries and other energy-efficient home upgrades. As far as warranties go, Summit Solar offers an insurance-backed, 30-year warranty through Solar Insure.     

SunPower Solar 

Installing solar since 1985, SunPower Solar is a national solar company operating in all 50 states. SunPower Solar offers some of the most efficient solar panels on the market (22.8%) and a competitive 25-year complete system warranty. You can buy your solar panels, lease them or enter a power purchase agreement. Solar loans are also available to qualifying customers through their financing institution, SunPower Financial. SunPower Solar does not offer price matching.  

Trinity Solar 

Founded in 1994, Trinity Solar is a solar company currently operating in nine states along the east coast. Trinity Solar installs solar panels, solar batteries and inverters. Solar panel purchases come with a five-year workmanship warranty and inverters come with a 12-year warranty, which can be extended if desired. You can pay for your system with cash, a solar lease or a power purchase agreement. Note that Trinity Solar's leases and power purchase agreements are fully covered by a warranty for the duration of the agreement.   

Installation factors to consider

Other than your budget, here are a few installation factors to keep top of mind as you determine if your home is right for solar:

Condition of your roof: Is your roof suitable for solar? Your roof needs to be in good condition before solar installation. Roof damage, age, pitch and tree cover may impact the productivity of your solar panels. Solar panels have the best performance on south-facing roofs angled between 15 and 40 degrees, according to the US Department of Energy. Reputable solar installers will perform a roof inspection before installing solar panels.   

Insurance coverage: Does your homeowner's insurance agency cover rooftop solar panels? Check with your agency to see if you can add your solar panels to your insurance policy.

Location: How much sunshine will your solar panels get? The longer the sun is at its peak, the better your solar panels will perform. Rhode Island is one of the cloudier states in the US, ranking 35th out of 50 for state sunlight ranking. With an average of 4.23 hours of peak sunlight per day, according to TurbineGenerator, Rhode Island falls a bit short on sunshine. 

Solar easements: Does your home have guaranteed access to sunlight? Rhode Island allows property owners to establish solar easements -- your right to direct sunlight for your solar system. Your solar easement must be in writing and include a description of the property involved, a description of the angles and three-dimensional space involved, the terms of easement termination and provisions for compensation of the property owner.   

Financing options: Can you afford solar? If you can't pay upfront, there are plenty of other options available to you. Solar loans, personal loans, solar leases and power purchase agreements are just a few options to consider. Solar is a big investment, so do your research and find your best payment option beforehand.  

Rhode Island solar power FAQs

Does Rhode Island offer state solar incentives?

Rhode Island is a pro solar state, offering a variety of state solar incentives and a net metering policy. There are also federal solar incentives for homeowners to take advantage of.

Is going solar in Rhode Island worth it?

The short answer: it depends. Rhode Island has many solar incentives and some of the highest electricity rates in the country, making solar look a bit more attractive for its residents. However, solar panels are a huge investment, and not every home may be right for solar. Before deciding to go solar you should take into account your household's energy usage, the condition of your roof, tree coverage, insurance and the cost of solar panels. 

How long do solar panels last?

The average lifespan of a solar panel is between 15 to 30 years. Solar installers will often offer a warranty on their solar panels. A competitive solar warranty will cover a solar panel for up to 25 years. Factors that will affect the lifespan of your solar panels are weather, panel quality and maintenance. 

CNET's Katherine Watt contributed to this article.  

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