How to Get Free Solar Panels from the Government: Steps and Procedures

Understanding how to obtain free solar panels from the government is straightforward, and this article will guide you through the process step-by-step.

Key takeaways:

  • Lease agreements and power purchase agreements offer “free” solar panels.
  • Government incentives can significantly reduce installation costs.
  • Consider hidden costs and potential impacts on home value.
  • The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) offers tax credits for solar installations.
  • Research state and local incentives and eligibility requirements.

Decoding the Sales Pitch: What Are “free Solar Panels”?

how to get free solar panels from the government steps and procedures

When encountering the term “free solar panels,” it is crucial to parse the reality from marketing hype. Often, what is advertised as free may actually involve certain costs or financial agreements.

Here are key points to clarify the concept:

  • Lease Agreements: Some companies offer solar panels at no upfront cost through leasing arrangements. You pay a monthly fee to “rent” the solar equipment, which can still reduce your overall utility bill.
  • Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs): Similar to leases, with PPAs you pay for the electricity generated by the panels installed on your roof, often at a lower rate than your utility company.
  • Government Incentives: These can drastically reduce the cost of solar panel installation, sometimes covering a substantial portion, but rarely 100% of the total cost.
  • Hidden Costs: Maintenance, insurance, and potential increases in lease or PPA rates over time are cost factors usually not advertised.
  • Ownership and Value: With “free” panels under leasing or PPAs, you do not own the system, which could influence home value and sale conditions.

In summary, while you may not pay upfront for the panels, the term “free” encompasses a variety of financial arrangements that have associated costs and commitments. It’s important to read the fine print and understand the long-term implications of any “free” solar panel offering.

Understanding Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC)

The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is a federal incentive that reduces the tax liability for individuals and businesses that purchase solar energy systems. Here are key points about the ITC:

  • Value: The ITC offers a credit worth 26% of the cost of your solar installation for systems commenced in 2020-2022, and this percentage drops to 22% for systems commenced in 2023. From 2024 onwards, the residential credit is scheduled to phase out, while the commercial and utility credit will drop to a permanent 10%.
  • Eligibility: To qualify, you must own your solar energy system, rather than lease it. Both residential and commercial properties are eligible, including primary residences, secondary homes, and rental properties.
  • Utilization: The credit can be applied to income taxes that you owe for the year and can be carried forward if your solar panel system was installed in a previous year but you hadn’t had enough tax liability to claim the entire credit.
  • How to Claim: File Tax Form 5695 with your annual tax return. The form calculates the credit and it then goes on Form 1040.
  • Not a Rebate: The ITC is not a rebate that directly reduces the upfront cost of your solar system; it reduces your taxes, potentially resulting in a refund during tax season.

Remember to consult a tax professional to help navigate the complexities of the ITC and ensure you meet all federal requirements to benefit from this incentive.

Eligibility for State and Local Solar Incentives

State and local solar incentives vary widely, offering a range of financial support to offset the initial cost of installing solar panels. Key points to consider when assessing eligibility include:

1. Residence Location: Incentives differ by state, county, and municipality, with some regions offering rebates, tax credits, or performance-based incentives. Check local government and energy department websites for specific opportunities in your area.

2. Homeownership Status: Typically, incentives are available to homeowners rather than renters. Certain programs, however, may extend to multi-family buildings or community solar projects that benefit renters.

3. Income Level: Some programs target low- to moderate-income households to encourage broader adoption of solar power. It’s important to review the income qualifications required for such programs.

4. Property Specifications: Factors such as roof condition, shading, and orientation affect solar panel efficiency and may influence eligibility for incentives aimed at maximum energy production.

5. Installation Requirements: Incentive programs may require that solar panel installations are performed by certified professionals or that specific equipment standards are met.

6. Utility Company: Some utilities offer their own solar incentives, separate from or in addition to state programs, based on their renewable energy goals.

Researching these points through resources such as the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) can provide guidance on what incentives are available and the criteria for eligibility. Engaging with local solar installers can also yield up-to-date information on incentives, as they typically stay informed on these matters to assist potential customers.

How to Apply for Government Solar Programs

To apply for government solar programs, begin by researching federal, state, and local initiatives that provide financial assistance for solar panel installations. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) is an excellent resource for identifying available solar incentives.

Next, check your eligibility for each program. Eligibility criteria may include factors such as homeowner status, income level, and geographic location. For federal tax credits such as the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), ensure you have sufficient tax liability to benefit.

Compile and complete the required documentation. This may encompass tax forms, income verification, and energy assessments. For the ITC specifically, IRS Form 5695 must be filed with your tax return.

Meet the installation guidelines stipulated by the incentive programs, which often include using certified equipment and accredited installers. Follow these standards closely to maintain eligibility for funding or tax credits.

Last but not least, submit your application within the specified deadlines. Timely submission is crucial to take advantage of these incentives before they expire or funding is exhausted.

Remember, while some programs may cover a significant portion of the costs, no government program currently provides solar panels entirely free of cost to the homeowner. The term “free solar panels” typically refers to financial assistance or incentive programs that reduce the overall expense.

Understanding the True Costs and Savings From Solar Panels

When considering the switch to solar power, assessing the long-term financial benefits alongside the initial expenditure is essential.

  • Initial Outlay: While solar panels can be obtained at little to no upfront cost through various programs, there may be associated expenses such as installation fees or a solar lease.
  • Long-Term Savings: Solar panels typically reduce monthly electricity bills, with the potential of saving thousands over their lifespan.
  • Maintenance and Operation: Costs are generally low; however, potential repairs or replacements of components should be factored in.
  • Increased Home Value: Homes equipped with solar panels may see a higher market value and attract eco-conscious buyers.
  • Monitoring Performance: To ensure savings are maximized, monitoring systems can track solar panel efficiency and highlight any maintenance needs.
  • Depreciation: As with most technologies, solar panels degrade over time; however, many come with warranties that guarantee a certain level of performance for up to 25 years.

Evaluating these points gives individuals a clearer picture of the true financial landscape of adopting solar energy.


How many solar panels does it take to power a house?

On average, a U.S. household requires between 15 and 20 solar panels, equating to approximately a 9 kW system, to generate sufficient electricity, although this may vary depending on the household’s power consumption.

Are solar panels worth it in Texas?

Yes, solar panels are worth it in Texas due to the state’s abundant sunlight, attractive solar rebates, incentives and potential for reduced electricity bills through net metering for eligible customers.

What is the PA Sunshine Program?

The PA Sunshine Program is a state-led initiative in Pennsylvania designed to promote the use of solar energy among small businesses and homeowners.

How long do solar panels last?

Solar panels typically have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years.

How effective are solar panels in different climates?

The effectiveness of solar panels can vary significantly based on the local climate with their efficiency typically increasing in sunnier conditions, but they can also work effectively in cold, cloudy climates due to the nature of how they absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity.

What is the process to qualify for the federal solar tax credit?

To qualify for the federal solar tax credit, one needs to buy their own solar panels, install them on a property they own, and owe federal taxes for the year they install the system.

What are the maintenance costs associated with solar panels?

The maintenance costs associated with solar panels are relatively low, typically ranging from $150 to $330 annually, primarily for cleaning and occasional part replacement.

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