West Virginia Solar Incentives: Tax Credit to Lower Cost of Solar Panels in WV

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Solar Panels | March 15, 2024

Woman collecting money from West Virginia solar incentives after learning how to lower the cost of solar panels in West Virginia using solar tax credit, rebates, net metering and solar home installation tips.

More residents of the ‘Mountain State’ are beginning to explore West Virginia solar incentives to determine if they can offset the cost of solar panels in West Virginia. West Virginia is known for their coal production, and historically, renewable energy sources have not been prioritized.

However, there are several encouraging trends for residents and business owners who want to reduce their carbon footprints through using solar energy. This article guides readers in calculating the true cost of solar panels in West Virginia and investigates how state and federal level incentives, rebates, and tax credits can help individuals, farms, and companies across the Mountain State make the change to clean, solar-powered energy.

What West Virginia Solar Incentives Are Available?

In West Virginia’s coal-driven economy, West Virginia solar incentives are hard to come by. But this does not mean the case is hopeless for persons interested in solar power.

Solar rebates from the government are available at the Federal level in the form of a significant tax credit, known as the ITC.

What Is the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC)?

The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is a federal policy that was implemented in 2006 to bolster the solar industry throughout the United States. This it has certainly done.

Since the enactment of the ITC, the solar industry in the U.S. has experienced a 33% average annual growth rate to expand the industry to 200 times its initial size!12

The solar industry continues its rapid expansion under the ITC, as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 extended the terms of the ITC out to the year 2032, at which point the credit will begin to taper annually. But how does it all work and why has it worked so well?

The Solar Investment Tax Credit is a credit against taxpayer liability for individual and commercial taxpayers, though it operates differently for individuals versus commercial operations. With the ITC, eligible individual taxpayers receive 30% of their total solar photovoltaic system installation costs back from the federal government.

Thus, a person who installed a $15,000 solar energy system would receive $5,000 back!12

The 30% ITC for residential solar systems extends from 2022 through 2032, while 2020 and 2021 installations were eligible for a 26% tax credit. Any unused credit exceeding tax liability can be rolled over to ensuing years, as long as the ITC is still active.

Close up view of solar panel on the roof of a house, with two solar panel installers doing a maintenance check on the solar panel system.

(Image: Derek Mayes30)

Almost all expenses associated with solar installation can be claimed on a tax form, including:

  • Solar cells or panels
  • Labor costs
  • Permitting fees
  • Inspection costs
  • Developer fees
  • System equipment (mounting, wiring, inverters)
  • Energy storage cells with at a 3 kWh capacity
  • Sales tax

But not including:

  • Roof repairs
  • Solar system maintenance costs

In order to qualify for the tax credit, the solar installation:

  • Must be completed during the tax year
  • Must be installed on a taxpayer’s primary home or secondary, non-rented home
  • Must be installed on a residence within the United States
  • Must be owned, not leased
  • Must be new (not pre-used) equipment

To obtain the federal energy credits, U.S. taxpayers must submit IRS Form 5695 Residential Energy Credits along with their other tax forms, documenting their solar energy investment.

Net Metering

West Virginia offers net metering, which allows homeowners and businesses to earn credits for excess solar energy their system produces. These credits can be applied to future bills or sold back to the utility.

Solar Sales Tax Exemption

Solar energy equipment is exempt from state sales tax, including solar panels, inverters, and batteries, which can reduce the overall cost of installing a solar system.

Federal Tax Credit

West Virginia homeowners and businesses are eligible for the federal solar tax credit, which allows for a 26% credit on the installed cost of a solar system.

Property Tax Exemption

Solar energy systems are exempt from property taxes in West Virginia, which reduces the overall cost of owning and maintaining a solar system.

Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)

West Virginia power companies are required to generate a certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources, and homeowners and businesses can earn credits for generating clean energy with their solar systems.

Energy-Efficient Property Tax Assessment

West Virginia homeowners can receive a property tax assessment at a lower rate due to energy-efficient upgrades, including installing solar panels.

West Virginia Solar Tax Credit

It would appear that the state of West Virginia did offer a solar tax credit for a few years (West Virginia State Tax Department Schedule SETC – Residential Solar Energy Tax Credit), though the state credit is no longer available now. Through West Virginia Code §11-13Z, West Virginians could receive a tax credit of up to $2,000 on solar energy systems installed between July 2009 and July 2013.

Since the West Virginia solar tax credit expired a decade ago, residents of the state must rely on the federal solar tax credit.

West Virginia Solar Rebates

Aside from state-government offered tax breaks and credits for homeowners transitioning to solar power, most states also have Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). RPS are government regulated policies requiring utility companies to obtain a specific percentage of the electricity sold from renewable sources.

Utility companies in states with RPS in place are much more likely to offer rebates to customers who install solar panels and contribute electricity to the grid. Rebates are a great way for individuals investing in solar power to reduce the up-front cost.

Unfortunately, in West Virginia, solar rebates will be harder to find. When West Virginia revoked its Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) via House Bill 2001 in 2015 – becoming the first state to do so – the motivation for utility companies to offer solar rebates was significantly lessened.16

Search for solar rebates by zip code to discover local opportunities to reduce solar panel costs.

Solar Energy Across the United States

The last two decades have seen a drastic increase in the use of solar energy across the U.S.

In large part thanks to the incentivization from Federal policies seeking to bolster the solar industry, individual homeowners and commercial enterprises have been gradually transitioning to solar-powered homes and businesses.

The United States is now the second leading producer – behind China at 33% – of solar electricity, generating 16% of the world’s solar power (data from 2021).

From the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) – International page, users can select specific countries to view their energy contributions by type and see how countries rank in various energy domains.

Despite the United States being the second largest solar electricity generator in the world, large-scale (utility) solar electricity production still contributes a fairly small percentage to the overall electric power generated in the country. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the vast majority (60.2%) of electric energy is still derived from fossil fuels such as natural gas and petroleum, a sizeable minority (18.2%) from nuclear power, and another sizeable minority (21.5%) from all renewable energy sources combined.

Of the 21.5% of total electricity generation from renewable sources, 10.2% and 6.2% are from wind power and hydropower, respectively. Solar power is a distant third, responsible for 3.4% of the U.S. electricity generation, though this number is on the rise with the solar market growing by an average 24% per year over the last decade.

Though this percentage seems slight, it does not account for small-scale solar electricity generation (residential, small business) and it still represents a tremendous increase from the numbers seen even a decade ago.

Utility-scale solar electricity generation comes from the handfuls of large solar farms which have cropped up across the nation, generating billions and billions of kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity. The largest solar farms in the United States, such as Solar Star in California and The Roadrunner in Texas, are found in the Southwest region of the country, which receives the most solar radiation.

Solar radiation is measured/recorded in three domains: Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI), Diffuse Horizontal Irradiance (DHI), and Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI). GHI is the total solar irradiation received on a horizontal or flat plane and therefore encompasses diffuse and direct irradiance.

Diffuse irradiance is scattered into the atmosphere while direct irradiance actually reaches the earth’s surface, making it possible to capture and convert the photon energy.5 Thus, DNI is the sphere of radiation which contributes directly to solar energy systems, small and large-scale around the world.

The National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB) is a really neat resource which provides an interactive solar irradiance map of all seven continents. Users can pinpoint specific geographical locations and view the solar irradiance data available for that area.

The following image, courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and retrieved from the EIA website shows the distribution of Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI) across the country. Additional graphics are available which illustrate the monthly solar radiation averages for various states.

Tabled data by states and highlighted cities can be gleaned from NREL’s Solar Radiation Data Manual.

With the solar radiation levels recorded in the Southwestern states, there is more potential for solar energy conversion in this region relative to more temperate areas. California leads the nation in solar electricity generation, with an impressive 27.3% of total electricity coming from solar power, followed distantly by Texas.

The Quarterly Solar Industry Update available from the Solar Energies Technologies Office (SETO) indicates that solar electric generation is still expanding exponentially across the U.S. with solar panels accounting for 46% of new electricity capacity in 2022.

During 2022, solar power accounted for 9% of total electricity during the summer months and 4.7% for the entire year. There were also 16 states with solar capacities greater than 5% of their electric consumption needs.

The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that the United States has installed over 4 million solar energy systems,24 supplying over 250,000 jobs and generating 149.5 gigawatts of solar power, sufficient to meet the energy needs of 26 million residences!

The Current State of Solar Energy in West Virginia

West Virginia is fourth in overall energy production in the United States and the second leading producer of coal. Coal is still the leading source of electricity across the country, and the Mountain State generates approximately 14% of the nation’s total coal.

Because West Virginia consumes only half of the energy it generates, it is a huge supplier of regional electricity.

The EIA’s – U.S. Overview page provides an interactive map to navigate to various state energy profiles.

The EIA – West Virginia Profile Overview most recent data from 2021 reports that coal accounts for over 90% of West Virginia’s electric power. Renewable energy sources – hydroelectric and wind power only – account for 5% of generated electricity, and natural gas essentially provides the rest.

Pie chart showing West Virginia renewable energy consumption including West Virginia wind energy, biomass energy, geothermal energy, hydroelectric energy, and solar energy in the state of West Virginia for 2022.

At this point in time, solar power does not really factor into WV’s overall electrical energy output.

The coal industry creates around 11,000 jobs for the state of West Virginia and its economic impact – around $9 billion of the state’s $77 billion gross domestic product (GDP) – is considerable (See “The Economic Impact of Coal in West Virginia”).4

Given its reliance on the coal industry to support its economy, West Virginia has been slow to encourage renewable energy sources. NREL’s Spring 2023 Solar Industry Update indicates that the state of West Virginia had only 1-2 solar energy related actions in the year 2022, placing it in the lower half of solar-driving activity for states across the U.S.

In 2015, West Virginia became the first state to repeal its Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) with House Bill 2001, no longer requiring utilities to generate a prespecified portion of electric power from renewable sources. This decision demotivated utilities from offering solar rebates which in turn demotivated residents from investing in solar energy systems.16

In 2020, West Virginia passed the West Virginia Legislature Senate Bill 583, a single legislative silver lining granting electric companies’ permission to generate some of their electricity supply through solar facilities but also placing limitations on how much electricity could derive from solar power.23

It is unfortunate for residents of West Virginia that the Mountain State currently ranks among the worst states for solar energy, taking the 48th spot behind the Dakotas.10 Although the West Virginia Office of Energy reports that solar radiation in West Virginia is comparable to nearby states and many regions in the state have the potential to generate significant solar energy, the political and economic landscape of the state are not promising for renewable energy sources in general, much less solar energy.

In fact, West Virginia has just over 30 megawatts (MW) of solar energy installed across the entire state with solar energy generating fewer than 400 total jobs. However, the state is projected to install more than 600 additional MWs over the next 5 years.10,20

How Many People Have Solar Panels for Home in West Virginia?

Recent figures for the number of people with solar panels for home in West Virginia indicate that approximately 2,800 residences across the state are equipped with solar energy systems. Thus, West Virginia barely edges out Alaska, which has just over 2,300 solar-equipped homes.

According to a recent estimate, less than 1% of households in West Virginia have solar panels installed in their homes. The main reason for this is the state’s reliance on coal for energy and the lack of financial incentives for installing solar panels.

West Virginia ranks 48th in the U.S. for solar panel installations as of 2021 according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Solar Energy Industries Association. It is estimated that only a small percentage of households in West Virginia have installed solar panels for home use.

These small-scale installations generate less than 0.1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.14 Fortunately, the price of solar PV installation is steadily declining, a positive trend that may see the number of small-scale installations burgeoning in the coming days.

How Many Solar Farms Does West Virginia Have?

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), West Virginia’s large-scale “utility” solar energy production in 2022 was nonexistent. West Virginia is responsible for 0 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of utility solar power – a statistic shared only with North Dakota and Alaska – indicating that solar energy generation has not been a high priority in the state.

West Virginia generates less than 1% of its electricity from solar power. Therefore, it is safe to say that the number of solar farms in West Virginia is relatively low compared to other states with more favorable solar conditions.

Map showing locations of solar plants in West Virginia using yellow markers and West Virginia solar panels with a US cut out showing the location of the state of West Virginia.

The EIA Interactive GIS Data Viewer allows website users to examine sources of energy generation by state.25 In the state of West Virginia, where the bulk of the energy comes from coal and natural gas, there is currently not a single solar power plant.

West Virginia does derive some energy through renewable sources, however, as there are several wind power plants and hydropower plants in operation throughout the state.

However, sources indicate that there are several large solar farms under development in the state of West Virginia that should be operational in the next few years. The Wild Hill Solar farm under development on agricultural land in Jefferson County, WV is projected to be completed in 2025, generating 92.5 MW of solar energy.22

This alone is three times the capacity of the entire state of West Virginia! But this is not the only development.

An even larger project is underway in the state.

SEVA WV is developing a 250 MW solar farm on the site of an old coal mine. The project, set to be completed in 2024, will increase West Virginia’s solar energy generation substantially.

Developers also plan to make the enormous solar farm into a tourist attraction, a way to generate jobs and fuel the economy in the area.15

These are great tidings for residents of the Mountain State, as it appears solar energy is finally gaining some traction! With any luck, the recent positive trends in solar energy will continue, making it easier for residents across West Virginia to obtain solar power.

How Does the Solar Tax Credit Work if I Don’t Owe Taxes?

One legitimate concern many people have expressed is “How does the solar tax credit work if I don’t owe taxes?” Because the 30% ITC is a tax credit, it can only be used to negate or offset taxes owed.

Thus, to receive the ITC, an individual:

  • Must be a U.S. taxpayer
  • Must have a tax liability

Many people take this to mean that only individuals who have to pay in at tax time have a tax liability and are thus eligible for the ITC, but this is not the case. Tax liability is the term for total taxes (income tax, self-employment tax, capital gains tax) owed to the government, minus deductions and credits.

Eye level view of brick house with solar panel system installed on its roof, directly harnessing sunlight.

(Image: Christine Johnstone27)

Tax liability is listed on line 24 of the IRS Form 1040. Individuals who pay excess taxes throughout the year often receive a refund at tax time.

This does not mean that they do not have tax liability, but rather that they already paid more than their tax liability.21

If the entirety of the credit cannot be used at once, the remainder can be rolled over to offset tax liability during the years that follow.

Is Everyone Eligible for West Virginia Solar Incentives?

As the only solar incentive currently available to West Virginians is the ITC, West Virginia solar incentives eligibility is easy to determine. Individuals are eligible for this solar incentive when all of the following are true:

  1. They are a U.S. taxpayer with tax liability
  2. They have installed a new or unused solar energy system at their primary residence or non-rented secondary residence OR they have purchased a brand new home with a pre-installed solar system
  3. The residence of installation is within the U.S.
  4. The solar energy system is owned, not leased
  5. They applied for the tax credit the year of installation

Anyone meeting all of these conditions should be eligible to receive the Federal ITC.

How Do I Sign Up for West Virginia Solar Incentives?

Signing up for West Virginia solar incentives is as simple as completing the necessary tax forms in a timely fashion. After reviewing the eligibility criteria above, individuals should complete Form 5695 – Residential Energy Credits and submit it at tax time to receive the Federal ITC.

Be sure to complete the form carefully and consult with an expert over any areas of uncertainty. Remember that the installation must have been completed during the tax year of filing.

Continue monitoring the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) to see if new solar incentives crop up in the Mountain State.26

How Much Are Solar Panels in West Virginia? (Cost of Solar Panels in West Virginia)

Many people are asking how much do solar panels cost and more specifically how much are solar panels in West Virginia?

The cost of solar panels in West Virginia depends on several factors, such as the type of solar energy system installed, the size of the system, the pitch of the roof for roof installations, the type of brackets used, and so many other variables.

Graphics of cost of solar panel installation in West Virginia showing technicians installing a solar panel system on a house atop a cutout map of the state of West Virginia and the average cost at the bottom.

That said, the average residential solar system installation in West Virginia is between $14,000 and $15,000 before tax credits, at a price of $2.64 per watt. The cost of solar panels in West Virginia is somewhat lower than the national average.13,19

The following sections examine how some of these variables impact pricing.

Type of Solar Energy System and Pricing

There are a few different types of solar panels which vary in terms of how they are made, how they work, efficiency, and cost. Solar power is typically converted into harnessable energy by one of two systems: Concentrating Solar-thermal Power (CSP) or photovoltaics (PV).

Photovoltaics (PV) is the technology which is used in solar panels. PV solar systems are thus named because they utilize semiconductor materials to convert the sun’s energy into electricity.

The three main types of PV systems used in residential settings are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film solar panels.

The vast majority of the PV systems seen today – approximately 95% – fall into one of the first two groups. The monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar cells are composed of silicon, the second most abundant element on earth.

Silicon solar cells are the most prevalent today thanks to their combined efficiency and relative affordability. Monocrystalline solar cells are the most efficient, but they are also the most expensive of all the options.

Most of the non-silicon systems are thin-film PV systems, which utilize materials other than silicon as semiconductors, typically cadmium telluride (CdTe) or copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS). Thin-film solar systems may be the cheapest option, and they can be as efficient as polycrystalline solar cells.

However, the lifespan of thin-film systems is only about half that of silicon solar cells.

Solar Panel Installation Cost: West Virginia

When people think of installation costs for solar panels, they usually think of the cost of labor required to complete the process.

Labor costs can be significant for solar energy systems, as solar panels are cumbersome and require particular skill sets for successful installation.

Residential solar panel installation can be expected to take a small crew (2-3 people) up to three full days to complete, depending on the size of the installment.

Even the pitch of the roof can affect the price of installation as steeper roofs make installation more difficult and flat roof can require additional mounting and framing.

Another important factor to consider where installation is concerned is the price of installation parts and components, such as the mounting rails, brackets and stanchions, wiring, inverters, etc. Larger systems require more parts and thus are more expensive.

Additionally, there are various types of mounting brackets or railings that homeowners can choose from with a wide range in price per item.

Inverters alone can cost upwards of $1,500, and tracking mounts can cost as much as $500 each should homeowners choose to go that route to maximize their efficiency.

When considering solar panel installation cost, West Virginians must take into account all of these factors. Add in the cost of permitting, extra battery storage, and any necessary roof repairs, and there is a fairly complete picture of the price of installation.7

Solar Panel Cost Calculator West Virginia (Calculate the Cost of Solar Panels in West Virginia)

Figuring out the true cost of solar panels in West Virginia can be tricky as there are so many things to consider. The factors that have the biggest impact on pricing are going to be the type of solar system and the size of the solar system, as well as whether the homeowner qualifies for the Federal ITC.

Monocrystalline solar cells dominate the solar market and are projected to become even more predominant over the next several years. Because the process to manufacture monocrystalline cells is more involved, they are the priciest of the solar panel options.

Use the table below as a solar panel cost calculator West Virginia. It provides information to calculate the cost of solar panels in West Virginia by comparing the price of monocrystalline systems of varying capacities.

Total Costs of Monocrystalline Solar System by System Size
Solar Panel Capacity 4 kW (4,000 W) 5 kW (5,000 W) 6 kW (6,000 W) 7 kW (7,000 W) 10 kW (10,000 W)
Price Per Watt $2.88 $2.77 $2.64 $2.61 $2.53
Solar Installation (Parts – includes panels, brackets, wiring, and inverter) $2.38/W
Solar Installation (Labor) $0.50/W
Total Cost $11,520 $13,850 $15,840 $18,270 $25,300
Federal Tax Credit (if eligible) 30%
Total Cost After ITC $8,064 $9,695 $11,088 $12,789 $17,710

The numbers in this table are approximate averages and may vary based on location, home features, and solar installer. Average residential systems will fall between 6kW and 10kW, but some homes may require a larger system to cover all energy consumption.1,13

How Can I Lower the Cost of Solar Panels in West Virginia?

There are a few avenues for individuals looking to lower the cost of solar panels in West Virginia. Firstly, anyone investing in solar panels should check their last few years tax returns to ensure that they typically have a tax liability and would be eligible for the Federal ITC.

The ITC is the #1 way to save money on solar panels!

Secondly, residential rooftop installations are generally cheaper than ground installations. And a solar system tied into the grid is significantly cheaper than an off-grid system that requires energy storage cells and a generator.

Thirdly, though not recommended, DIY solar installation can save individuals thousands of dollars. Anyone who chooses to go down this avenue should consult with an expert in the area beforehand and ensure that proper safety measures are in place.

Also understand that DIY installation can potentially void a solar warranty.

Finally, there are other financing options to consider. Homeowners can always take out a loan to pay off solar systems in installments.

Eye level view of a cabin with solar panel system installed on its roof, with DIY racking system using round woods and planks.

(Image: Hillebrand Steve, USFWS28)

The drawback here is the interest associated with a loan means less money in the long-term. West Virginia also allows for residents to lease solar systems installed on their properties.

However, be sure to note that leased solar panels are not eligible for the Federal ITC.

Individuals wondering how to get solar panels for free are unlikely to find free solar panels West Virginia, but there are still ways to save money on solar installation in the state.

Why Are Solar Panels So Expensive?

Many people have wondered why are solar panels so expensive. Cost is one of the biggest deterrents for individuals hoping to make the switch to solar energy, and the high costs of solar panels can be attributed to the combined prices of raw materials, manufacturing, and installation (parts and labor).

The good news is that the overall cost of solar panels has been gradually decreasing in recent years!1

How Does West Virginia Net Metering Work?

For many solar-powered homes, the solar panels collect and convert more energy and power than the residence uses. Net metering allows accurate tracking of solar energy generation and makes it possible for individuals to receive credit from their utility companies for surplus energy pumped into the power grid.6

While net metering is being phased out in favor of net billing in some states, in the state of West Virginia, net metering is still going strong. This means that any individual who equips their home with a solar energy system that is tied into the electrical grid can expect their utility company to monitor their solar energy production and consumption and provide a roll-over credit for excess energy.

These credits do not expire, and they help homeowners cover their electricity needs during the winter months by using excess credits stored during the summer.

In other words, net metering helps homeowners save money by storing excess electricity in the form of credits to be used in the future.

Are Solar Panels Worth It in West Virginia?

With the lack of incentivization to transition to renewable energy, many Mountain State residents are likely wondering “Are solar panels worth it in West Virginia?” While the question is complex, and the answer depends on the individual and their needs, it will almost always be YES!

Consider this:

  1. The cost of solar panels in the United States has steadily decreased from year to year. Solar panels are now nearly 100% cheaper than they were 35 years ago and 50% cheaper than they were a decade ago!11
  2. In West Virginia, solar panels costs have dropped 54% in the last 10 years!20
  3. Solar technologies are continually improving, making solar energy systems increasingly efficient.
  4. Even without state incentives, the 30% Federal ITC is a huge win for taxpayers, making now the best time to go solar!
  5. As fossil fuel prices continue to rise, solar energy becomes more appealing.
  6. West Virginia’s net metering policy is favorable for solar powered homes.
  7. Going solar gives residents certain freedoms, such as the choice to tie into the grid and take advantage of the state’s net metering policy or the choice to go off-grid and be independent.

What Are the Best Areas for Solar Panels West Virginia? (WV Daily Sunlight Hours)

Before looking to install solar panels, West Virginians may wish to consider the best places to do so. When installing solar panels for a home, it is essential to ensure that the solar panels are installed in an unshaded area.

Rooftops are often preferable to ground installations, partly for this reason. South-facing solar panels are most efficient, so consider the angle and positioning of the roof when planning for installation.

For ground installations, a horizontal plane such as a fairly flat field is best.

That’s the small picture, but what of the big picture? Are there certain areas in West Virginia that are more ideal for solar power?

Map of the state of West Virginia with each county colored to show the daily peak sun hours in each West Virginia county ranging from 3.96 to 4.3 daily hours of sunlight.

The state of West Virginia gets 4.48 hours of peak sunlight on average.18 The centrally located capital city of Charleston secures 4.4 peak hours per day, compared to the western city of Huntington at 4.3 and the northeastern Elkins at 4.2.9

In general, mountainous areas are less ideal for solar energy due to reduced amounts of direct sunlight.

Solar Panels for Poultry Farm in West Virginia

A fairly recent solar installation has made big news in West Virginia. A West Virginia poultry farm completed a large solar installation in 2022, making it the largest solar energy system in the state at the time.

The decision to install solar panels for poultry farm will enable Oak Tree Farm to generate over 900,000 kWh of electricity annually.17

Hopefully, other farms and small businesses will view this as a success story for the state and begin to consider how they can make that transition as well.

Solar Energy’s Carbon Footprint (Solar Panels’ Environmental Impact)

The excitement surrounding the global solar energy initiative is well justified, as scientists project that the sunlight which touches the earth in one hour could power the world for an entire year if all that energy were harnessed.

This is an incredible theory, and one that has driven the solar economy forward by leaps and bounds over the last two decades.

But, as wonderful as the progress towards more renewable energy sourcing is, it is important to remember that solar panels are not entirely carbon neutral and continue to improve manufacturing technology to support a cleaner, healthier environment.

In terms of the carbon footprint, solar panel’s manufacturing creates the biggest impact. Unless the plants that manufacture solar panels are powered by solar energy, it is likely they are powered by fossil fuels, resulting in carbon emissions.

The larger the factory, the larger its carbon footprint.

It is also important to consider the byproducts of manufacturing solar panels. For example, the vast majority of the solar panel market today are silicon-based PV cells.

The manufacturing process requires the breaking down of silicon, creating potentially dangerous byproducts such as silicon tetrachloride, thus adding to the carbon footprint of solar panels.

One final manufacturing consideration is that solar panels use raw materials (silicon, aluminum, cadmium, lead), which must be mined from the earth. The process of mining and refining raw materials, particularly heavy metals, is costly to the environment as well.

Close up view of solar panels not properly installed, using junk wood and tie wire as racking system.

(Image: Patrickroque0129)

Once manufacturing is complete, the carbon impact of solar panels begins to plateau. However, there is still transportation of the panels to consider, with considerable portions of solar panels used in the U.S. being imported from other countries and then across state lines.

The vehicles required for transport emit greenhouse gasses.

The good news is that once the solar panels are installed, they become a powerful asset to offset carbon emissions. Also, most solar panels last at least 25 years, an incredible lifespan for technology.

One final consideration that affects the carbon footprint of solar panels is what is done with end-of-life solar systems. Recycling companies are being developed across the country to undertake the tricky process of breaking down the solar cells for reuse since any solar panels left to break down in a landfill have the potential to leach toxic levels of heavy metal into the soil.

Factoring in all of the different aspects of solar panel manufacture, transport, and disposal provides a general idea of solar energy’s carbon footprint. While this may seem discouraging at first, consider that solar’s carbon footprint is dramatically smaller than that of burning fossil fuels.

Furthermore, it is estimated that a solar panel’s carbon footprint is negated within 3 years of use. An amazing feat for a technology that can last 30 years or more!

So while solar manufacturers continue working on ways to reduce their carbon footprint, solar investors can rest assured that solar powered homes are an overwhelmingly positive shift for the environment!

Where Do I Dispose of Outdated Solar Panels in West Virginia?

One of the best perks of solar panels is their long lifespan, and currently, most companies guarantee at least 20 years for their solar panels and usually longer. But what happens when those solar panels eventually reach their limit and expire?

At the end of their lifespans, solar panels should be recycled. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the raw materials of the solar panels, primarily glass, aluminum, and copper can be reused to make new panels, saving millions of dollars annually.

But solar panels cannot be recycled just anywhere. In fact, given the particular way in which they must be recycled, solar panels can only be recycled at special facilities.

There are currently 21 solar panel recycling facilities scattered across the U.S., with more in development.

For West Virginians, the closest recycling facilities at present are located in nearby states of North Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio, and Indiana.

Different types of solar panels are constructed with varying levels of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. These heavy metals are regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) as they pose a toxicity threat to humans if significant amounts leach into the soil.

Thus, proper disposal of solar panels is imperative.

West Virginia’s government has taken certain steps to ensure that large solar facilities are properly decommissioned. According to West Virginia Wind and Solar Energy Facility Reclamation Act (Code §22-32-4), owners of solar facilities with capacities of 1.0 megawatts or more must secure bonding or make other arrangements with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to “cover the costs of decommissioning and reclamation” in case of abandonment.

In the case where recycling residential solar panels is not feasible, individuals should contact the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) at (304) 926-0499 to determine whether their solar panels are considered hazardous waste and ascertain the proper method of disposal.

Despite West Virginia’s lack of solar initiative in the past decade, solar energy is finally gaining some traction in the mountain state. With steadily falling solar prices and increased solar efficiency, now may be the time for West Virginians to make the switch to solar!

West Virginia solar incentives are helping residents lower the cost of solar panels in West Virginia in a variety of ways.

Frequently Asked Questions About West Virginia Solar Incentives

Does Solar Increase Home Value?

The question everyone seems to be asking is “Does solar increase home value?”, and the answer is nearly always a yes! The addition of solar panels to one’s home can result in an increase up to 4% or more in home value, but the correlation between home value and solar panels is mediated by factors such as the location of the home and condition of the solar energy system.2,3

Who Does Solar Panel Installation?

Solar panel installation is usually carried out by specialists or contractors hired by the home or business owner. The process of installing a solar energy system is complex and dangerous, requiring caution and diverse skill sets.8

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1Davis, S., Barnatt, R., Jangid, J., Oentoro, A., Fallah, G., Jonca, M., Johnson, E., Garrison, N., Dhulipalla, V., Laura, A., Smith, N., Asthana, R., Raisy, J., Williams, J., Pope, J., & Johansson, A. (2023, February 2). Why Are Solar Panels So Expensive? Socialnomics. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://socialnomics.net/2023/02/02/why-are-solar-panels-so-expensive/>

2Brill, R., & Allen, S. (2023, May 18). Does Solar Increase Home Value? – Forbes Home. Forbes. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://www.forbes.com/home-improvement/solar/does-solar-increase-home-value/>

3Jude, T., & Bunt, A. (2023, June 7). Do Solar Panels Increase Home Value? (2023 Guide). MarketWatch. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://www.marketwatch.com/guides/home-improvement/do-solar-panels-increase-home-value/>

4Garside, M. (2022, November 15). Coal-mining employment West Virginia 2021. Statista. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://www.statista.com/statistics/215786/coal-mining-employment-in-west-virginia/>

5Global Solar Atlas. (2023). Frequently Asked Questions What’s the difference between DNI, DIF and GHI? Global Solar Atlas. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://globalsolaratlas.info/support/faq>

6SolarReviews. (2023). Guide to West Virginia incentives & tax credits in 2023. SolarReviews. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://www.solarreviews.com/solar-incentives/west-virginia>

7Brill, R., Ogletree, A., & Saddler, L. (2023, June 27). How Much Do Solar Panels Cost In 2023? Forbes. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://www.forbes.com/home-improvement/solar/cost-of-solar-panels/#solar_panel_installation_costs_section>

8Biermeier, D., & Pelchen, L. (2023, April 12). How to Install Solar Panels In 2023 – Forbes Home. Forbes. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://www.forbes.com/home-improvement/solar/how-to-install-solar-panels/>

9TurbineGenerator.org. (2023). Peak Sun Hours for Solar Panels in West Virginia. Turbine Generator. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://www.turbinegenerator.org/solar/west-virginia/>

10Glover, E. (2023, February 24). Ranked: Best And Worst States For Solar 2023 – Forbes Home. Forbes. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://www.forbes.com/home-improvement/solar/best-worst-states-solar/>

11Solar Energy Industries Association. (2023). Solar Industry Research Data | SEIA. Solar Energy Industries Association. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://www.seia.org/solar-industry-research-data>

12Solar Energy Industries Association. (2023). Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). Solar Energy Industries Association. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://www.seia.org/initiatives/solar-investment-tax-credit-itc>

13SolarReviews. (2023). Solar Panel Cost West Virginia: Local prices & online estimator. SolarReviews. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://www.solarreviews.com/solar-panel-cost/west-virginia>

14Solar Energy Industries Association. (2023). State-By-State Map. Solar Energy Industries Association. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://www.seia.org/states-map>

15Sylvia, T. (2022, April 7). 250MW solar project planned for former West Virginia coal mine. pv magazine USA. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2022/04/07/250mw-solar-project-planned-for-former-west-virginia-coal-mine/>

16Eick, J. (2015, February 4). West Virginia Becomes First State to Repeal RPS. American Legislative Exchange Council. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://alec.org/article/west-virginia-becomes-first-state-repeal-rps/>

17AP News. (2022, December 20). West Virginia poultry farm equipped with 1400 solar panels. AP News. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://apnews.com/article/business-west-virginia-a7db13c1fcdf613619948422c697c0ef>

18A1 Solar Store. (2021, March 12). West Virginia Solar Information Solar Panels: Incentives, Costs, and Policies in WV. A1 Solar Store. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://a1solarstore.com/west-virginia-solar-information.html>

19EnergySage. (2023, March 15). West Virginia Solar Panel Cost: Is Solar Worth It In 2023? EnergySage. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://www.energysage.com/local-data/solar-panel-cost/wv/>

20Solar Energy Industries Association. (2023). West Virginia Solar. Solar Energy Industries Association. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://www.seia.org/state-solar-policy/west-virginia>

21Ramsey Solutions. (2023, April 3). What is a Tax Liability? – Ramsey. Ramsey Solutions. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://www.ramseysolutions.com/taxes/what-is-a-tax-liability>

22Wild Hill Solar. (2023). EDF Renewables. Wild Hill Solar. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://www.edf-re.com/project/wild-hill-solar/>

23Young, C. (2022, June 20). West Virginia lawmakers hear updates on deployment of solar development bill. WV News. Retrieved July 9, 2023, from <https://www.wvnews.com/statejournal/news/west-virginia-lawmakers-hear-updates-on-deployment-of-solar-development-bill/article_3a4e7d3a-ecad-11ec-80fc-0b724f3ad3bd.html>

24Solar Energy Industries Association. (2023). Solar Energy. Solar Energy Industries Association: SEIA. Retrieved July 13, 2023, from <https://www.seia.org/initiatives/about-solar-energy>

25ESRI. (2023). Interactive GIS Data Viewer. Interactive GIS Data Viewer. Retrieved July 13, 2023, from <https://eia.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=5395ae9a72a04064932c1c11efc1db3e&showLayers=State%20Mask%20West%20Virginia;Coal%20Mines;Coal%20Power%20Plants;Battery%20Storage%20Power%20Plants;Biomass%20Power%20Plants;Geothermal%20Power%20Plant>

26DSIRE. (2023). Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency®. DSIRE: Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency®. Retrieved July 13, 2023, from <https://www.dsireusa.org/>

27SK6482 : Small house with lots of solar panels Photo by Christine Johnstone. (October 9, 2011) / CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. Resized and changed format. Geograph. Retrieved January 18, 2024, from <https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2667848>

28cabin, solar, panels Photo by Hillebrand Steve, USFWS. (August 10, 2016) / CC0 1.0 DEED | CC0 1.0 Universal. Resized and changed format. Pixnio. Retrieved January 18, 2024, from <https://pixnio.com/architecture/house/cabin-with-solar-panels>

29Solar Power Panel (EDSA-Estrella, Guadalupe, Makati; 2014-12-03) Photo by Patrickroque01. (December 3, 2014) / CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International. Resized and changed format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved January 18, 2024, from <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Solar_Power_Panel_(EDSA-Estrella,_Guadalupe,_Makati;_2014-12-03).jpg>

30HY3705 : Solar Panels Photo by Derek Mayes. (March 27, 2011) / CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. Resized and changed format. Geograph. Retrieved January 18, 2024, from <https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2326513>