Wisconsin has higher than average electricity costs and a decent amount of sunshine, making this a smart place to go solar at home. Residents of Wisconsin can also take advantage of solar rebates, solar loans, a state sales tax exemption and an exemption from property taxes associated with solar.
Reader note: SunPower is currently our top rated solar installer in Wisconsin
If you live in Milwaukee, there are even more incentives up for grabs. And wherever you live in the state, you should be able to sign up for net metering with pretty generous rules for homeowners. No wonder solar installations are on the rise in the Badger State!
Wisconsin Solar Incentives
|Solar rebates in Wisconsin||Wisconsinites can get rebates of $500, or up to $17,500, for installing solar at home or as part of new home construction.|
|Solar loans in Wisconsin||Greenpenny offers low-cost solar loans to customers in Wisconsin.|
|State sales tax exemption in Wisconsin||Wisconsin exempts solar energy equipment from state sales tax.|
|Property tax exemption||Homeowners can exempt their solar installation from property tax in Wisconsin.|
|Milwaukee Shines and other city solar incentives||Milwaukee offers residents low-cost solar loans, a group buy program, and streamlined permitting for home solar installations.|
|Net metering in Wisconsin||Net metering is mandated by law in Wisconsin, with credits rolling over month to month and annual payouts for unused credits.|
Solar rebates in Wisconsin
Eligible homeowners can get up to a $500 solar rebate after installing solar in Wisconsin. This is through the Focus on Energy state-wide energy partnership with Wisconsin utility companies. Rural residential customers are also eligible for an additional $500 for home solar installations. Check the eligible rural ZIP code list [PDF] to see if your home qualifies.
As of August 23rd, 2022, more than two-thirds of the budget has already been allocated for the main arm of this program. All but a few thousand of the rural bonus has been allocated, and just $30,000 remains of the new construction budget. If you’re interested in applying, get your paperwork in as soon as possible.
The program also offers much higher incentives (up to $17,500, or $2,500 per kW) for solar installations that are part of new construction of owner-occupied affordable housing. Eligible properties include one- to three-unit homes and systems must meet Focus on Energy requirements for the solar energy system. Check the Online Organizational Income Eligibility Application [PDF] and apply well in advance to be approved for the credit.
Solar loans in Wisconsin
Greenpenny offers financing for solar and other renewable energy projects in Wisconsin. The virtual bank’s solar loans have low interest rates (currently 4.75%), no prepayment penalties, and are accessible even for those with a low credit rating.
Greenpenny currently offers a Solar Tax Credit loan option where you can borrow 26% of your solar installation cost for up to 15 months as a single-payment loan. (Presumably, Greenpenny will raise this to 30% given the increase and extension of the federal solar tax credit.) Once you receive your federal solar ITC credit at tax time, you can pay off the full loan. The second option is a Residential Solar Loan with a repayment plan of up to 20 years to finance 74% (likely now 30%) of your project cost. You can also combine the loans to finance up to 100% of the upfront cost of installing solar.
Clean Energy Credit Union also offers low-interest loans for solar installations in Wisconsin. Similar to Greenpenny, CECU offers both a 12-month or 18-month loan that covers your solar tax credit (i.e., up to 26% of the eligible project cost) and a 12-year, 15-year, or 20-year fixed rate loan on up to 74% of the eligible project cost. You can also choose to combine the loans.
State sales tax exemptions in Wisconsin
Wisconsin offers a state sales tax exemption This saves most customers at least 5% in sales taxes upfront on the cost of solar, with some counties also exempting their additional sales taxes of up to 0.6%.
For the average home solar installation in Wisconsin, which is around $14,000 to $19,000, state and county sales tax exemptions could save homeowners a chunk of change amounting to $900-$1,200.
Typically, solar installers will simply leave off state sales tax from estimates and invoices. If you see this tax added, however, check with the installer, especially if they’re from out of state.
State property tax exemptions in Wisconsin
Wisconsin also offers homeowners an exemption from additional property taxes associated with value added to a home by installing solar. This property tax exemption on home solar installations includes solar energy storage equipment, so you won’t pay additional taxes after installing battery storage.
Milwaukee Shines and other Milwaukee solar incentives
The City of Milwaukee provides low-interest loans to homeowners who install solar energy in the city. Loans are available up to $20,000 at prime plus 1.5% currently. This is through the Milwaukee Shines solar program, with 15-year repayment periods, no fees or down payments and no penalties for early payment.
Eligible projects include solar electric systems up to 6 kW, solar hot water systems (of 1-8 panels) and solar hot air. These must be installed by a Focus on Energy Residential Ally solar installer. Loans can cover all equipment, labor, permits, and interconnection fees and can be used for structural reinforcement and re-roofing expenses if part of the solar project.
Milwaukee Shines also includes a Group Solar Buy program, where a collection of homeowners can band together to take advantage of group discounts and protections.
Milwaukee also streamlined the permitting process for solar, creating a specific solar zoning ordinance and reducing solar permit fees in addition to providing financing for residential and business owners.
Net metering in Wisconsin
Net metering is mandated by law in Wisconsin for investor-owned utilities and municipal utilities, but not electric cooperatives (though some still offer it). There is no limit on how many customers can enroll and every utility sets its own tariff for net metering, which you can check here.
In general, credits are granted for excess generation at the utility’s retail rate and are carried over to the next bill. Once a year, utilities typically write a check for any unused credits over $25. However, at least one utility, Xcel Energy, only issues annual payments at the avoided-cost rate, not the full retail rate.
Alliant Energy (Wisconsin Power & Light Co.), Madison Gas and Electric (MGE), and other utilities offer net metering programs with variable terms and conditions. In general, surplus energy you export to the grid is credited at the retail rate and you can request a payment annually if your credit exceeds $25.
Final thoughts on state solar incentives in Wisconsin
Wisconsin was the first state to enact a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) (in 1999) without restructuring its electric utility industry. While this sounds promising, the RPS set a goal of just 10% of electricity from renewable sources by 2015, after which utilities couldn’t backslide to below that requirement. There’s been little movement to bump up this minimum in recent years and no solar carve-out, both of which would help spur development of renewable energy in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin currently ranks just 26th for installed solar capacity in the U.S., but the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) predicts it will be 12th in five years as more utilities, businesses, and residents are going solar even without the impetus provided by a more robust RPS.
Homeowners who do install solar in Wisconsin can take advantage of the state’s solar rebate, the federal tax credit, low-cost solar loans, state sales tax and property tax exemptions, and net metering. For anyone living in Milwaukee, check out the Milwaukee Shines program for added incentives!