In solar energy, California is the king of all states and has been for quite some time. No American state has maintained such a consistent commitment to solar power or come closer to meeting its stated goals in the renewable energy sector.
At the municipal and state levels support for solar initiatives and incentives has remained strong, and this along with California’s warm days and naturally sunny skies has helped solar energy prosper.
California currently gets about one-third of the state’s electricity from renewable energy sources . The percentage provided by solar is just slightly above 27 percent, according to the most up-to-date statistics . On a nationwide basis the cost of a complete solar energy installation has declined by 53 percent over the last decade, spurring development in California as well as elsewhere in the United States .
More than 1.5 million California homeowners and business owners have gone solar already, and as impressive as this sounds it is only the tip of the iceberg of what is possible .
Research by Project Sunroof found that a stunning 91 percent of California buildings have roofs that could support solar panels . This testifies to the enormous untapped potential for solar energy in the state, despite how far the technology has progressed already.
Best solar companies in California
|Solar Company||Greentumble Rating Score|
|LA Solar Group||4.3|
|G C Electric Solar||4.0|
SunPower – Winner
Headquartered in San Jose, SunPower honed its expertise in its home state, and while the company has become a force nationally it still has a special relationship with the people of California.
The company's understanding of the needs of California homeowners is unsurpassed in the industry, and it has proven its ability handle a full range of rooftop or ground-based installations on residential properties throughout the state.
Some of the factors that set SunPower apart from the competition in California include:
#1 Superior quality solar panels: SunPower solar panels meet the highest industry standards for energy efficiency and effectiveness. They have received even the highest rating on our list of the best solar panels for homes , specifically for their outstanding performance with 22.8 percent efficiency.
#2 Flexible and convenient home evaluations: The initial SunPower evaluation of your home’s suitability for solar panels can take place in person or online.
#3 Virtual installation simulations: The company’s innovative Design Studio app will let you construct your own customized solar array and show you exactly what solar panels will look like on your home.
#4 Fully integrated battery storage: SunPower’s Equinox solar energy system can be combined with the company’s SunVault Storage system to create the most comprehensive off-the-grid energy solution available.
#5 Minimalist design features: SunPower is a pioneer in the art of minimalism, as its streamlined, supremely well-designed products that blend seamlessly and unobtrusively with your home’s architectural design.
#6 Generous financing options: SunPower sponsors its own in-house solar energy financing program, which is designed to help all prospective solar homeowners get the financial support they require to proceed with their solar installation.
#7 Longest warranty in the business: SunPower’s 25-year warranty on equipment performance plus parts and labor is the most generous available in the solar energy industry, and the company is the only solar provider to offer full coverage for both solar panel arrays and battery storage systems.
The California solar market is the most competitive in the nation, and SunPower has risen to the top based on its sterling record of delivering superior services and high-quality products.
Solar Optimum – Runner-Up
Active in the California solar market since 2008, Glendale-based Solar Optimum has established a strong presence and impeccable reputation throughout the state, and throughout the southwestern region of the United States as a whole.
Solar Optimum has installed more than 300 MW of solar energy capacity for home and business owners in California, Nevada and Arizona, and currently offers its expert installation services through 11 offices located throughout Southern and Northern California.
From 2020 through 2022, Solar Optimum was named the top solar installer in the state of California by both Solar Power World and Panasonic.
Solar Optimum standout features include:
#1 Good quality solar panels: Superior solar panels installed by experts with extensive experience.
#2 Great warranty: Full 25-year warranties on its solar panels, battery storage equipment, inverter, roof racking, roof renovations and installations, workmanship and overall system performance.
#3 Battery storage: Ample battery storage capacity can be purchased, with clients able to choose between the Tesla 2.0 Powerwall or the Enphase IQ solar battery system.
#4 Roofing services: Comprehensive roofing services for homeowners who need roof replacements or renovations to hold solar panels (Solar Optimum’s expertise in roofing is a unique in the solar industry).
#5 Free online guides: Free downloadable consumer guides that introduce Solar Optimum’s solar energy, battery storage and roofing services packages for potential solar homeowners.
Solar Optimum is not just surviving but thriving in California’s highly competitive solar energy sector, which is a testament to the company’s professionalism and commitment.
How to choose the best solar company in California
Before choosing any solar company to handle the installation of panels on your home, you should check their reviews carefully to make sure their past clients recommend them highly. Conduct a Google search for “solar installation companies near me” and review recent ratings and reviews. Also, explore resources like the Better Business Bureau and recommendation websites to gather insights. However, always conduct thorough research and visit company websites to understand their reputation.
Next, prioritize companies with a proven track record and years of experience. Just like you wouldn’t trust inexperienced professionals in other fields, choose a solar company with decades of experience and a solid reputation. Avoid unreliable contractors who may disappear and reemerge under different names.
Ideally, you should find solar homeowners in your neighborhood or community who can share their first-hand experiences with different companies.
Verify also their licensing and insurance. Reputable companies hold the necessary permits and licenses for each job. Ensure they provide insurance coverage for their workers to protect against any injuries during installation. Always ask for proof of proper insurance before proceeding.
You should certainly seek out bids from more than one contractor before proceeding, so you can compare the types of service packages they can offer. But remember: price shouldn’t be the sole determinant. Instead of limiting yourself to a specific number of estimates, focus on gathering sufficient information from one or two companies through discussions and consultations. Avoid choosing solely based on price, as it can be misleading.
Ensure that all aspects of your solar installation are documented, especially the financing terms.
A reliable company will have a knowledgeable representative who can guide you through the contract and address any payment-related queries.
Your solar installer should impress you with their honesty and integrity, along with their willingness to stand behind their work and equipment with iron-clad guarantees. They should be upfront and forthright with you throughout the evaluation process, giving you a realistic assessment of what your final costs will be and of how long it will take them to finish the job.
Clarify satisfaction guarantees. Inquire about the company’s process for handling errors or unsatisfactory work. Choose a company that prioritizes your satisfaction and doesn’t accept payment until you are completely satisfied.
Inquire about how unexpected repairs are handled. Home improvements can reveal unforeseen repairs, and it’s important to understand how the company manages such situations. This ensures you are prepared and know what to expect throughout the process.
When a California solar company’s representatives are communicative and open, and can offer you high-quality equipment backed by good customer reviews and years of experience, they will earn your trust and your business.
Solar incentives in California
California offers some generous incentives, credits and rebates to solar homeowners, including those who have already installed solar panels in addition to those who plan to do so in the near future.
Some of the highlights include:
#1 Disadvantaged Communities / Single-Family Solar Home Program
Homeowners classified as low income and living in economically disadvantaged communities in California are eligible for upfront rebates that can make solar panel installations more affordable .
The program aims to increase renewable energy adoption and decrease electricity costs in disadvantaged communities (DACs).
DAC-SASH: This program offers no upfront cost rooftop solar installations to income-qualified homeowners in DACs. It is administered by GRID Alternatives and is currently accepting applications. More information is available at this official website.
DAC-GT: This program provides a 20 percent bill discount on utility-scale clean energy for income-qualified residential customers in DACs who cannot install solar on their roofs. Eligibility is based on income requirements for CARE and FERA programs.
CSGT: This program allows residential customers in DACs without solar access to benefit from local solar projects and receive a 20 percent bill discount. Community organizations collaborate with utilities or Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) to select project locations.
#2 Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP)
The California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) provides rebates for installing energy storage technology, including battery storage systems, in both residential and non-residential buildings. These systems are designed to operate during power outages, ensuring continuous power supply, and helping to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
The rebate currently covers 15 to 20 percent of the average battery cost, and any PG&E customer can apply.
Homeowners that install battery storage systems for solar energy can receive rebates of up to $200 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of stored energy capacity purchased .
For more information check the official CPUC website on the topic of SGIP’s participation.
#3 Equity Resilience Rebate
Homeowners classified as low-income, medically vulnerable, or who live in areas with high risk of fire or are affected by the Public Safety Power Shutoffs, can receive additional benefits under the SGIP if they install battery backup to store solar energy. The rebate offered can go as high as $1,000 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of storage capacity installed .
Both PG&E and the CPUC oversee these programs. The Equity Resiliency program has its own funding, which is currently set at $600 million. Once the funds are distributed, the program may no longer be available.
#4 Solar Energy System and Solar Plus Storage System Property Tax Exclusion
Running only through 2025, this special tax credit ensures a homeowner’s property tax assessment will not increase if they install rooftop solar panels .
If you install an active solar energy system on your property, you may receive this property tax incentive. This incentive is called a new construction exclusion, which means that the value of the solar system will not increase or decrease the assessed value of your property.
Normally, when something valuable is added to a property, it is assessed and increases the property value. However, with an active solar energy system, the value of the system is not considered for assessment purposes.
Some properties with active solar energy systems may be eligible for exclusion from reassessment.
An active solar energy system is a system that uses solar devices to collect and use solar energy. It can be used for heating water, conditioning spaces, generating electricity, providing heat, or producing mechanical energy.
#5 California Net Metering
Throughout the state of California, you can export any excess solar energy your grid-tried solar array produces back to your utility company in return for credits on your electricity bill .
After April 15, 2023, customers who apply for interconnection need to use the new net billing tariff set by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in December 2022.
Under this tariff, energy production and consumption are calculated instantly instead of monthly. Any excess energy sent back to the grid is credited based on hourly values from the Avoided Cost Calculator, which determines the value of energy produced at different times of the day.
The calculator calculates values for each hour of the year (8,760 hours) and averages them for each month. It also considers whether it’s a weekday or weekend. For example, if you export energy from 3 PM to 4 PM on a weekday in July 2023, you will receive the same credit rate for all the energy exported during that hour.
If you join the net billing tariff within the first five years of its implementation, the values for the first nine years after you connect to the grid will be determined using a schedule of values for each hour from the Avoided Cost Calculator (ACC). This nine-year period is called the lock-in period.
Unfortunately, the scheme reduces compensation for excess solar power sent to the grid. Instead of getting credited at the same rate as your electricity bill (one-to-one net metering), a new lower rate called net billing is applied. The rate is based on “avoided cost” and varies depending on the time, day, and month of energy export. On average, these rates are about 25 percent of retail electricity rates, meaning net metering credits are lower by about 75 percent under this scheme.
#6 Municipal and County Governments Rebates and Energy Bill Credits
Many California communities offer extra financial incentives to encourage residents to install solar panels and/or battery storage systems.
For example, residents of the Marin, Napa, Solano and Contra Costa Counties have available a Feed-In Tariff Plus. It is a performance-based incentive, dependent upon the performance of you solar system.
The program opens up a way for you to sell energy from your small-scale renewable power system within the service area. The program sets fixed rules, standardized 15-year contract terms, and a fixed price per kWh, that applies to all eligible small-scale solar power generators.
#7 Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit
In addition to these California-specific benefits, all homeowners in the United States are eligible for the Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). This popular program allows you to deduct up to 30 percent of the cost of a solar energy system installation from your federal income taxes .
The Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is a federal incentive designed to encourage investments in solar power. It provides a direct reduction in income taxes that individuals would otherwise owe to the IRS.
Initially, the ITC offered a 30 percent reduction in taxes for both residential and commercial solar projects until 2019. Originally, the tax credit was expected to gradually decrease over time. However, due to the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress in August 2022, the phasedown process has been delayed.
The act has locked the tax credit at 30 percent for the next 10 years, extending until 2032. This means that you can still benefit from a 30 percent tax credit on the amount invested in a solar system until that time.
#8 CaliforniaFIRST – PACE Financial Incentive
PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) is a financing option that combines the advantages of solar loans and leases.
Renew Financial’s PACE program allows you to build equity in your solar system, so you receive all the electricity and incentives directly. This turns solar into an investment with tangible returns, similar to a solar loan.
With PACE financing, there are no upfront costs. You can get a new solar installation, including the parts and labor, without spending any money upfront, just like with a solar lease.
Additionally, PACE offers other benefits. Unlike personal loans, PACE financing is tied to your property, not your personal debt. This makes it relatively easy to qualify for PACE financing, as long as you have sufficient equity in your home.
Furthermore, if you decide to sell your home, the PACE financing is transferred to the new owner. This means the debt is associated with the property, not with you as the homeowner.
CaliforniaFIRST is available to homeowners in specific counties. You can check the provided website to find out if your community participates in PACE and get more details about the program.
Becoming a solar homeowner in California
The state of California has set a goal of becoming 100-percent renewable energy dependent by the year 2045 . Unlike other localities that have expressed similar ambitions, California has implemented policies that are fostering the growth of solar energy and other renewable technologies, to the extent that reaching this milestone seems fully achievable.
At the current time California residents are paying an average of $210 per month ($2,520 per year) for electricity imported from the grid, which is nine percent higher than the national average .
If you’re a homeowner in the state, solar panels backed by battery storage have the potential to rescue you from these prodigious energy costs. Solar power in California could mean energy independence for you and your family, saving you more than enough money in the long run to offset the initial costs of a solar panel installation.