You’ve heard time and time again that solar is affordable. Panel prices keep falling, and there’s a range of local, state, and federal incentives to help bring the cost of your solar installation down even further.
But once you do all the math – once you take advantage of every rebate and loophole – how much does the average San Diego solar installation actually cost?
We can answer this pretty easily. The average cost of a residential solar installation in San Diego is about $10K (including incentives, rebates, and tax credits).
But this figure is somewhat misleading for several reasons.
1. The “Average” Solar Installation Cost Is Only an Average
Average solar installation costs in San Diego don’t really capture the full picture.
- Each project is unique
- Every customer is different
- No 2 properties are the exact same
Even within San Diego County, there are regional differences between what you’d pay in Coronado versus La Mesa – for solar installations of the same size and quality.
So $10K is a very rough starting point. There are simply too many variables involved to give a truly accurate estimate. For example, if your home receives a lot of direct sunlight, you won’t need as large an installation as your neighbor might. And thus, your solar costs could be much lower.
This is why an on-site solar evaluation is so important. To give you an accurate quote, an installation team must measure things like:
- your monthly electricity usage
- your roof’s orientation and slant
- your home’s solar exposure (i.e. shading vs. direct sunlight)
Fortunately, Sunline Energy provides this evaluation free of cost.
2. Some San Diego Solar Installations Cost Absolutely Nothing
“Average” San Diego solar installation cost is misleading for another important reason – a growing number of homeowners don’t actually own the panels on their rooftops, and thus, incur zero installation costs. They simply lease their solar panels through power purchase agreements (PPAs).
How does this even work?
Simple. Someone else pays for the installation and covers all maintenance and upkeep costs. In return, you pay this party a set rate for the solar electricity you consume (a rate lower than what SDG&E currently charges). Think of it as a long-term lease in which you pay for usage but not ownership.
Average cost of solar installations financed with PPAs? Pretty close to $0.
3. San Diego Solar Installation Returns Are Secondary to Cost
When we talk about stocks, rarely do we mention “cost.” Instead, we talk in terms of “returns” since stocks are investment vehicles – not traditional expenses.
The same is true of solar. It’s an investment – not an expense.
If you own your system (rather than lease one), you’re not paying for a service. You’re buying an asset that delivers guaranteed returns for the next 25 to 40 years. Any mention of cost should factor in the lifetime value of that investment – i.e. all the cumulative solar dividends your installation pays over the next few decades.
In California – at today’s utility prices – a standard solar PV installation can save you nearly $35K in electricity bills over the next 20 years. And because a high quality system installed by a licensed solar contractor can last upwards of 40 years, total lifetime savings approach $70K.
In other words, a $10K installation could actually cost you negative $60K (i.e. pure profit). And this is at today’s utility prices. If electricity rates keep going up (which they most certainly will), your potential savings also rise.
So How Much Will Your San Diego Solar Installation Cost?
We’ve seen how average solar installation costs started at $10K, moved to $0 (for solar leases), and ended up at negative $60K.
Curious about where you are on this spectrum?