Solar Panels in California: An Overview

All Data As of December 31st 2016 (Based on 33,899 Installations)

  • Average Residential Solar System Size in California: 6.1 Kilowatts
  • Average Cost of Solar Panels in California: $27,066 BEFORE incentives ($18,956 AFTER federal incentives)
  • Average Cost of Solar Panels in California (Per Watt): $4.56 BEFORE incentives ($3.19 AFTER federal incentives)

Cost of Solar Panels in California

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Cost of Solar Panels in California

In general, larger solar systems will cost less per kilowatt as there are certain fixed costs associated with an installation, so it is important to evaluate pricing by large systems (defined as 5-8 KWs) and medium systems (2-5 KWs). In addition, it is important to look at pricing distributions vs. averages or medians if you want to understand what a good deal is on a solar system.

For larger systems, the average cost of solar panels in California is $4.08 per watt (before incentives) and 25% of consumers paid less than $3.46 per watt.  For a medium system, the average cost of solar panels in California is $4.96 (before incentives) and 25% of consumers paid less than $4.00 per watt. So if you are looking to get the best price for a solar system in California and have an average sized system, you should find an installer below $3.50 per watt.

Cost of Solar Panels in California

Cost of Solar Panels in California

Solar Financing and Installation Trends in California

Residential solar installations have increased significantly in California, although growth slowed in 2016. From 2010 to 2016, installations have increased from 18,000 to 150,000, making California the largest residential solar market in the U.S. by a wide margin. The slowdown in installation activity and installer turmoil, has created a buying opportunity for consumers. By 2016, certain counties in California had more than 100 solar homes per 1,000 homes (based on U.S. census count of single detached homes).

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Solar Trends in California: June 2017 Update

California solar permits decreased 29% to 1,824 in June from 2,566 in June 2016 and decreased 8% from May 2017 (YTD decrease of 34%).

Solar Financing in California

In 2016, 54% of consumers purchased their solar system either with cash or a loan vs. and 46% used a lease or power purchase agreement (PPA) structure. Refer to our lease vs. buy guide to understand the implications of solar financing options. The percentage of consumers that purchased their solar system in California has increased in 2016 due to an increasing number of low-cost solar loans.

Solar Incentives and Rebates in California

In 2008 in California, the state required that all electric utilities provide rebates for solar installations and currently all of the rebates for the large investor-owned utility territory (SDG&E, PG&E and SCE) have been exhausted. If you purchase electricity from a municipal utility, refer to this list here to understand if rebates are still available. Although the state incentives have been exhausted, the federal solar tax credit incentive (30% of cost) is still available.

Top Solar Companies in California

Choosing a solar installer is arguably the most important step of going solar and we recommend reading our guide on how to choose a solar company. In California in 2016, approximately 63% of consumers chose a local installer vs. 37% that chose a national installer (SolarCity, Vivint or Sunrun).

Our California Solar Regional Guides


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