Solar Basics

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Solar Basics

To install a solar electricity system on your home, you will need to work directly with a solar contractor. They will handle all the permitting as well as the application process for incentives mandated by California State legislation.

Step 1: Find out if solar is right for you

See your electricity usage history. Find out how much electricity you used in the past 12 months. Start by logging into your account history. Aim to eliminate your Tier II electric use for optimum benefit. See SMUD rates here.

Get a cost-benefit analysis. The Solar Power Estimator helps you narrow the likely costs and savings over time of different sized systems for your home in order to make informed choices.

Size it right. SMUD pays incentives only on systems designed to offset the amount of electricity you typically use over a 12-month period. The average residential system size is about 3.4 kW. State law requires SMUD to pay for excess power that flows from your system back onto the grid, but the amount you receive may be less than retail value.

Step 2: Make your home energy-efficient

Your best savings will always be the energy you don't use. To maximize the benefits of having your own solar power system, make sure the electricity it generates is not lost to energy-inefficiency in your home. Learn more here about saving energy and money, as well as rebates and incentives.

The State of California requires homeowners to consider efficiency before receiving incentives for solar power systems. You will need to perform an on-line analysis or a telephone audit with a SMUD residential energy specialist. Do this before signing a contract with a solar company.

*Either analysis must be received by SMUD for you to receive an incentive application.

To talk with a SMUD auditor, call 916-732-7100. To perform an on-line analysis, begin here.

Step 3: Making the purchase

You've analyzed the savings potential of installing a solar power system on your home and taken steps to make your home more energy efficient. Good. Now it's time to begin.

Selecting a contractor. This may be your most important decision in the whole process. For your own peace of mind it's best to talk to more than one contractor to evaluate them not only on price, but also on their expertise. Contractors need to hold a C-10, C-46 or B-General Contractor license. A list of solar contractors may be found on the website of the California Solar Initiative.

Assessing costs. With solar power becoming more available, equipment costs are declining. Installed system costs can be as little as $4-5/watt (CEC-AC rating) or perhaps even less.

Incentives. In keeping with state legislation, SMUD offers a declining 10-step incentive structure. The residential incentive is at Step 10. An overview of incentive applications received and approved since 2007 may be found here. The incentive can be paid to the PV contractor or the SMUD customer.

Current Incentive Rate. Effective January 16, 2015 the residential incentive will be $500.00 per residential system. (Updated 12/11/2014)

EPBI - Expected based incentive paid based on the system capacity in AC incorporating CEC PTC module rating, inverter efficiency, array shade, tilt and orientation.

Step 4: Apply for incentives

The application process to receive incentives for your solar power system will be handled by your contractor.

Go solar without buying a system. To learn about leasing a solar power system or about Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) go here.

Frequently Asked Questions. For more information on solar power, check out these frequently asked questions.

Ask SMUD. For questions or more information about solar electricity for your home, email

Want solar power for your business?

Find out how SMUD can help you put the sun to work for your business. More.

For Contractors
Start the PV (photovoltaic) rebate reservation process by submitting a rebate application using PowerClerk.

If you need a PowerClerk password, or do not have access to SMUD programs through the CSI Program portal, download the SMUD PowerClerk Access Application here. Email completed applications to

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Related Topics

  • The District offers programs to provide equal opportunity to all segments of the business community.
  • SMUD is nationally recognized as a leader in renewable resources and electric transportation.
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