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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Best Solar Panel Installation Companies in Kentucky


Kentucky has been facing high electricity costs over the past few years. One way you might be able to fight back? Solar panels.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Bluegrass State ranks 43rd in terms of installed solar capacity. However, the industry is expected to grow — especially with expanded financial incentives offered by the federal Inflation Reduction Act. Kentucky is seeing an increase in citizens realizing the potential savings attached to installing solar panels, according to Carrie Ray, energy program coordinator at the Mountain Association, a Kentucky clean energy advocacy group.

Outside of its net metering policy, Kentucky doesn’t offer any state-level solar incentives. Net metering lets you receive credits in return for offloading the excess energy generated by your solar panel system to the grid. The credits can be used to pull energy from the grid outside of peak sunlight hours, lowering your energy bills. Even though there’s a lack of state incentives, the reduced electric bills might still make solar panels worth it depending on your personal situation.

Here’s what you need to know about how to get solar panels and how they can help with your energy costs, starting with a breakdown of the best solar panel installation companies operating within Kentucky.

Best national solar panel companies in Kentucky

SunPower Solar

Best solar panels

If you’re looking for top-of-the-line solar panels, SunPower is your best choice. But don’t write it off if you’re looking for a less flashy installation that will get the job done. This year it started installing Qcells panels, which should make an installation from the longest-tenured company on our list available to more people.

Tesla Solar

Most affordable

Tesla’s solar branch seems to be the least loved of Elon Musk’s ventures. Even Tesla’s Solar Roof seems to get more love.

If price is the thing you won’t budge on, consider Tesla. By all accounts, Tesla installs quality panels and makes the closest thing there is to a household name in solar storage: the Powerwall.

Where you might miss out is customer service. Discussion online seems to suggest Tesla’s service is a bit of a gamble.

Local solar panel companies in Kentucky

So you want solar panels, and you have an idea of how to pay for it. The question is, who do you buy from? You’ll want to choose the best solar company in Kentucky. You may not want to sign up with the first company that sends a sales rep to your door, experts say. Choosing the wrong solar installers can lead to a bad experience or to costs that eat away any potential savings you’d see from offsetting your energy use or net metering.

“We always encourage folks to get more than one bid,” Ray said. “Do not go with the first bid you get, just like you wouldn’t buy a car from the first dealer you talk to.”

Based in Lexington, Solar Energy Solutions also has locations in Louisville, Cincinnati, Indiana and Illinois. The company offers a variety of solar panels along with battery systems. Solar Energy Solutions is certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Professionals and says it does not subcontract any of its work, with licensed journeyman or master electricians present on every job.

While it’s based in West Virginia, Solar Holler also serves Kentucky as part of its broader mission to provide solar to Appalachia. It offers a three-year guarantee that the system will produce at least 95% of the annual production projected. Solar Holler offers loans including terms of 20 and 25 years.

How to determine which solar company in Kentucky is best for me

Solar is a costly investment, so you want to make sure you’re picking the right installer for the job. Here are a tips to help you find a reputable installer.

  • Ask installers about federal, state and local solar incentives.
  • Read online reviews from multiple sources. Google and Yelp are a good place to start.
  • Get recommendations from neighbors who have solar installed.
  • Check an installer’s liecnsing and certifications. Look for installers who are certified by NABCEP
  • Compare multiple solar quotes
  • Ask your installer all your questions, even the difficult ones.
  • Assess your potential savings cost and your solar payback period. Your installer should be able to explain this to you.

Cost of solar panels in Kentucky 

Here’s a look at the average cash price for a typical solar panel system in Kentucky before factoring in tax credits and incentives, according to data from FindEnergy.com. Your system might cost more if you want to get a solar battery for backup power.

Average cost of solar panels in Kentucky

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Typical system size (kW) Price per watt Total installed cost Cost after 30% federal tax credit
Kentucky 9 $2.88 $25,920 $18,144
National average 8.6 $3.67 $31,558 $22,091

Below, you’ll find a map with the average total cash price, cost per watt and typical system size for a solar panel system in your state, according to data from FindEnergy.com. Prices displayed don’t factor in rebates from tax credits or state incentives for their calculations. Certain states don’t have any FindEnergy solar data and are grayed out on the map.

Kentucky solar panel incentives and rebates

The biggest bit of financial help you can access for solar panels in Kentucky is a federal tax credit that can offset 30% of the total cost of a solar system. That credit was expanded and extended until 2032 by the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act. Because it’s a tax credit, you should do the math ahead of time to make sure you’ll owe enough on your taxes to get the full value. 

“The tax credit is there, but don’t just assume you’ll be able to access it,” Ray said. “You’ve got to make sure you have enough tax liability to make it worthwhile. Talk to your tax professional before moving forward.”

Kentucky doesn’t have many state-level incentives for residents to go solar, although it does require most utility companies to allow net metering. That means if you install solar panels you can sell excess energy back to the grid. You can also enter into an agreement with your neighbors to guarantee that you’ll have access to sunlight, known as a solar easement. That might be helpful if you’re concerned a future neighbor might block your access to the sun.

Kentucky solar incentives

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Program Description
Residential clean energy credit This tax credit covers up to 30% of the cost of installing a solar system. There’s no limit on how much can be claimed under the credit.
State solar easement laws Kentucky law allows residents to obtain easements — an agreement with your neighbor — in order to have access to direct sunlight. The easements must be in writing.
Net metering State law in Kentucky requires utilities to offer net metering, in which customers with solar panels or other generation can sell excess power back to the grid.

How to pay for solar panels in Kentucky

Solar panels are a major commitment. Even after considering the federal tax credit, you’re likely looking at more than $10,000. Still, they might be a worthwhile investment in the Bluegrass State.

“We’ve seen in Kentucky that the increased cost of fossil fuels has been making bills skyrocket,” Ray said in a phone call. “Something like installing solar is a way to mitigate some of those big spikes that we have seen and we’re going to continue to see.”

If you’re unsure of how to finance a solar panel installation, here are some ways to come up with that money:

Cash: If you can afford it, this is the easiest way to save on interest and financing costs. Planning on going solar eventually but not ready to take the plunge just yet? Consider saving money in a high-yield savings account to maximize your return.

Loans: Your solar company may offer its own financing or partner with a financial institution. You can also consider other loan options, such as a personal loan, home equity loan or home equity line of credit. Shop around to make sure you get the best deal. “Make sure that you know what your savings are estimated to be and that whatever financing you take is going to pay for itself within 20 years,” Ray said.

Lease or power purchase agreement: With a lease or power purchase agreement, you don’t own the panels. Instead you pay to rent them, with a lease; or you have a developer put solar panels on your house and you just pay for the energy, in a PPA. These can provide opportunities if you don’t have the cash to pay for panels, but they also might not save you as much money in the long run.

Read more: Want something smaller than a whole-home solar system? See our picks for the best portable solar panels and solar generators.

Installation factors to keep in mind

You might be thinking about solar panels as a way to save money on your utility bills or to offset your own electricity usage. Whether the panels pay for themselves depends a lot on making sure you’re getting a good deal. Here are some things to consider:

  • Your home’s energy efficiency: Solar panels shouldn’t be your first step toward optimizing your home’s energy use. Take steps to make your home energy efficient first, such as sealing cracks and windows, getting efficient appliances, and getting an energy audit. “Efficiency is much cheaper to invest in than solar,” Ray said. “And if you reduce the amount of electricity you need through efficiency, you need a smaller solar array. So you save money twice over.”
  • The condition of your roof: Your house was built to be a home, not a power plant, so it might not be at the optimal angle for solar panels. If your roof faces a less-than-ideal direction (south-facing is generally best in the northern hemisphere) or if it’s too steep or not steep enough, panels may not produce enough energy to be worth it.
  • HOA and neighborhood regulations: As with any major home project, check with your homeowners association and local regulations to see if you need any particular permission for solar panels. Local restrictions may also affect the size or type of solar array you can build.
  • Insurance coverage: Let your homeowner’s insurance company know about your solar panel project. Most policies cover rooftop solar panels, but it’s a good idea to check.
  • Rentals: You may not be allowed to install solar panels if you rent your home, but it’s worth having a conversation with your landlord or management company. If panels aren’t a possibility, consider community solar programs, which allow you to pay for energy produced at another solar facility in exchange for a credit on your energy bills. 
  • Your solar system: There are different types of solar panels you can get, with some being more efficient than others. You can also choose solar shingles, which look more like traditional roofs.

How we found the best solar companies

The companies we listed above as “the best” are curated from CNET’s best solar companies list. Companies making the best list are scored on the equipment, warranties and customer service they offer. Then, we make sure these recommendations are available in your state. You can read a full breakdown of how we review solar companies here.

Companies listed under the local installers were chosen in a less rigorous way. We chose them because they offered something unique or notable to customers in the state, they seemed well-regarded by internet reviewers or because they were one of the few installers we could find information on in the state.

Whether we’ve completed a full review on a company or not, it’s always a good idea to get multiple quotes from different installers before choosing a company.


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How we found the best solar panels companies

The companies we listed above as “the best” are curated from CNET’s best solar companies list. Companies making the best list are scored on the equipment, warranties and customer service they offer. Then, we make sure these recommendations are available in your state. You can read a full breakdown of how we review solar companies here.

Companies listed under the local installers were chosen in a less rigorous way. We chose them because they offered something unique or notable to customers in the state, they seemed well-regarded by internet reviewers or because they were one of the few installers we could find information on in the state.

Whether we’ve completed a full review on a company or not, it’s always a good idea to get multiple quotes from different installers before choosing a company.


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Solar panel FAQs

Do plenty of research on solar companies before making a decision. Make sure the company you choose is certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Professionals and that they do a site visit and handle the permits, inspections and other paperwork for the installation, the Mountain Association suggests. Also watch out for companies that say there is an expiring deal or offer that forces you to act quickly, Ray said.


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What if I don’t want solar panels on my roof?

Rooftop panels may be what comes to mind first when you think about residential solar, but panels can be mounted on the ground or on other structures, like a garage or carport. If your roof isn’t ideal for solar — maybe it faces the wrong way — but you have the space, you can consider ground-mounted panels. They cost more, because a structure needs to be built for them, but can save your roof from the stress of construction. 


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