Solar panels in Georgia: Ways to avoid scams and how to decide if a system is right for your home

Solar arrays and systems are growing in popularity for their financial and environmental benefits. A 2020 analysis showed installations, such as rooftop panels, nearly quadrupled since 2016 and accounted for almost one-tenth of Georgia’s solar power, which was 3% of Georgia's in-state electricity net generation.

Solar panels aren’t without costs, however. A FOX 5 I-Team investigation showed how Georgia sales reps can sometimes paint an unrealistic picture of home solar.

The Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Division offers tips for Georgia consumers and businesses to avoid unfair and deceptive practices.

When it comes to buying a solar array, don’t be afraid to ask questions and consult state and local consumer protection agencies for information about system sellers. 

What is a photovoltaic system?

Photovoltaics, also known as PV, is named after the photovoltaic effect — the process of converting light into electricity. 

Using these systems in your home means you buy less voltage from electric companies. 

What is concentrating solar power?

Concentrating solar power technology is not for residential use and primarily powers large power plants.

How much energy do solar panels save?

The Department of Energy estimates solar panels can provide about 40% of a home’s energy, depending on the home. 

PVWatts is an application that helps homeowners compare solar power’s cost to utility bills. 

If you're trying to decide if solar panels will save you energy in the long run, optimize your current energy use and reduce your home's electricity use with energy-efficient appliances and weatherization

What are incentives for solar panel owners in Georgia?

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) provides a complete and up-to-date summary of tax credits or financial incentives for using solar.

There is a federal tax credit of 26%, which you get directly back on your taxes. That credit falls to 22% for systems installed in 2023. You can only qualify for that full credit if you pay that much in federal taxes that year.

You may be able to sell renewable energy certificates, or RECs, which provide proof of the amount of energy your produce.

There are renewable energy and energy efficiency incentive programs available in Georgia, depending on the power company. Georgia Power, for example, offers several solar programs such as Community Solar, Simple Solar, Customer Renewable Supply Procurement and Customer-Connected Solar Program. DSIRE shows several electric companies, mostly in metro Atlanta, central or north Georgia with some kind of financial incentive program. 

Not all power companies offer these programs. In Georgia, Georgia Power offers net metering, which pays you for excess power your system produces. It has a limit of 5,000 homes, however, which has already been reached, according to the I-Team.

Reach out to your electric company to determine what programs and incentives you’re eligible for. 

Choosing a solar panel company

Search the company name online and reference it with state and local consumer protection agencies.

Make sure the company has licenses, certificates or bonding required to legally install panels in Georgia.

Take bids and multiple quotes from companies. 

Ask for specifics when it comes to warranties. Ask if an array is supposed to produce a certain amount of energy. 

If you lease a system or sign a power purchase agreement, read how long the contract lasts and how much you're paying per month. Find out if the contract affects if and how you sell your house. 

Consult a third party when it comes to sales promises. 

Added costs of solar panels

In addition to the cost of the array, you may have to pay the full cost of installation, building or electrical permits and maintenance. 

The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy says these "soft costs," non-hardware expenses of solar arrays, aren’t decreasing as much as hardware costs are. These expenses can account for as much as 64% of the overall price for a solar energy system.

Equipment may be covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, and sellers may offer maintenance. If not, account for paying for yourself or someone else to maintain panels by repairing or replacing components and cleaning them.

What factors make a home unsuitable for solar panels?

Panels are designed to work anywhere, but tree cover may make a roof a less-than-ideal sport for panels. 

The age and slope of your roof may also factor in. The Department of Energy recommends a roof slope between 15 and 40 degrees. 

If there’s no suitable place in the home for solar panels, or you don’t own the home you live in, community solar is an option. Community solar sets up panels off-site and residents share the energy produced by the solar array.