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Home Solar Panels in the Northwest

It may not seem like an ideal place for home solar panels, but the Northwest United States is an excellent location for solar. Although higher latitudes like in the northwest receive fewer annual hours of sunlight than places you would general think of as good locations for solar energy, home solar panels operate at greater efficiency in cooler climates, which makes the northwest a great location for solar power.

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In addition to the cooler climates, the Northwest receives more than enough sunlight to meet your entire energy needs because of the long summer days and many months of high solar hours. The Northwest does have long, overcast winters, but even on cloudy days, home solar panels will still provide power and will meet at least some of your energy needs. Even in places such as Seattle or Portland, areas that have long, rainy winters, home solar panels are still a very strong solution to your energy problems. There are really no bad solar areas in the Northwest, with most of the area actually receiving up to 70% of the sunlight that Los Angeles receives during the winter months. The Northwest receive almost half as much solar energy as the deserts of California and Arizona, and they receive more than Germany, which has made itself one of the solar energy leaders around the world.

Home Solar PanelsGermany gets less sunlight than the Northwest receives but is currently producing 55% of the world's solar photovoltaic panels and has expectations of being 100% green in its national energy use by 2010. Germany has around 10% fewer annual hours of sunlight than Portland and Seattle and most of the country is actually north of the Puget Sound's latitudes, yet it is currently generating over half of the world's solar energy. Therefore, if Germany is able to produce this much solar energy with less sun than the Northwest receives, it is clear that home solar panels are a great investment in the Northwest and can provide you with clean, green and affordable energy solutions.

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Incentive Programs for Home Solar Panels

Washington and Oregon have some of the best incentive programs in the country for home solar panels. These state incentives make solar more financially attractive here than in the majority of the Southern United States. Every state in the Northwest offers incentives for solar energy development. Oregon, Idaho and Montana all offer low-interest loans and substantial tax credits for home solar panels. Washington now offers a production incentive of $0.15/kilowatt-hour or more for electricity from solar energy, depending on where the technology was manufactured. Montana and Oregon also exempt solar systems from property tax assessment, while Idaho and Washington exempt solar system purchases from sales taxes. Many local utilities and regional organizations also provide additional incentives. One example is the Energy Trust of Oregon, which offers additional rebates and loans to customers of Oregon's two largest utilities. Many utilities also offer additional rebates, loans, or production incentives for solar energy systems.

Washington has modeled its solar electric financial incentive programs on those of Germany because of the huge success of it's solar power program. With the additional solar hours available in Eastern Washington, there are additional incentive programs available including the Chelan County's SNAP program, which has led to a rapid increase of solar installations occurring in Wenatchee over the past few years.

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Net Metering for Home Solar Panels

Utilities in all four Northwestern states offer net metering programs. Net metering is available from utilities throughout Oregon, Washington and is required by law for Montana utilities. Net metering makes it easy for customers to install home solar panels, because any extra power generated by your home solar panels during the day is fed back to the utility's electrical grid for distribution to other customers. Then at night or any other time when you need more power than you are generating, you can draw power back from the utility grid.

Net metering allows customers to install home solar panels without the need for expensive storage systems, and without wasting or losing any extra power generated when sunlight is at its peak. These programs also provide a simple, standardized way for customers to use solar systems while retaining access to utility-supplied power.

In most net metering programs, the utility installs a special 'dual-reading' meter at the customers home that will keep track of both the energy consumed by the home, and energy that is generated by the home solar panels. The customer is then billed only for the net amount of electricity that they draw from the utility, effectively receiving the utility's full retail price for the electricity that is generated from the home solar panels.

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