Harnessing the Sun
Considering a solar electric system and don’t know if it’s right for you? Putting solar on your home is an important financial decision. Follow the step-by-step guide below and consult the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) Solar Consumer Protection Guide to make the right decision for your home and figure out if you'll save money.
Going Solar: Step-by-Step
Step 0: Up Front Questions to Consider
Do I qualify for low-income solar programs? See available Rebates and Incentives.
Am I a good candidate for rooftop solar?
- Does my roof receive a lot of sunlight or is it often shaded?
- Does my roof need to be repaired in the near future?
- Am I ready to make a long-term financial commitment?
Step 1: Efficiency check
Find ways to make your home more energy efficient through our partner BayREN, including getting a free energy savings kit (up to $70 value) with products like LED light bulbs and an advanced power strip.
Alternatively, during the summer only, schedule a free Green House Call with Rising Sun’s youth energy and water efficiency specialists.
Improving your home’s energy efficiency will allow the solar system to produce as much of your home energy consumption as possible.
Step 2: Suitability
Assess your home’s potential for Solar using Google’s Project Sunroof Tool. Then verify its suitability with a professional.
Step 3: Find a Contractor
Do the due diligence to find the right contractor for you. Consider these recommendations in your contractor assessment:
- Hire only CA state-licensed contractors with a valid license, which is either Photovoltaic (PV) Generation System: C-10 and C- 46; or B (General) license.
- Get at least three bids or quotes.
- Get at least three references from each bidder and be sure to call or visit each reference.
- Check contractor license numbers online at cslb.ca.gov or by calling 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
Step 4: Compare Financing Options
Solar financing options include:
- Purchase (cash or loan)
- Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)
Check the CPUC Solar Guide for more details.
Step 5: Read and Review All Paperwork
Before you sign a contract, consider the following questions and reference the CPUC’s Solar Guide Checklist:
- What are my options if I sell my home?
- What does the warranty cover? Panels and inverters? Labor and construction?
- What is the total cost of the solar energy system?
- Is everything you were promised written in the contract?
Step 6: City of San Jose Permits
Your permit application is normally processed immediately when submitted online. Once you receive your permit card, schedule your inspection by calling (408) 535-3555. Inspections are normally done onsite 10 business days after scheduling, so work with your installer to schedule the inspection based on the installation schedule. Make sure your contractor submits documents as part of PG&E’s Interconnection Agreement after receiving permits.
Step 7: Installation
After receiving permits, residential installation can take 1 to 3 days. Make sure to turn on your system only after receiving City of San José permits and going through PG&E interconnection steps.
Step 8: Net Energy Metering (NEM)
Learn about SJCE’s NEM program and sign up for it through PG&E. PG&E will communicate your NEM status to us.
Step 9: Enjoy!
Enjoy the benefits of solar, including:
- Electricity bill savings
- Increased home value
- Helping fight climate change
Rebates & Incentives
Federal Tax Credit
Federal tax credits are available through 2021 for solar panels installed on a home you own and use as a residence. Credits are currently at 30% for tax year 2019, but decrease to 26% for tax year 2020, and 22% for tax year 2021. There will be no tax credits from tax year 2022 onwards.
Bay Area SunShares
Bay Area SunShares is a program that offers limited time discounts for residential solar. Registration is open from August to November each year.
California Solar Initiative-Thermal Program
Offers cash rebates on solar water heating systems for single-family residences, multi-family, and commercial properties. The rebate program is overseen by the California Public Utilities Commission as part of the California Solar Initiative.
Incentives for Low-Income Households
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has two programs to help low-income households benefit from solar:
No-cost Solar for Low-income Residents
Are you a homeowner and CARE or FERA customer living in a one of these communities in California? If so, you may qualify to receive a rooftop solar energy system – including installation – at no cost! To see if you qualify, visit GRID Alternatives, a community-based nonprofit and administrator of Disadvantaged Communities – Single Family Affordable Solar Homes (DAC-SASH).
Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH)
Property owners of multi-family affordable housing developments apply to be on the waitlist to receive funding for solar energy systems. For more information, visit the SOMAH website.