Illinois solar panels: The complete guide in 2024

Data updated Jun 18, 2024

Written by: Emily Walker

Interested in going solar? You'll need to install a 11.36 kW solar panel system to cover the average electric bill in Illinois, which will cost you about $25,007 after the federal tax credit.

Cost for an average system in Illinois


Out of pocket cost, cash
$35,724
Federal tax credit (30%)
- $10,717
Price post tax credit
$25,007

20-year savings $47,166
Payback period 5 Years
Electricity offset 96%
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As long as your federal tax bill is high enough, you can take advantage of the federal investment tax credit (ITC).

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Going solar in Illinois

Illinois may not be the sunniest state in the country, but its great incentives make solar panels a worthwhile investment for pretty much anyone in the Prairie State. 

Factor in the federal solar tax credit, and Illinoisians can cut the cost of solar by thousands of dollars, speeding up your payback period and increasing the value of your investment. 

Here's what you should know about going solar in Illinois.

Cost

How much do solar panels cost in Illinois?

Solar panels will save you a lot of money over time, but the upfront costs aren't cheap. The average Illinois homeowner needs a 11.36 kW solar panel system to cover their electricity needs, which comes out to $35,724 before incentives. Prices range from $30,365 to $41,083, but after the federal tax credit, that drops by 30%. 

While this may sound high, it will pay off in Illinois. That's why over 27,000 Illinois homeowners have used EnergySage to receive and compare quotes for solar installations. You can expect to earn back your initial solar investment through electricity savings in about 4.83 years, while most systems last at least 25 years. You'll often see this number referenced as your solar payback period.

There are a few ways to finance your solar panel system so you don't have to provide all that money upfront. 

  • Cash purchase: You'll own the system and pay for it upfront. This provides the best long-term savings. 

  • Solar loan: Allows you to retain ownership of your system, while owing little to no money upfront. Solar loans aren't all created equal: If you have access to subsidized clean energy loans through local incentive programs, that's usually your best bet. A home equity loan or a personal loan are often your next best options – private solar loans typically come with higher interest rates or upfront fees.

  • Solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA): A third-party company owns your system and either leases you the solar panels (solar lease) or allows you to purchase the electricity they generate (PPA). These generally provide the lowest savings and generate the most negative press about solar. If you choose this financing option, read the fine print: You can get trapped in them for longer than you'd like.

Solar panels on a house

Incentives

What are the best solar rebates and incentives in Illinois?

Incentives help bring solar's price tag down considerably in Illinois. Here are the major ones to know about:

Incentive
Average savings in Illinois
Description

Residential Clean Energy Tax Credit, formerly the federal investment tax credit (ITC)

$10,717

Lowers your solar panel system's cost by 30%

Illinois Shines Program

$7,000

Provides a one-time payment for every MWh your solar panel system is expected to produce over 15 years

Illinois Solar for All Program

Varies significantly by project

Requires no up-front cost for lower-income solar customers and ensures you won't pay more than half the value you receive from your solar energy system each month.

Smart inverter or distributed generation rebate

$1,500

Provides an upfront rebate worth $300/kW of solar or $300/kWh of storage installed.

Illinois solar property tax exemption

1.73% of your system's value, annually on average

If you use solar energy as a source of power, you won't need to pay tax on the value your solar panels add to your property.

Is net metering available in Illinois?

In some states, you'll earn bill credits from your utility company when your solar panel system generates excess electricity and sends it to the grid. This incentive is known as net metering—basically a solar buyback program—and makes it so you will owe very little, or even nothing, on your electric bills with solar panels. 

ComEd, Ameren, and MidAmerican all offer favorable net metering programs—for now. Illinois is transitioning away from net metering in 2025. To be grandfathered into the current net metering policy, make sure to submit your interconnection application before January 1, 2025. This is one of the best ways to get the most value out of your solar panel system. 

Learn more about net metering in Illinois or get the details on utility-specific programs below:

A house with rooftop solar panels connected to the grid

Equipment

Equipment quality

Each year, solar panels get more and more efficient—that is, they produce more power per square foot. As of 2024, the most popular solar panels can produce about 400 watts of electricity when they’re in full sunlight. If you want to make the most of your roof’s solar potential, get panels with at least that much power output.  

You should also make sure to select a solar inverter setup that makes sense for your roof’s layout. 

And if you want or need a solar battery, be sure to pick one that can integrate cleanly with that inverter. 

Premium equipment can come with a high price tag, but it will often save you more money in the long run. The best equipment tends to have the best warranty terms, often guaranteed to 25 years (sometimes even 40!), so you’re covered in case you need repairs or replacements. The highest-quality panels also degrade more slowly, so they’ll maintain more of their power output further into the future. 

See our list of the best solar panels

Companies

Who are the best solar installers in Illinois?

We pre-screen all of the solar companies on EnergySage to ensure they'll provide you with a high-quality installation. We then rate them based on their results, reputation, and responsiveness. Here are the highest-rated EnergySage installers in Illinois:

resources

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