California produces a whopping 30 GW of solar power, the most of any state in the nation. Prices for solar energy have dropped by almost 50% in the last 5 years, and the state has numerous incentives for residential solar, even providing solar benefits to the economically disadvantaged. Meaning that it’s never been a better time to install a PV system in the Golden State. But finding a reputable solar installer can be hard. We’ve all had the unfortunate experience of being screwed by a bad car mechanic or building contractor. Solar panels are a long-term investment, and you want to make sure your solar installers aren’t going to do a shoddy job. Luckily for you, we here at Semprius found the top ten best solar installers in California and reviewed them based on experience, certifications, and customer reviews, so you can make an informed decision when it’s time to install your panels. Want to know our criteria? Here’s what we look for in a good solar contractor.
SolarOptimum installs residential and commercial solar systems in and around the state of California. The company installs both residential and commercial PV systems, provides energy storage solutions, and does roof contracting. Solar Optimum has over a decade of experience in solar installation, and in 2019 alone, the company installed 11 MW of PV in California.
Solar Optimum is headquartered in Glendale, but they have several satellite offices around the state. Here’s a list of cities where you can find a Solar Optimum office.
Licensing & Certifications
Solar Optimum is not certified by the NABCEP. They do have Class A General Engineering, Class B Building, and Class C-10 Electrical licenses in the state of California.
Solar Optimum was founded in 2008 by Arno Aghamalian. Arno previously built and managed manufacturing and distribution plants overseas, which became wildly successful. He was named CEO of the Year by CEOMonthly.com and AI Global Media. Solar Optimum was named the 2020 Solar Installer of the Year by Panasonic.
Solar Optimum has about 13 years of experience under their belt, and has installed over 115 MW of solar power around the Golden State, with 11 MW installed in 2019 alone. The company works on both commercial and residential projects, and also does roof maintenance.
Solar Optimum offers brands like Panasonic, EnPhase, and Tesla, and they are a certified Powerwall installer. They also provide 25-year warranties on their panels, inverters, racking, and roofs, as well as 25-year warranties on their workmanship and panel production.
Solar Optimum has overwhelmingly positive feedback. The company scores a 4.9 out of 5 on Google with nearly 400 reviews. They have a 5 out of 5 on Facebook, though with only 30 reviews. Solar Optimum has an A+ accreditation with the BBB and scores a 4.96 out of 5 with over 250 customer reviews. They’ve had just 5 complaints in the past three years, three of which have been resolved. Common complaints revolve around poor customer service and bad installations.
LA Solar Group
LA Solar Group is one of the fastest-growing solar companies in the country, expanding from the LA area in 2011 to now encompassing multiple states across the West. LA Solar was founded by Ara Petrosyan, who used his engineering background to start a company that would reduce our collective carbon footprint.
LA Solar is headquartered in Los Angeles but has offices in Fremont, Las Vegas, and Houston. They’ve worked on projects in seven states, including, Nevada, Texas, and Arizona. In California, they have installed most of their PV systems around LA and Orange counties, but also have a significant presence in the Bay Area, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernadino, Bakersfield, and San Diego.
Licensing & Certifications
LA Solar is not NABCEP certified. They do have C-10 Electrical, C-46 Solar, and C-39 Roofing licenses. They’ve had nine violations with the CSLB, including misrepresentation to obtain a contract, and departure from trade standards.
LA Solar was founded in 2011 by engineer Ara Petrosyan. Getting their start in LA, the company quickly spread throughout California and the Southwest, branching out to other cities in SoCal, before expanding to Las Vegas and the Bay Area. Now LA Solar even has an office in Houston, though most of their installations are in Southern California. LA Solar installed 9.5 MW in California in 2019.
LA Solar provides a wide variety of services. They install both solar panels and solar shingles, and they do roofing as well. They also provide energy storage services, including the Tesla Powerwall. LA Solar also provides several auxiliary services such as providing smart home solutions, EV charging installation, pool pump installation, energy monitoring, and general electrical contracting. They also have an online store with a variety of products.
They offer products from trusted brands, like LG, Panasonic, Sunpower, Tesla, and EnPhase. LA Solar has 25-year warranties on all of their products. The warranty covers the equipment, production, labor, roof, and the Panasonic solar panels. They also provide services like solar panel removal, reinstallation, cleaning, and maintenance.
LA Solar has had generally positive feedback from customers. They score a 4.3 out of 5 on Google, with 161 reviews. The company has a 5 out of 5 on Facebook, though with only 22 reviews. LA Solar has an A+ accreditation with the BBB, though they have no customer reviews. They have had 21 complaints in the last three years, ten of which have been resolved. Common customer complaints include not communicating with customers and faulty installations.
Vivint Solar is a well-known national solar installer that was founded in 2011 as an offshoot of Vivint, a smart home company. Vivint began in Utah but now operates in over 20 states. The company expanded their business further after being bought by Sunrun in July of 2020.
Vivint Solar is headquartered in Utah, and operates in 23 states. They have locations all over California, with 12 offices across the state. You can find Vivint Solar in:
-Sante Fe Springs
Licensing & Certifications
Vivint Solar is certified by the NABCEP. They have Class B Engineer, C-39 Roofing, C-10 Electrical, and C-46 Solar licenses. They have six citations on their licenses for employing unregistered salespeople, driving in unmarked vehicles, and misrepresenting contracts, among other things.
Vivint Solar is an offshoot of Vivint Smart Home. Vivint Solar branched from its parent company in 2011 and was recently purchased by Sunrun in June 2020. From 2013 to 2016, they were the second-largest solar installer in the country. In addition to installing PV systems, Vivint Solar sells energy storage solutions, standalone solar panels, installs EV chargers, and does roofing.
Vivint Solar is unique among solar installers because they offer power purchase agreements (PPAs), where a customer pays only for the electricity they use from the panels. They are reimbursed if panel production isn’t up to par.
Vivint Solar has installed hundreds of thousands of solar panel arrays in 23 states, and California is one of their biggest markets.
Vivint Solar has moderate customer reviews. Their California locations all have at least 4 stars with over 100 reviews, with an average of 4.3 stars. The company doesn’t have a large Facebook presence, so we went to check their reviews on solarreviews.com, where Vivint Solar has a rating of 2.75 out of 5 stars. The biggest complaints were the customer service and their door-to-door sales techniques. Vivint Solar is not BBB accredited, though they have an A- rating. They have 388 customer reviews with an average of 3.88 stars. They have had 1,094 customer complaints within the last 3 years, over 500 of which have been closed. According to the BBB, they were also fined over $122,000 in the State of New Jersey for deceptive sales practices and misrepresentation.
Sunwork Renewable Energy Project
As a solar non-profit, Sunwork is unique as their main mission is to make solar energy affordable. Using an army of volunteers, Sunwork Renewable Energy Projects build PV systems in places where it wouldn’t normally be economically feasible.
Sunwork’s central location is in Milpitas. They have two satellite offices, one in the Bay Area and one on the Central Coast. The Bay Area location serves San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, and Santa Cruz counties. The Central Coast location serves San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
Licensing & Certifications
Sunwork is not certified by the NABCEP. They do have a C-46 Solar license with the CSLB.
Sunwork is a non-profit that aims to bring solar to disadvantaged communities and other non-profit organizations. Using their low-cost model, they’re able to offer solar installations at a third of the cost of other installers. They use trained volunteers to mount their installations, and they don’t mark up their equipment or charge extra installation fees. This means a lower payback period for the homeowners.
They have criteria for their customers which are based on their maximum monthly electric bill. Their focus is to give an incentive to homeowners who have low electricity costs to make the switch to solar. They also serve 501(c)(3) organizations that want to install a PV system smaller than 35 kW.
Sunworks carries equipment from brands like Q Cells, SolarEdge, EnPhase, and SMA.
Sunwork Renewable Energy Projects has high reviews, though being a small company, they don’t have many reviews overall. They have 5 out of 5 on Google with just six reviews and a 5 out of 5 on Facebook with only 10 reviews. They don’t yet have a profile with the BBB, as they’re a non-profit. Sunwork has a 4.89 on solarreviews.com with 196 reviews.
Synergy Solar & Electrical Systems
Synergy Solar brings solar energy to Northern California. The company focuses on residential and small-scale commercial projects. Synergy is co-owned by Jeff Mathias and Michael Pane from their headquarters in Sonoma County.
Synergy is headquartered in Sebastopol, and the company has two offices in the city. They primarily serve the North Bay Area.
Licensing & Certifications
Synergy is one of three companies in California with an NABCEP certification. They also have a C-10 Electrical and C-46 Solar license for the state of California.
Synergy Solar was founded in 1990, and almost exclusively works on projects in Sonoma County. Jeff Mathias and Michael Pane are the co-owners. Michael focuses on the installation and technical aspects, while Jeff takes care of the sales and financials.
Synergy installs residential and small-scale commercial projects and provides battery storage solutions. They also offer generators and electrical panel upgrades. Synergy Solar offers products from EnPhase and SMA.
Synergy is still a small company, so they don’t have many reviews yet. Still, they have been well-received among their small customer base. They have a 4.8 out of 5 on Google with 16 reviews, and a 5 out of 5 on Facebook, though they have less than five reviews. Synergy is accredited by the BBB and has an A+ rating. They have yet to receive any reviews or complaints with the BBB. Their bad reviews are based on instances of bad customer service.
Renova Energy is an employee-owned company headquartered in Palm Desert. They were founded in 2006 by Vincent Battaglia, who first imagined the company in his master’s thesis.
Renova Energy is headquartered in Palm Desert and serves the Inland Empire cities of San Bernadino and Riverside.
Licensing & Certifications
Renova is one of the few NABCEP certified installers in California, and one of the first in the nation to receive their certification. They also have Class B General Building, C-10 Electrical, C-46 Solar, and C-39 Roofing licenses. They have one citation for employing non-registered salespeople and departing from trade standards.
Renova Energy was founded in 2006 by Vincent Battaglia. They were one of the first solar companies to become nationally accredited by the NABCEP in 2012. In 2016, Renova became employee-owned, and employees took a bigger role in the management of the company. This lead to more loyal employees and higher rates of customer satisfaction. Renova installed 8.9 MW of solar energy in 2019.
Renova installs solar panels and energy storage solutions for residential and commercial customers. They use high-quality equipment from brands like Sunpower, one of the best panel manufacturers in the industry. They are also a certified Tesla Powerwall installer. They provide solar panel cleaning and maintenance services.
Renova has received positive feedback from its customers. They have a 4.8 out of 5 on Google, with 165 reviews. They have a 5 out of 5 on Facebook with 90 reviews. Renova has an A+ accreditation with the BBB, though they have no customer reviews and no formal complaints. The few bad reviews they do have involve faulty installations and bad customer service.
Forme Solar is a Southern California-based solar contractor specializing in solar panel repair. They also provide a wide range of solar panel services and market themselves as an all-in-one solar company.
Forme Solar is headquartered in La Habra. They cover most of California, with offices in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernadino.
Licensing & Certifications
Forme is not certified by the NABCEP. They have a C-10 Electrical license for California.
Forme Solar was founded in 2017 as a complete solar energy solutions company. They place their focus on solar repair as a way to prevent faulty or problematic installations. They founded Forme Solar University to ensure an extensive technical training regimen for their employees. Forme has a whole catalog of solar panel services, like installation, removal, cleaning, repair & maintenance, and provide energy storage solutions. They also install EV chargers and do roof contracting. They work on both residential and commercial installations.
Forme uses trusted brands such as Sunpower, Panasonic, LG, and SolarEdge. They also offer 25-year warranties, which cover panels, performance, labor, microinverters, workmanship, roof penetration, and transfers.
Forme Solar has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from their customers. They have a 5 out of 5 on Google, with 108 reviews. They also have 5 out of 5 on Facebook, though with just 12 reviews. Forme has an A+ rating with the BBB, though they aren’t accredited. They have a 5 out of 5 with the BBB as well, though with only 16 reviews. They haven’t had any complaints with the BBB.
Semper Solaris was founded in 2012 by Kelly Shawhan and John Almond. The company puts a focus on hiring former Marines, hence the term “Semper” in its name, stemming from the term Semper Fi, a slogan commonly used by the Marine Corps.
Semper Solaris is headquartered in El Cajon, near San Diego. They have expanded to encompass most of the state, with 13 satellite offices all over California. These are the regions served by Semper Solaris:
-The Bay Area
Licensing & Certifications
Semper Solaris is not certified by the NABCEP. They have Class B General Building, C-10 Electrical, C-46 Solar, C-39 Roofing, and C-20 HVAC licenses for the state of California. They have two citations; one for contracting non-licensed personnel and another for failing to disclose vital information to customers.
Semper Solaris is owned and run by veterans. The company was founded in 2012 by Kelly Shawhan, a former captain in the Marine Corps, and John Almond, a construction-based entrepreneur. Semper Solaris makes it a point to hire veterans. They also run organizations that give back to the community, like the Semper Cares Initiative, which provides relief to veterans with high energy costs, and the S3 Semper Solaris Scholarship, which raises money to fund the college expenses for students in renewable energy majors.
Semper Solaris provides solar panel installation and maintenance services, energy storage solutions, and roof and HVAC contracting. They provide products by SilFab, Solaria, and LG, and are certified Tesla Powerwall installers.
Semper Solaris provides the servicing for the manufacturer warranties on all of their products.
Semper Solaris receives very positive feedback from its customer base. They have a 4.8 out of 5 on Google with 329 reviews. On Facebook, they have a 4.9 out of 5 with 638 reviews. Semper Solaris has an A+ accreditation with the BBB. They are rated a 4.3 out of 5 with 187 customer reviews. They have 34 complaints with the BBB, 14 of which have been resolved. Common complaints from customers include lack of communication and incomplete installations.
SunLux provides solar energy services in California and Central Texas. The company was founded in 2014 by Josip Benko and two of his friends. The three quit their previous jobs and spent over a year planning the company. They founded the company out of their own pocket, refusing to take seed money from investors.
SunLux is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and also has four locations in Southern California. They have offices in Temecula, Rancho Cucamonga, Placentia, and Sylmar. They mainly serve the Los Angeles and Inland Empire areas.
Licensing & Certifications
Sunlux is certified by the NABCEP. They also have a C-10 Electrical license for the state of California. They have two citations; one for misuse of their license and another for departing from trade standards.
SunLux was founded by Joe Benko, Guillermo Santomauro, and Mike Valencia in Austin, Texas. The company got its start in 2012, then quickly branched out to Southern California. Sunlux has installed over 7,000 PV arrays in Southern California and installed 8.2 MW in 2019 alone.
SunLux does solar panel installations, maintenance, energy storage, and roof contracting. They also offer smart home solutions and EV charging infrastructure. They provide panels from high-quality brands like LG, Panasonic, and Q Cells and are a certified Tesla Powerwall installer. SunLux offers a 25-year warranty on their products, equipment, and performance, and also offers lifetime customer support.
SunLux has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from its customer base. On Google, they have 4.7 out of 5 stars with 224 reviews. They have a 5 out of 5 on Facebook, but with less than 5 reviews. SunLux is accredited with the BBB, and the company has an A+ rating. They have a 4.8 out of 5 with just under 100 reviews. They’ve had 2 complaints in the past three years. Bad reviews for SunLux are based on claims of inaccurate quotes and long installation times.
Cosmic Solar is a family-owned and operated solar company from Vista, California. The company was founded by Bahram Shadzi, a chemical engineer with a background in home renovation. Bahram and Judith Shadzi live on a seven-acre orchard and haven’t paid any electric bills since they installed their PV system in 2005.
Cosmic Solar is headquartered in Vista. They primarily serve the San Diego area.
Licensing & Certifications
Cosmic Solar is not certified by the NABCEP. They have Class B General Building, C-10 Electrical, C-39 Roofing, and C-46 Solar licenses in the state of California.
Cosmic Solar was founded in 2004 by Bahram and Judith Shadzi, who serve as the president and vice president of the company respectively. Cosmic designs and installs PV systems for residential and commercial customers and have won large contracts with companies like Mitsubishi. They provide energy storage solutions and install solar pool heaters for homes and businesses. The company does roof contracting as well.
Cosmic offers high-quality products from Sunpower, LG, Panasonic, and SolarEdge. They are also a certified Tesla Powerwall installer and offer LG Chem batteries. Cosmic Solar provides 25-year warranties on every component of the system.
Cosmic Solar is well-reviewed by their customers. They have a 4.9 out of 5 on Google, with over 120 reviews. On Facebook, they have a 5 out of 5, though with less than 20 reviews. Cosmic Solar is accredited by the BBB and has an A+ rating. They have less than five reviews, though they have 5 out of 5 stars. They have no complaints with the BBB. The few bad reviews they have are due to bad customer service and inaccurate quotes.
There are quite a few good companies on the list, but SolarOptimum takes the cake. They have tons of experience, with over 115 MW of installations, and have overwhelmingly good reviews, which indicates consistency. SolarOpitmum has a presence all over the state, from the Bay Area to SoCal and everywhere in between. They may not be NABCEP certified, but they have electrical, engineering, and building licenses, meaning they don’t have to hire a subcontractor to do their work.
Solar Energy In California
California is the number one solar-producing state in the US. Thanks to its sunny climate, numerous tax incentives, and ambitious clean energy portfolio, solar energy makes up more than 20% of the Golden State’s total power budget. California’s socially progressive mindset helps too! The state produces over 30 GW of solar, enough to power over 8.5 million homes. The SEIA estimates that California will further increase its solar capacity by 20 GW within the next 5 years. Much of the state’s solar capacity comes from utility-scale solar farms, which tend to be concentrated in the deserts of Southern California. This counts not only solar PV but solar thermal as well.
Laws & Regulations
California has a slew of regulations that are made to expand the use of renewable energy while lower the state’s carbon footprint. Strict emission regulations, green building codes, and high reporting standards for utilities are part of California’s methodology to go green.
Renewable Portfolio Standard
The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is the key to fighting the dominance of fossil fuels in California. First passed in 2002, the RPS was created as a way to ease utilities and entities into adopting renewable energy. It was meant to be a slow, gradual process, which accelerated as the program advanced. When the RPS was passed in 2002, it mandated that electricity companies must expand their renewable energy portfolio by 1% every year until reaching 20% of their total portfolio by 2010. The RSP then raised the standard in 2008 to 33% by 2020. The current target for the RSP is 50% renewable energy by 2030, though the state government is considering an increase to 60%, with a 100% renewable portfolio target by 2045.
There are over 950 solar contractors operating in California, and they all need to be licensed. Solar installers in California can have a number of licenses that allow them to legally install solar PV systems. Every license has different permissions, and solar installers are likely to have several licenses to completely cover the services they provide. Companies with fewer licenses may have to hire subcontractors to do certain jobs. The licenses listed below are administered by the California Department of Consumer Affairs Contractors State License Board.
Class A – General Engineering Contractors: Allows contractors to install solar energy systems
Class B – General Building Contractors: allows contractors to install solar energy systems within the confines of B&P Code Section 7057
Class C-4 – Boiler, Hot Water Heating, & Steam Fitting: allows contractors to install solar heating equipment
Class C-10 – Electrical Contractors: allows contractors to perform work on any solar project that involves the generation, transmission, or utilization of electricity
Class C-36 – Plumbing Contractors: allows contractors to work on any solar project that heats water or any other fluids
Class C-46 – Solar Contractors: allows contractors to build, install, and maintain solar PV systems. Not allowed to perform work in any other construction or building trades unless other licenses are obtained.
Class C-53 – Swimming Pool Contractors: allows contractors to install solar heating in swimming pools.
California’s current net energy metering law was passed in 2016 and is available for customers who produce electricity using solar, wind, biogas, or fuel cells. The NEM policy reimburses customers for electricity at the retail rate, or what a customer normally pays for electricity. Participating in net metering doesn’t reduce or invalidate any other benefits, incentives, or credits from other local or national entities. The current NEM policy is available to customers of the three major utilities in California; SDG&E, SCE, and PG&E. Though customers who participate in NEM will earn rebates from their utilities, they will still have to pay monthly fees. A one-time interconnection fee is required at the onset. There are also required non-bypassable fees for the electricity they do use, which are mandatory for all customers whether or not they participate in NEM. These fees pay for statewide programs like social services for low-income communities. NEM participants must also switch over to time-of-use (TOU) rates. TOU rates are varied retail rates where electricity prices fluctuate based on demand.
Every month, the excess energy generated is applied to the monthly bill, minus the non-bypassable charges. At the end of the year, excess energy is rebated at the average yearly price.
California also offers virtual net metering, which allows the owner of one energy-producing property to allocate electricity to multiple units. NEMA aggregation allows the property owner to reduce the power bill to other adjacent properties, which is often used on farms when landowners might own separate, but adjacent parcels.
Tax Credits & Incentives
The Federal Solar Tax Credit also applies in California and currently covers 22% of the cost of a PV system until 2022. The California Solar Initiative was passed in 2007 to provide funding and initiatives for new solar projects, including incentives for residential PV systems. Since the price of solar has dropped dramatically since then, the CSI was shut down in 2016, though parts of it are still going. The CSI’s New Solar Homes Partnership Program is still in effect. The NSHP provides financial incentives to support rooftop solar in the state. The program takes a limited number of applications every year, and homeowners must apply before the deadline in order to be considered.
California also has several programs aimed at incentivizing the adoption of solar energy in low-income and disadvantaged communities. The Single-family Solar Affordable Housing (SASH) and Multifamily Solar Affordable House (MASH) programs were created under the CSI to provide solar incentives to low-income families, which also applies to solar thermal installations.
California’s progressive government and sunny climate make it a great place for solar energy. That’s why it’s the number one solar producer in the country. The state government is always handing out incentives to install solar panels on your home, meaning it’s never a bad time to go solar in California. Remember to do your research beforehand; not every solar installer is reputable. Solar panels are a long-term investment. You want your installation done right. But don’t just stop at our list! Make sure to call the company yourself, get quotes, and make sure you know your energy needs before making the move towards a PV system.
Frequently Asked Questions
California is the top solar producing state in the country, with over 30 GW of installed solar. That’s enough to power 8.4 million homes.
As of 2021, there are 951 solar contractors and installers in California.
SolarOptimum is the best solar installer in California. They have locations all over the state, offer high quality panels, and have high reviews from their customers.