A Solar Electric System Saves Cash

Rusty Haynes and Lindsey Hodel discuss how a solar electric system saves cash, includes information on solar rebates and incentives, tax breaks and solar solutions.

| August/September 2003

  • Chart: Solar rebates and incentives in your state.
    Chart: Solar rebates and incentives in your state.

  • Chart: Solar rebates and incentives in your state.

Learn how a solar electric system saves cash and helps the environment.

Just last June, Mill Valley, California, resident Greg Simon threw his first "10 Megawatt" bash, celebrating his solar electric system's generation of more than 10 million watt-hours of sun-powered energy.

But Simon had more to celebrate than the satisfaction of making his own electricity. A savvy solar shopper, he had taken advantage of several state and county renewable energy rebate programs for his solar electric system, which he says cut the cost of his system in half and saved him almost $23,000. Although Simon's 4-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system cost $43,000, he immediately received $18,000 in rebates from the California Energy Commission (at $4.50 per watt). He also received state credits totaling $4,000 and a $300 rebate from the county's alternative energy program. When all was said and done, Simon says he paid less than $20,000 — less than the cost of a new car! — for his renewable energy system. And, the savings haven't stopped there: When his electric production exceeds his consumption, Simon's net-metering contract with the utility allows him to sell the excess energy back to the grid and realize a credit on his bill.

Save on Solar Energy, Now

In recent years, renewable energy systems have become less expensive and more practical, and many states have begun to sponsor substantial solar incentive programs, especially for solar electric systems. The federal government offers several financial incentives for renewable energy systems, but most of these are not available to homeowners. Many states, on the other hand, offer a wide and creative assortment of incentives for homeowners, as well as businesses, schools, industries and other groups. State-level programs include rebates, tax incentives, loans and net metering.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE) website (www.dsireusa.org), a free resource funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, provides detailed information on the programs discussed below.

Solar Rebates

Eleven states offer at least one rebate program for various residential renewable energy technologies: California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Washington and Wisconsin. (Utilities in 13 states also provide rebates.) Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island offer up to $5 per watt for residential or commercial PV systems. And California gives homeowners and businesses a rebate of up to $4.50 per watt for various renewable energy technologies, including photovoltaic and wind systems. Delaware provides to homeowners and businesses a rebate of up to 35 percent of the cost of PV, wind, solar hot water and other renewable energy systems.

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