Solar Rebates and Programs

Published April 19, 2015

From tax credits, to rebates, to special programs, solar has some great deals

Many people wonder if solar rebates and programs are still available. The answer is “yes”… but the truth is that many of the earlier rebates and tax incentives were probably better than the current ones. The reason is that the cost of solar solutions continues to decrease – and there has been an explosion of leasing programs and Power Purchase Agreement programs that have enabled consumers to purchase and install a solar solution for a monthly payment versus having to come out of pocket for the full purchase price. Because of this, the need for incentives has decreased.

There are several reasons why making the switch to solar power is a good decision. If you’re thinking about installing a solar solution, or maybe just would like some information, this article may be able to give you some good direction. Are you thinking solar power will save you money? Or maybe it is all about the environment for you? Perhaps it is even just a desire to be “off the grid?” Whatever your reason, solar is taking the waves from the sun, and turning them into waves of the world’s future power needs. With prices decreasing everyday, more and more people can buy into saving with solar. As prices go down and more people make the switch, the savings and rebates for you may only go down so make the transition today and save!

The amazing part about solar is how much it is needed and how willing organizations are to help you get it. Did you know the government wants you to use solar power? It’s true. There are many ways that the government is convincing people to use solar through incentives like tax breaks, pricing incentives, and rebates. Since the 1970’s the government has been implementing programs in order to support renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. The government has known for many years that the country can’t live on fossil fuels and combustible power forever. Because of this, they want to encourage as many citizens as possible to use solar power. In the past couple of years, however, some of the tax incentives and rebates have been reduced or eliminated.

That said, there are still many different incentives and programs available from the Federal government, State governments, and local governments, depending on where you live. A great resource is the DSIRE web site that provides a comprehensive tool for researching incentives (as well as other information) that you may find useful. This web site was created by the US Department of Energy and the North Carolina Solar Center. It offers all manner of information that can help you in researching solar solutions and options. Another good resource is the States Advancing Solar web site and, in particular, their links page. You may also want to visit the National Renewable Energy Laboratory web site where you can find all kinds of information as well as a great calculator to evaluate a solar solution based on your location.

Solar: For power & deals it’s all about location

When it comes to solar power, the most important aspect is the sun, obviously. Even though the sun is hundreds of times the size of Earth, where you are, even within a region of the country, can affect the efficiency of your solar panels. From Southern California to Maine, Florida to Alaska the different regions of the United States experience varying amounts of solar energy. In almost every case, states and regions that have more days of sun are better for generating solar power than those with less. And, in general, places where a higher price per kWh (Kilowatt Hour) will give a better value to a solar solution than areas with lower electricity prices. So the best place to do a solar solution is a place with lots of sun and higher prices for electricity. This is one of the reasons that California and Hawaii both have higher than average solar penetration. They both have (in general) many days of sunny weather and higher than average electricity costs.

But a higher price for electricity doesn’t necessarily mean an area is good for solar. For example, let’s look at a couple of other states: Alaska and Florida. In Alaska, electricity is around 17 cents/kWh (kilowatt hour). In Florida it’s only 11 cents/kWh or so. Because of this, you would think that a solar solution in Alaska makes a lot of sense. The problem is that Alaska, with the exception of the summer period) has many days with little or no sun. When there is no sun, you home still needs power, so you have to buy it the conventional way from the utility company. While in Florida, there are many days of sun so you have to buy power far less often. On the other hand, solar systems are more efficient in cooler weather so if you live in Alaska, don’t think that a solar solution is a “no-go” for you. You might be surprised!

In the area of rebates and tax incentives, where you live also matters. Some state and local governments are aggressively pushing solar while others are not being nearly as aggressive. If you are considering a solar solution for your home or business you may want to contact your state and local governments to see what options are available to you. You may also want to talk with two or three different solar installation companies as they are often very up to date with information about solar incentives and programs that may be currently offered.

Solar leasing and Power Purchase Agreement deals

With solar solutions still costing anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 or more depending on the wants and needs of the consumer making the purchase, it’s clear that providing incentives and rebates simply wouldn’t be enough to help many consumers adopt a solar solution. That’s where the marketplace came in. By establishing leasing programs and Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) programs, consumers are now able to purchase a solar solution and make monthly payments to cover the costs. In most cases, the payments are totally offset by the amount of money that the consumer saves each month with their solar solution. In many cases, the consumer saves money beyond the monthly payment.

A solar leasing program is, essentially, like leasing a car. You agree to pay a set amount every month to the finance company in exchange for leasing the solar solution. At the end of the lease period, depending on the program, you may be able to purchase the solar solution for a pre-set amount of money, have the solar solution upgraded and extend the lease, or have the solution removed (usually at no cost to you). Make sure you review any lease option and contract with your attorney and your tax and financial advisors to make sure you aren’t getting yourself into a bad deal.

A Power Purchase Agreement program is very similar to a lease. As part of the program, you agree to purchase solar power based on a set rate from your local electric provider. The rate is usually equal to or less than the current market rate. With your rate locked in, you protect yourself from future rate increases should they happen. Under a typical PPA you only pay for the solar power – the cost for the equipment and installation is paid for by the installer. You will also (probably) have an option to purchase the equipment after a defined period of time.

A PPA and a lease offer similar advantages but in a PPA you pay per kWh instead of making a fixed monthly payment as in a lease. In the past, PPA’s were used more for business use but PPA’s are becoming more popular for residential use in the past couple of years. The availability of leasing and PPA programs may vary by area.

Combining a lease or PPA program with special incentives and tax breaks offered by various governmental entities can make a solar solution very affordable. If you’re looking to install a solar solution at your home or business there may not be a better time than now to do so.