Wednesday, December 15, 2010

SEIA Applauds 1603 Tax Credit

WASHINGTON, DC – Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA®) President and CEO Rhone Resch released the following statement today applauding the Senate's inclusion of a one-year extension of the Department of Treasury Section 1603 program in their tax bill compromise:

"The 1603 tax credit has created flexibility for funding renewable energy projects and is fundamental for keeping the solar industry growing in America. To date, the program has facilitated the construction of more than 1,100 solar projects in 42 states. At a minimal cost to the tax payer, the 1603 program has supported $18 billion in investment in new renewable energy projects throughout the country and has created tens of thousands of jobs. Plain and simple, this program provides the greatest return on taxpayer dollars. The program has allowed the solar industry to grow by over 100 percent in 2010, create enough new solar capacity to power 200,000 homes and double domestic solar employment to more than 93,000 Americans. This program has created new opportunity for electricians, plumbers, and construction workers during the worst economic climate since the great depression.

"An extension of the program will keep our U.S. industry growing and help achieve the industry's goal of installing enough new solar energy to power 2 million new homes each year by 2015. None of this would be possible without the tireless leadership of solar's champions on Capitol Hill on both sides of the aisle. In particular, Senators Cantwell, Feinstein, Ensign and LeMieux stepped up to support American jobs in the renewable energy industry and helped convince the Senate to include this provision in the final bill.

"But this is not over yet. Congress must now move swiftly to pass this compromise bill and keep solar working for America."

The TGP was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Section 1603) to provide commercial solar installations with a cash grant in lieu of the 30 percent solar investment tax credit (ITC). President George W. Bush signed the 8-year ITC into law in 2008, but the economic conditions created by the global recession made it clear that few would be able to utilize the tax credit.

So far, the TGP has helped move forward more than 1,100 solar projects in 42 states. A report on the impact of the extension of the TGP by EuPD Research projected it would create 65,000 new U.S. jobs and 5,100 megawatts of solar capacity – enough to power more than 1 million households.

Background Materials
SEIA policy overview of Treasury Grant Program: Treasury Grant Program
Fact sheet on TGP and job creation: Fact-sheet TGP.
Summary of solar projects awarded a Treasury Grant: TGP Awards
EuPD Research "Economic Impact of the Extension of the TGP": EuPD Research Solar Report.
The Solar Foundation National Solar Jobs Census 2010: Solar Jobs Census 2010
SEIA and GTM Research US Solar Market InsightTM Executive Summary: SEIA Q2 2010 Executive Summary.

Friday, December 10, 2010

New Solar Energy System Financing Options

Massachusetts residents and businesses can take advantage of new financing options for solar energy systems. Sol Systems, a solar renewable energy credit (SREC) aggregator, has introduced a new three-year, fixed rate SREC financing option for Massachusetts residents and businesses.

According to a recent article in  Solar Thermal Magazine, Massachusetts solar system owners can cover approximately 25 percent of system costs through an SREC agreement with Sol Systems. Sol Systems says it gives homeowners and businesses a variety of ways to harness the value of SRECs.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Tampa Electric Offers Solar Water Heating Incentives

As appeared in Solar Thermal Magazine

Tampa Electric received approval yesterday from the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) to expand its current lineup of energy-efficiency programs for customers. In addition to the new programs and enhancements to existing programs, $1.5 million in incentives will be offered by Tampa Electric each year for five years to help customers install renewable technologies.

Those measures include:

Residential Solar Water Heating — Provides customer incentives up to $1,000 for installing new solar water heating systems. Solar PV Systems — Provides incentives to customers who install PV systems at their homes or businesses. PV for Schools — Tampa Electric will install five 10-kilowatt (kW) systems with battery backup power (one school per year over five years) at schools that also can function as emergency shelters. The PV technology will provide educational opportunities to teachers and students. Low-Income Solar Water Heating — Solar water heating systems will be available for installation on new construction in collaboration with nonprofit building organizations.

The new programs should be available to customers in first quarter of 2011. The availability of these incentives is limited and will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations will be accepted online at

The New Programs, to Be Available to Customers in the First Quarter of 2011, Include $1.5 Million in Incentives Tampa Electric Will Offer Each Year for Five Years to Help Customers Install Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Systems and Solar Water Heating

Saving energy is important to our customers during these challenging economic times,” said Gordon Gillette, president of Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas. “In designing these new programs, we considered the growing interest community leaders and small and large customers have in renewable technologies, energy conservation and, smart and efficient-energy management equipment and systems. These new and enhanced programs can help customers lower their energy bills.”

The FPSC also approved the company’s plans to add new features or enhancements to its existing residential and commercial energy conservation programs, including:

For residential customers:

Free Energy Audits — An inspection of customers’ homes that identifies areas where they may be wasting valuable energy. The company provides three convenient audits (Online, Phone-Assisted and In-Home). Each type of audit includes a free pack of energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Heating and Cooling — Pays an incentive up to $400 to encourage the installation of high-efficiency heating and cooling systems in existing dwellings. Ceiling Insulation — Pays an incentive up to $350 when new insulation is added; up from the previous incentive of $200. Window Replacement/Upgrades — Pays an incentive of $2.65 per square foot with no maximum; the previous maximum amount was $350. Window Film — Pays an incentive up to $2 per square foot with no maximum; an increase from the previous $1 per square foot with a $200 maximum. Wall Insulation — Pays an incentive of $0.31 per square foot with no maximum; up from the previous $200 maximum for all exterior walls. HVAC Maintenance Program — A new program that pays an incentive up to $75 for maintenance and tune-up of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment to ensure operation at optimal efficiency. HVAC Motor Replacement Program — A new program that pays an incentive up to $135 for installing a more energy-efficient motor in an existing air handler.

For business customers:

Free Energy Audits — A free program designed to increase awareness of energy use, includes a free pack of energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Commercial Lighting — Offers an increased incentive of $175 per kilowatt (kW) for lighting upgrades, as well as $25 for each exit sign upgrade to LED technology. Commercial Cooling — Increased incentives for installing high-efficiency cooling systems in existing dwellings. Commercial Duct Repair — Pays an incentive of $350 for the repair of leaking duct systems; up from the previous level of $200. Chiller Program — Increased incentives to $175 per kW for replacing inefficient cooling equipment with higher efficiency equipment. HVAC Maintenance Program — A new program that pays an incentive up to $25 per ton of costs for maintenance and tune-up of HVAC equipment to ensure operation at optimal efficiency. Standby Generator — Pays an increased incentive of $4 per kW for utilization of a customer’s emergency generation capacity during peak periods. Commercial Energy-Efficient Motors — Pays an incentive of $6 per horsepower for energy-efficient motor upgrades. Occupancy Sensors — Offers $25 per sensor installed to control indoor lights and reduce energy costs. Electronically Commutated Motors — A new program that pays an incentive up to $180 per horsepower to retrofit and/or replace inefficient evaporator motors for HVAC or refrigeration equipment. Roof Insulation — A new Building Envelope program that pays $0.15 per square foot of insulation. Ceiling Insulation and Wall Insulation — Two existing programs available as part of the Building Envelope program will offer increased incentives. Energy Recovery Ventilation — A new program that pays an incentive for installing an energy-recovery ventilation system designed to reduce indoor humidity. Cool Roof — A new program that pays an incentive up to $0.60 per square foot for the installation of a cool roof system designed to reduce heat transfer. Commercial Load Management — Increased incentives for allowing Tampa Electric to control operation of air conditioning or specialized equipment during critical energy-use periods.

Low-Income Program Enhancements

Tampa Electric’s existing Low-Income program will receive additional weatherization measures, such as free insulation and duct repair. The company will work closely with established organizations, such as the Centre for Women, to identify and mass-deliver free and low-cost energy-efficiency measures to qualifying neighborhoods throughout the company’s service area.

In addition, Tampa Electric also will partner with neighborhood service centers to offer free energy-efficient packages to low-income residents who qualify for assistance with their energy costs. The packages will include energy-saving light bulbs, air filter change reminders, faucet aerators, hot water temperature check cards and more.

The company began its conservation program initiatives in the late 1970s, prior to any federal or state energy conservation requirements. From 1979 through 2009, Tampa Electric has performed more than 390,000 energy audits and paid almost 385,000 incentives and rebates to customers who have participated in Tampa Electric’s conservation programs — offsetting the need to generate enough electricity to serve more than 683,800 average-size homes over a 12-month period.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

DHW, Still a Great Investment

As appeared on

Georgia Power to expand solar program

Georgia Power recently received state permission to almost double the size of its solar energy program, opening the door for more homeowners and companies with solar panels to sell the sun’s energy to the electric grid at a premium price.

Georgia Power now pays 17 cents per kilowatt hour for solar energy and sells it to customers who sign up to pay extra for blocks of “green power.”


BEAU CABELL/THE TELEGRAPH John Hintermaier stands Wednesday in front of his family’s Tattnall Place home, where solar panels on the roof convert energy to electricity to heat water.

The solar price is more than four times the cost of energy produced by burning coal, which is the source of two-thirds of the electricity that Georgia Power supplies, spokeswoman Lynn Wallace said.

Last month, the Georgia Public Service Commission approved allowing Georgia Power to buy 2,500 more kilowatts of solar energy. That includes 1,500 kilowatts at the 17-cent rate, plus another 1,000 for larger projects that companies can propose at a lower rate, Wallace said.

Until now, Georgia Power had purchased about 2,900 kilowatts of solar energy.

“We’re just enhancing opportunities for independent solar producers to come into our state,” said the commission’s chairman, Lauren “Bubba” McDonald Jr.

The expanded program could encourage people interested in installing solar electricity but wary of the expense, which is steep.

John Hintermaier, a Mercer University professor who lives on Tattnall Place, considered converting his home to solar electricity but decided on installing a solar-powered water heating system last year instead. Panels on his roof heat the water, saving him about 15 to 25 percent in electricity costs a month (and providing hotter water than electricity does, he said).

Hintermaier said his electricity bill has averaged $65 a month for a family of six.

“This makes sense from a hard-headed capitalist perspective: I’d rather pay myself than a utility company,” he said. “We’ve really not been doing all we could do to bring solar into the state, and I think that’s a big mistake.”

Wallace said Georgia Power wanted to expand its solar program largely because so many customers were lobbying to sell the solar power they generate.

The company also believes it likely that the federal government will eventually require power companies to generate a percentage of their energy from renewable sources, she said. (Many states, although not Georgia, already have a renewable standard of this kind.) Starting now prepares Georgia Power for that change.

Hintermaier said without a renewable energy standard, big energy companies have no incentive to expand their solar portfolios because they don’t control the source of the power -- and reap all the profits -- as they do with their own coal and gas plants.

“I’d like to see the state open up power generation to more competition,” he said.

A lot of sunlight

In past years, Georgia Power had said Georgia had little solar potential. It may not be very efficient for the centralized power plant model that Georgia Power relies on.

However, the National Renewable Energy Lab ranked Georgia 10th among states based on the amount of sunlight it receives. The Georgia Solar Energy Association estimates that Georgia could generate almost a quarter of its electricity from solar arrays, based on receiving an average of five hours of sunlight a day.

And for a short time, federal incentives are still available for solar projects, a fact Georgia Power pointed out in its proposal to expand its solar purchases. Federal grants of 30 percent are available to customers until Dec. 31. After that, customers can file for a federal tax credit of 30 percent on their tax return between 2011 and 2016, Wallace said in an e-mail.

Hintermaier’s solar hot water system cost about $10,000, but after tax credits, his family’s net cost was about $4,200, he said. That’s compared with solar electric systems that he priced at around $70,000.

Solar electricity is a big investment, but some people are making it.

Wallace said more than 130 customers, most of them residential, are now selling solar energy to Georgia Power. The company will buy no more than 100 kilowatts from a single customer.

The Public Service Commission, which regulates private power companies, must approve each increase to the cap on Georgia Power’s solar program. That’s because if the company has more solar energy than customers want to buy at the higher price, then regular ratepayers will have to subsidize solar costs, said Bill Edge, public information officer for the commission. The commission wants the green energy program to be self-supporting, he said.

“It’s a fine balancing act with green energy,” Wallace said. “We have to balance expenses and revenue so it’s break even.”

However, the Green Energy Program is not expected to break even for several years and will likely have to be subsidized from the company’s fuel recovery fund, Wallace said. This is funded by all ratepayers, but Georgia Power can only use it to recover costs, not make a profit.

Eventually, the Green Energy Program could cause customers to have to pay more or less for fuel, but that hasn’t yet happened, Wallace said.

Georgia Power has a waiting list of customers who would like to sell the solar power they generate to the electric grid, and those will have first priority, Wallace said.

Participants must agree to file cost and operational data with the company and the Public Service Commission, to help both learn more about the solar market in the state.

The energy will supply Georgia Power’s Premium Green Energy product, which has a 50 percent solar component and is available in 100-kilowatt-hour blocks for $5 per block. A separate Standard Green Energy program, which is generated from biomass sources, costs $3.50 per block.

Customers who buy green energy must purchase at least 400 blocks at the standard or premium rate, plus at least 500 blocks more at a negotiated rate, Wallace said. Robins Air Force Base is the only large volume customer in Middle Georgia, Wallace said.

According to a Georgia Power news release, since the company began its Green Energy program in October 2006, nearly 4,200 customers have committed to purchase about 3.8 million kilowatt hours of green energy, or enough electricity to power about 3,800 homes using 1,000 kilowatt hours a month.

To reach writer S. Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.

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First Commercial Rebate Check Delivered by California Solar Initiative

On Tuesday, a Taco Bell restaurant in Albany became the first business in California to get a solar thermal energy rebate for its newly installed solar hot water system.

Pacific Gas & Electric granted the franchise a rebate check of $3,654 for replacing its conventional hot water system with a solar thermal system.

The California Solar Initiative, after much lobbying by the solar industry, has been offering a residential solar thermal hot water system rebate since May, and a commercial rebate beginning Oct. 8.

Cash rebates are available up to $1,875 for residential solar thermal systems on single family homes and $500,000 for commercial properties and multi-family dwellings.

The rebate is set by a formula based on 12 cents per therm of natural gas saved or replaced, and 37 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity saved.