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Expiring Tax Incentive Spurs Blitz for Home Solar
Jan21

Expiring Tax Incentive Spurs Blitz for Home Solar

A popular federal tax incentive that saves homeowners thousands for installing a home solar system will significantly decrease at the end of this year. Known as the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), or the Federal Solar Tax Credit, the program has been in place since 2005 and allows people to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system from their taxes. On average the savings are about $6000 per a customer. After this year however all that is set to change. Following 2019, a rate decrease will reduce the deduction to 26 percent in 2020 and then 22 percent in 2021. After 2021 and onwards, people will not receive any tax credit for installing a residential solar system (just a 10% for installing a commercial solar system). Home solar suppliers and installation companies such as Go Green Solar are seeing an increased interest from people looking to secure the 30 percent ITC before it expires. A similar surge of interest occurred in 2015 before congress voted to extend the tax credit. With the current oil friendly executive administration in charge, a repeat of 2016’s ITC extension is considered highly unlikely, bringing an end to the 30 percent reimbursement rate that has lasted for 14 years. The ITC was first passed under the Bush administration’s Energy Policy Act in 2005. It was extended in 2008 to help stabilize a crashing economy, removing the $2000 residential rebate cap. Since its creation, the cost of solar equipment has declined by more than 73 percent. Once the 30 percent rebate begins its steep decline, it will be years until solar is this cheap again. This knowledge, coupled with significant electricity rate hikes expected from most electricity companies this year, has created a surge of homeowners rushing to seize the investment opportunity to switch to solar. Recent changes to the ITC in 2016 have made it so homeowners can claim the tax credit on their returns as soon construction of the system begins, as long as its operational by December 31, 2023. Additional amendments to the bill allow homeowners to roll over credits into the following years if they are due back more on their taxes from the ITC than they owe. For example, if a homeowner owes $4000 in taxes for 2019 and has a $6000 ITC, that means the homeowner doesn’t have to pay taxes for 2019, and will earn a $2000 tax discount to put towards the following year. If you’re thinking of switching to solar, companies like Go Green Solar can help you lock in your 30 percent ITC rate before it comes to an end. Call...

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Flat Solar Rebates Stir Up Controversy
Jan07

Flat Solar Rebates Stir Up Controversy

A new method to calculate solar rebates in San Antonio, Texas has stirred controversy between home installers and CPS Energy, the region’s energy supplier. Until recently, CPS Energy has determined rebates according to a renewable system’s power-generating capacity. However all that has now changed as the energy company stated it will only be issuing rebates as a flat amount per renewable project, regardless of how much power that project produces. The changes are part of San Antonio’s 2009 Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan (STEP), which aims to “aggressively” reduce customer electricity use by 2020 by providing renewable incentives to residential and commercial structures.  A new $15 million pool of funding added to the $849 million plan allowed CPS Energy to update its rebate structure. Home solar advocates, such as executive director of the San Antonio Solar Alliance Ben Rodrigues, are concerned that the changes will slow residential adoption. Going forward, the amended STEP will offer a flat $2,500 rebate to eligible projects until it has exhausted $9 million in funding, whereupon the rebate offer will drop to $1,500. Rick Luna, the administrator in charge of CPS Energy’s rebate program pointed out that the gradual reduction in solar incentives is not out of the ordinary. Rebates in San Antonio used to be priced at $3 per watt, but as the cost of materials decreased and more people have outfitted their homes with solar, the incentives have also declined. Before the new STEP was initiated, residents in San Antonio could get up to $0.60 per watt, making a 10 kilowatt system eligible for a $6,000 rebate. Rick Luna, CPS Energy interim Director of Technology and Product Innovation, said the company’s new flat rebate structure allows it to stretch funding for more residents switching to solar While the new rebate plan cuts the incentives by more than half, CPS Energy says it will allow them to offer financial support to an additional 6,200 projects. While opponents of CPS might argue that the energy company acted unilaterally with San Antonio’s utility board and disagree with the latest STEP modifications, there’s little they can do. The flat rebate energy structure is already in effect and San Antonio’s City Council does not seem inclined to change it back, creating a time sensitive countdown for the $2,500 rebate to exist until it is reduced even further. To lock in the latest solar rebates before they’re cut again, home solar and DIY solar installation companies such as GoGreen Solar, which specialize in securing the best rebates for a home solar installation systems, continue to provide a valuable resource for homeowners looking to get the most bang for...

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Solar as an investment
Oct01

Solar as an investment

By now everyone knows that solar can save you money on your electric bill, but let’s take a deeper look at solar as an investment. On average, a 6kW system that costs about $15,000 after the federal tax credit generates about 9,000 kWh in a year. If your current cost of electricity is $0.20/kWh, you would save about $1,800 per year on electricity and even if the electricity company never raises your rate, the system pays for itself in about 8 years. After the system has paid for itself you will continue to profit over the 25+ year lifespan of the system. With no electric rate increase, the system you bought for $15,000 will generate $45,000+ of electricity. But, electric rates aren’t going to stay the same and looking at the last two decades, they have risen an average of about 3% per year and as high as 7% per year in some areas. Just going with the average 3% annual increase in electric rates bumps up the return to $65,600 over the 25 year warrantied life of the solar panels. That results in a 14% Internal Rate of Return (IRR). Realistically, that IRR will be even higher because the solar won’t automatically turn off after 25 years. It will likely keep producing for quite a while after that. We are just being conservative and sticking with the length of the warranty. For the sake of argument, we should compare this to other investments like the stock market. The S&P 500 has an average IRR of about 7-8% over the last few decades. That means you can expect twice the return from solar. It is a shame that your investment in solar is capped by the amount of electricity you use. Still not convinced? Let’s look at it another way. How happy would you be right now if you had bought all the gasoline you have been using for the last 25 years back in 1993 when the average price was only $1.11/gallon? You’d be grinning from ear to ear every time you thought about all that money you saved. With solar, you have that opportunity right now. When you install solar on your home, you are purchasing the next 25 years of electricity at even lower price than the current rate. Going back to our 6kW system example, the cost of electricity comes out to just under $0.07/kWh. You would be locking in that low rate for the life of the system. Every time electricity rate hikes were mentioned in the news you could pat yourself on the back for making such a smart investment. This investment also...

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How Solar Affects Selling Your Home
Aug28

How Solar Affects Selling Your Home

A common question people ask when making the decision to go solar is how will having solar affect selling the house? The first thing to note is that according to a few independent studies, solar definitely increases a home’s value. The National Bureau of Economic Research did a study in 2011 comparing statistics for home sales in Both the San Diego and Sacramento areas and concluded that solar panels typically increase a home’s value by 3.5%. It even went as high as 4.5% in communities with higher percentages of college graduates and Toyota Prius owners. Another Study done by US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 2011 concluded that homes with solar sold for more across California. The amounts ranged from $3.90 to $6.40 per watt more with the average amount being $5.50 per watt. A follow up study in 2015 by the same Berkeley Lab in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories looked at home sales across many states and found that the solar increased the homes’ values by an average of $4 per watt. According to these studies, it appears that in most cases, installing solar will increase a home’s value by more than the cost of the install. On top of the increased values, NREL has also released statistics showing that homes with solar sell 17% faster on average than homes without solar. So, not only will you get more money, but your solar home is likely to sit on the market for less time. What these studies don’t account for is homes with a solar lease or PPA agreement. In these cases, either the home buyer must take over the lease or PPA agreement or the buyer or seller must “buy out” of the lease agreement. There is a general perception that these types of solar agreements would cause problems with selling the home, but Berkley Lab worked on this too. They conducted interviews and online surveys of home buyers, sellers and real estate agents that were involved in the sales of home with solar lease and PPA agreements between 2010 and 2013. The evidence collected suggests that the solar lease or PPA had no negative effect on the sale. Both buyers and sellers were satisfied with their experiences. If you are planning to lease solar or enter into a PPA agreement, you should look at the contract and what it stipulates for the sale of the home. Keep in mind that while you think you will stay in your home forever, life happens and things change. You should always be aware of what you getting into before signing a contract that could affect...

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What Upfront Rebates for Residential Solar Are Left Around the States?
Jul21

What Upfront Rebates for Residential Solar Are Left Around the States?

It used to be that homeowners could receive some very generous upfront rebates that could offset 30% or more of the cost of installing a solar system. But as the price of installing solar PV has dramatically dropped over the last three years, so has the upfront rebates offered by states and utilities. In addition to the wide spread decrease in rebate funding and amounts, many programs have switched from upfront payments that defer the cost of installing to performance based incentives that pay you a certain amount for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) produced by your solar system. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any upfront rebate programs left. In fact, there are many, but they’re just not as generous as they used to be, but then again, installed prices have significantly fallen too. (Also, keep in mind that all solar owners are eligible to receive the 30% solar investment tax credit until 2016 for even more savings and ROI!) With the above in mind, the following is a random sampling of upfront solar rebates that we found on the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiencies (DSIRE). The links for each program are to the updated information from the actual utility or state authority, so we assume that this information is accurate as of this writing in mid July, 2014. California Upfront Solar Rebates Most of California has exhausted the funds for the state’s California Solar Initiative (CSI) program for home solar, but the good news is that many of California’s municipal utilities are still offering some type of upfront cash rebate. City of Santa Clara’s Silicon Valley Power utility is offering $1.75/W AC for up to 10 kW. For a 5 kW system, that’s $8,750 off the price of installation. However, the amount is actively stepping down as systems go online, so the sooner you install, the higher your rebate. City of Palo Alto’s electric utility is on its last rebate step, so get it while it lasts. Its program gives solar homeowners $.80/Watt AC for solar systems as large as 30 kW. For a 5 kW average system size, that’s $4000 off the price of solar. City of Pasadena has its own Pasadena Solar Initiative (PSI) program that’s now offering an upfront residential solar rebate of $.85/Watt AC up to a 30 kW system size, which pencils out to $4250 in decreased solar install costs for a typical 5 kW home system. Los Angeles’ LADWP municipal utility is offering just $.40/Watt AC for its solar rebate, up to the average 5 kW system size. So, the maximum rebate amount is now just $2,000 and continues to...

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The U.S.-China Trade Case Determination and What It Means for Solar Installers and Consumers
Jun19

The U.S.-China Trade Case Determination and What It Means for Solar Installers and Consumers

A few months back, we published a post on All You Need to Know About the US-China Solar Trade Dispute and how it might affect solar installers and consumers if the case isn’t settled. Well, a preliminary decision is in. The Department of Commerce (DOC) has made a preliminary determination on June 10th in favor of SolarWorld, the German/U.S. solar panel manufacturer who filed the suit. Before we get into the penalties being proposed and finalized, we should remind readers that there are two parts to this case: Part 1: The DOC Decision The first part, now in the preliminary determination stage, has to do with SolarWorld accusing China of illegally subsidizing its solar panel manufacturers with low interest loans and other cash-related subsidies that allowed Chinese manufacturers to manufacture solar panels and export them to the U.S. (and the rest of the world) at below their actual cost. The 2012 DOC decision determined that was the case and imposed over 23% to 254% in countervailing duties (CVD) on various solar cells made in China. However, Chinese manufacturers got around these tariffs by manufacturing their solar cells in Taiwan and other nearby countries, then assembling the rest of the panel in China. Consequently, this new 2014 DOC preliminary determination now includes solar cells and other basic solar panel materials being made in Taiwan and shipped back to China for assembly and export. So, how much in duties will be tacked on to the price of imported Chinese solar panels? The preliminary CVD varies and depends on the brand: For Suntech solar panels, the tariff is 35.21%. For Trina SolarEnergy, the tariff is 18.56%. For all other Chinese brands, the tariff is 26.89%. That means that the wholesale price of all Chinese-made solar panels coming into the U.S. may be increased by as much as 35.21%, and at the very least, by 26.89%! The DOC will make its final determination by August 18, 2014. But wait, there’s more: Part II: The ITC Decision Remember, we said that there were two parts. Now that the DOC has ruled, their evidence has been handed over to the International Trade Commission (ITC). The ITC is deciding whether China is intentionally overproducing (“dumping”) their artificially inexpensive Chinese solar panels on the U.S. market in order to flood the U.S. solar market, forcing SolarWorld to lower their prices to compete. The ITC previously said this was the case in the earlier 2012 decision, so most industry analysts think they’ll do so again, but now include solar panels and cells from Taiwan. Should the ITC rule in favor of SolarWorld again, then additional antidumping duties may...

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