What incentives are in place for homeowners and businesses

What incentives are in place for homeowners and businesses that want to install renewable energy systems?

—Kelly Nemi, Sacramento, CA

Several state and municipal governments are trying to stimulate demand for alternative energy by offering cash incentives to companies and homeowners that install solar electric (photovoltaic) systems, fuel cells, small wind turbines, solar thermal systems for heat and hot water, and other renewable energy technologies.

The website of the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE), a project of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, contains comprehensive information on state and federal incentives—tax credits, grants, rebates and special utility rates—for renewable energy technologies.

For example, according to DSIRE, Anaheim, California’s public utility is encouraging residential and business customers to install photovoltaic systems by offering rebates of $4 per watt up to $7,000 total for residential systems and $50,000 for industrial installations. The state of Indiana’s Alternative Power and Energy Grant Program will help businesses, non-profit organizations and units of local government (such as schools) with the costs of installing solar, wind, fuel cell, geothermal, hydropower, alcohol fuel, waste-to-energy and biomass energy technologies. They”ll pay up to 30 percent of the project cost, or $30,000, whichever is less. And New Jersey’s Clean Energy Rebate Program pays between $.30 and $5.50 rebates per watt for commercial or residential solar electric systems, depending upon size.

These are just a few examples. The DSIRE website features a United States map on which site visitors can click on their state to access detailed information on what grants, rebates or tax incentives are available through their local governments and utilities. The site is updated each week and features new programs as well as changes to existing ones.

Homeowners can also finance the purchase and installation of renewable energy systems through home-equity loans. This strategy can help bring down costs through tax savings, since interest payments on mortgage loans are tax-deductible.

CONTACTS: Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE), www.dsireusa.org; Interstate Renewable Energy Council, www.irecusa.org.