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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Time to apply for solar energy grants

By TIM FAULKNER/ News staff

EDITOR'S NOTE: my co-editor Tom Ferrio took advantage of this program last year and was pleased - and amazed - at the results. Read about it by clicking here.

Solar panels could be appearing on a lot more Rhode Island roofs this year. Two new programs from the state Economic Development Corporation (EDC) offer grants and loans for new home, business and affordable housing solar projects.

Residential projects can receive grants of up to $10,000 for hot water and photovoltaic (PV) systems up to 160 square feet. The power generation is capped at 10 kilowatts. To cut up-front costs, low-interest loans covering 50 percent of the price up to $20,000 also are available through the EDC. Homeowners can also take advantage of the 30 percent federal residential renewable energy tax credit

Commercial projects generating between 10 and 50 kilowatts can qualify for a maximum $75,000 for renewable systems. In addition to solar energy, qualifying projects include hydro energy, geothermal, biodiesel, landfill gas, fuel cells, and combined-heat-and-power recovery units.

The programs create new incentives for residential and commercial energy installers, several of whom have expressed a need for an alternative to the state’s distributed generation contracts program. That program offers 15-year fixed pricing for large solar, wind, hydro energy and anaerobic digestion projects. However, only solar projects of 50 kilowatts or more qualify. The typical home solar project generates fewer than 5 kilowatts of electricity.

To qualify for the new programs, installers must bundle the projects in groups of three or more. Installers then must submit applications to the EDC by Feb. 15, April 30 or July 26.

Chris Kent, owner of Island Solar in Jamestown, said the new incentives are already helping business. “I’ve got a few clients ready for this one and it helps to get people off the fence," he said.