Monday, February 15, 2010

More on Bill for Federal Solar Rebates

Published Feb. 5, 2010

A bill proposed in Congress last week would aim to install solar photovoltaic systems on millions of roofs across the country over the next decade.

Introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Steve Cohen, D- Tenn., the measure would offer rebates to cover up to half the cost of 10 million new solar arrays and 200,000 solar water-heating systems.

The goal would be to install up to 30,000 megawatts of new solar-electric production capacity, a total about 50 percent higher than the extremely ambitious solar plans that have been announced in China and India in recent months.

The rebate amount for solar PV systems would start at $1.75 per watt in 2010 and decline periodically until reaching 50 cents per watt in 2018 and 2019.

The "10 Million Solar Roofs and 10 Million Gallons of Solar Water-Heating Act of 2010" is modeled on California's "Million Solar Roofs" initiative and a solar program in New Jersey.

Many states and utilities already provide incentives that, combined with the 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit, may cover a significant proportion of the cost of a solar array. These incentives have generally been declining over time. Some states and utility programs have run out of money to fund them because of high demand.

The rebates provided by the bill would be offered on top of existing federal, state and local incentives. Total incentives could not exceed 50 percent of a system's cost, under the measure.

Industry executives praised the proposal.

"Passing this bill would create the world's largest market for solar energy here in the U.S. and bring with it tens of thousands of manufacturing and installation jobs in all 50 states," said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group. "This bill will help lift the U.S. economy at a time when we need it most."

Jeff Wolfe, co-founder and CEO of the Vermont-based solar company groSolar, said the bill would "help make America energy-independent while creating many thousands of good-paying jobs," according to a news release published by the solar trade association.

Mr. Cohen, who introduced the bill in the House of Representatives, represents the city of Memphis, where a solar manufacturing plant operated by Sharp Solar has been expanding its production.

"Sharp commends Sen. Sanders and Rep. Cohen for sponsoring this new legislation, which will foster the growth of the U.S. residential solar market," said Ron Kenedi, vice president of Sharp Solar, according to the news release.

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