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Clear info on home solar power rebates, tax credits, and other benefits

How to find out about current solar rebates in your state

Photo: Flckr/BradleyOlin

Solar is becoming a lot more popular in a lot of states. Unfortunately, our crack staff of solar geeks analysts are overwhelmed by all of the new rebate news that comes out every week. We just can’t update the state  pages fast enough.

So, we’re going to give you all a place where you can go to always check out what’s new in your city, state, or utility, and then plug in the numbers of the examples that we give.

Of course,  the fastest way is to get a quote from one of our solar partners in your area. But there’s a lot to learn as you move through the quote process.

First of all, know that everyone is entitled to the 30% Federal Tax Credit, no matter what city or state you live in.  Read more about how to calculate that 30% tax credit here.  It’s a little confusing, but we tried our best to explain it all.

Now, in addition to the 30% tax credit, you also may receive a state rebate, a city rebate, and or a utility rebate. Usually, it’s just one of those three, but sometimes you can get a utility rebate and the state rebate.

Unlike tax credits, the good thing about rebates is that they automatically reduce your upfront costs, which means you have to take out a smaller home equity loan. There’s also the matter of Renewable Energy Credits or “RECs” or “S-RECS.” These puppies are worth a lot in states like New Jersey, but their value is different in every state.

Now, as to finding out exactly what rebates and other incentives you’re entitled to, you need to know not only your state, but sometimes your utility. Then go to this  government sponsored website where you can look up the current rebates offered in every state and utility. They have a huge staff, so they’re almost always up to date.

Unfortunately, this database of incentives cannot tell you about the value of your state’s REC program. These can change from month to month, depending on your state, although sometimes the value is fixed for a certain time.

However, knowing the incentives offered is only half the battle. For example, you might discover that Los Angeles is offering a $3/watt rebate right now, but how much does that mean for you? Well, if your installer estimates that you need a 4000 watt system to cover all your electric needs, that’s $12,000 off your cost.

Seems simple, but the problem is that you have to know how many solar panels you need in order to determine your actual rebate. Besides your electric usage, there are also certain local policies, such as time of use, tiered rates, and net metering that can also reduce the number of solar panels that you need.

We won’t get into system sizing here.  The point here is that if you want the latest information about rebates and incentives in your area, you can always check out the above site, or …. just get a free quote from an installer, who keeps up with the latest subsidies in your area. It’s free, so the only thing you have to lose is a bit of time. Worst case, you’ll learn a lot from a pro be able to benchmark your solar costs for a future quote.

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