The federal tax credit will pay
as much as one-third of that upfront, but in many states, such as
California and New Jersey, there are other incentives available
that pay as much as 60 percent. The Interstate Renewable Energy
Council, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and managed by
the North Carolina Solar Center, provides an inclusive list
But be sure to talk to your accountant.
How the credits add up will depend on your location and your personal tax situation.
Installing a solar water
heater can be a do-it-yourself project
if you are very handy and
are willing to commit enough
time and energy to learn to
do it right. But considering
the complexity and the likelihood
that a rebate will pay for
installation, turning to an
expert installer might actually
save you money. Several solar
organizations provide lists
of qualified installers in
areas all over the country,
Power magazine, Renewable
Energy Access and Solar
Energy Industries Association.
A much more extensive and expensive proposition would be
to add a grid-tied solar-electric system to your home. This photovoltaic, or PV,
system is made of a complete set of components for converting sunlight to electricity,
storing that electricity and delivering it to its end use. The system could produce
some or all of the electricity that your home requires. In addition, it can allow
you to sell the excess back to your utility company.
whether it makes economic
sense for you can be accomplished
by gathering up a few electric
bills and showing them to
a qualified solar installer
who can do the calculations
for you. Or you can try to
estimate the return on investment
yourself using a guide published
in Home Power magazine.
price will depend on how much electricity your home and lifestyle require, the
amount of sunlight your region gets each day during peak sun hours, how sunny
the location of your property is and how much money is available to you from state
and utility rebates.
Just to give you a ballpark figure: George
Douglas, a spokesman for the National
Renewable Energy Laboratory, says experts at this federal research facility
estimate that in New Jersey, purchasing and installing a photovoltaic system costs
$9 per watt, and the average home requires 4,000 watts per year for a total cost
of $36,000. This is offset by state incentives that can be as large as 70 percent,
with the federal rebate on top of that. Plus the homeowner can sell back excess
power to the utility company at rates that are about 50 percent of retail.
Jersey and California are the two most progressive states when it comes to encouraging
alternative energy, with Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York close behind. Other
states have less generous alternative-energy rebates and the utility power buyback
price is much lower.
Douglas suggests that you do the math,
keeping in mind that energy prices are much more likely to go up than down; photovoltaic
systems are usually under warranty for 30 years and biting off the entire job
at once isn't necessary. You can add solar in affordable chunks.
BP Solar is
selling photovoltaic kits
at Home Depot in California,
New Jersey and some areas
of New York. Home Depot will
do the installation. The price
varies enormously, based on
what you buy and your locale.