Chances are you've made some cutbacks in your household budget, whether in entertainment or the grocery line. A line that continues to trouble homeowners, however, is for basic utility costs like gas, water and electric.
Until recently, solar energy systems were a luxury to have with costs of the projects paying for themselves over the course of time. Now thanks to federal stimulus dollars, state rebates and tax credits that timeline for projects to pay for themselves has been significantly reduced and is making solar panel systems more feasible for residential homes owners.
"The last 20 years I've been thinking about it, but right now with the state and federal incentives you just can't go wrong," said Jim Hycner, of Silver Creek, who had Solar Liberty of Williamsville install his solar panel system Friday. "Basically it comes out to $40,000 for the whole system, which is a 6 kilowatt system; $20,120 comes from NYSERDA directly and then 30 percent of the price comes back from the federal government through an application that can be submitted 30 days after the installation of the system. After that there's a state tax credit and all together I'll pay about $4,000 to $5,000 once all the federal and state rebates are done."
OBSERVER Photo by Matt Panebianco
Solar panels like this are a growing trend. With rebates and tax credits galore at the moment, residential home owners, businesses, schools and municipalities are beginning to catch on and join the “green” effort that saves energy use, and dollar bills.
According to Tony Rizzo, Sales Manager at Solar Liberty, the iron is hot for anyone interested in reducing their energy bills at a reasonable cost.
"Through the New York State Energy Research Department (NYSERDA) in Albany they are giving rebates - Jim Hycner got involved before the decrease in the rebates - but presently they are giving $3 per watt for up to a 4 kilowatt system, and $2 per watt from 4 to 8 kilowatt systems. There is also a New York State tax credit involved, and into the new federal stimulus package gives 30 percent of the cost of the system, which is given back as a credit against your taxes," Rizzo said. "For the NYSERDA funds it's act quickly because we don't know how long the funding will last. Everyone's trying to get in there before the funds are used up."
Funds used to reimburse those who utilize NYSERDA are actually receiving funds that everyone pays their electric company. There is a service benefit charge that everyone pays into, the funds are collected and used for programs like this.
"I'm the facilities manager for all of the New Era cap facilities across the country, so I'm used to dealing with energy companies and rebates. I was actually looking into solar panels for New Era and when I saw how good it was for residential I jumped right on it. The best thing about Solar Liberty is they handle all of the rebates and paperwork," Hycner said of how he decided to install solar panels on his home. "I started this process in October 2008 and normally its five or six weeks but right now there is a big rush at the state level."
Rizzo concurred and said that the company is currently backed up 100 installations for this year alone. That list includes residential homes, but also municipalities and schools, both of which are trying to cut costs for their local taxpayers.
"We are doing a lot of schools and municipalities throughout the area, the city of Syracuse has a system going on their city hall, over 40 diocese of Buffalo schools, the Chautauqua Institution has two systems, the Jamestown Audubon Society ..." Rizzo said. "Depending on the tax credits used it ranges for residential and commercial anywhere between four and seven years (for the system to pay for itself), so they get their money back quickly. There is also a 25 year warranty on power production from the panel, but systems have been going on for 40 years now."
The Silver Creek School District, who is currently in the process of getting phase II of their capital project approved, is a school district looking to take advantage of the excellent rebate offers for solar panel systems.
"We are hoping to attain state approval on phase II of our capital project by August 2009 and then depending on how quickly we can get our bidding done, we will be bidding out on our solar energy project. That has a NYSERDA incentive, it's a $163,000 installation and they will pick up $125,000 of that cost," Superintendent David O'Rourke said."The balance of the capital project will be left with no local tax impact to our taxpayers. The result will generate approximately 2 percent of our energy needs for our facility, and every little bit helps. This project will pay for itself in a few years, but more importantly then that, it saves our taxpayers 2 percent on our utility bills every years."
O'Rourke said also that the system may be equipped with a web site monitoring system that students can use as a learning tool in the classroom.
The Pomfret Town Board has just recently agreed to pursue solar use for its municipal buildings as well. During a recent town board meeting the board approved to have Solar Energy evaluate town hall, the town barns and possibly the Lily Dale sewer system as to possible locations for a panel system.
"NYSERDA is offering funding for non-profits, like municipalities, of 75-80 percent of the cost of the project. It's actually available to residential and commercial, on a declining scale of what they're going to cover," Supervisor Don Steger said. "Theoretically we can get 75 percent funding for a solar panel system, which can produce up to 80 percent of your energy needs. It's a nicer system because it's an active system and it's tied to the grid, if you produce too much it goes to the grid, if you need some you can use the grid."
After Hycner's residential system is installed he will be moving to phase two of the project happening later this summer which will be a solar vacuum tube that will power all of his domestic hot water and about 30 percent of his baseboard heating system.
For more information on solar energy and state rebates please visit www.nyserda.org
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