The economic stimulus package is officially on the books, and already the solar industry is feeling stimulated. Many solar companies that had been on a hiring freeze for several months are starting the spring thaw early and gearing up for a busy summer ahead. The main reason behind this sudden march to action is a provision in the bill that gives renewable energy companies a shot in the arm, allowing them to swap tax credits for grants, putting money in their hands now as opposed to later.
The problem was that tax credits down the road were not helping solar firms and homeowners to get loans from banks teetering on the edge of disaster. Everything took a big pause when the mortgage bubble exploded. And while the effect of the stimulus package may not be felt in tote for several months, many companies are already ramping up for a big year. SolarCity, one of the nation’s largest residential solar companies, expects to add 16 crews in the next few months alone.
So with the credits-for-grants provision the effect will be immediate, to a certain extent, for the solar industry. Other provisions that should benefit solar, directly or indirectly, are:
- $2.5 billion for research and development of renewable energy technology
- $2 billion for manufacturing of advanced batteries
- $300 million in funding for Energy Star tax credits for homeowners who purchase efficient appliances (solar water heaters?)
- $5 billion in home weatherization grants to low-to-middle income families
- $268 million in additional funding for residential solar tax credits
There are several other energy-related provisions as well, most notably for energy efficiency and alternative fuels and vehicles. Fans of wind power will be excited to know that $604 million has been allocated for the removal of the cap on tax credits for small wind systems. For further details, look here.
Photo features the work of Horizon Energy Systems