In the solar blogosphere, the words “incentive” and “rebate” are bandied about so much that they’ll eventually meld into one nonsensical word like “increbate” or “recentive.” They are like Thor’s Hammer when it comes to selling solar power. Yet not nearly as much attention is paid to solar grants, two words that could mean a lot to some homeowners and already mean a lot to many organizations and institutions around the country.
Most states deal primarily in tax incentives or rebates, and many also deal in state-funded loan programs. Still fewer offer solar grant programs. The federal government, led by the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), doles out a good amount of grant money each year. These funds, however, are allocated to states for larger scale, typically public works projects (schools, public facilities, etc.).
So for now you’ll have to step down from the Capitol steps to find a personal solar grant, which would lead you to the steps of your own state capital. At this point it is all about which state you live in. Bear in mind that few states have actual grant programs. One that does, Ohio, will grant you up to $25,000 for a new solar system, although the end amount is not finalized until the system is finished and has passed a rigorous inspection.
To easily determine which grants, if any, are available in your state, you can use the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) website and refine your search to renewable energy grant programs. Other than that you can contact your local government and utilities to find out exactly what is available to you.
You may find solar grants more difficult to apply and become eligible for. That is probably due to some logistical problems inherent in ensuring proper use of the money (if only the same applied to corporate banks…). For instance, in Ohio a grant application must include a solar site analysis and a grant agreement must be signed before any work can be done. For one, it might be difficult to get someone to install a solar system on your house in the hopes that you eventually qualify for the grant. Secondly, the grant amount is subject to change (as in downward) based on how well the system actually performs in relation to the original analysis.
Low-income homeowners may also be eligible for solar grants from local non-profit organizations, which themselves may receive funding from governments, businesses, and individuals. Grid Alternatives is one example in California. Others may exist in your area.
Solar grants for homeowners may be few and far between, but if you live in the right area and have the patience and fortitude to follow through with the process, you have an excellent way to avoid the high up-front costs that inhibit solar promulgation. Even in the face of all these online resources, your best bet may still be a good talk with a local solar installer and a solar site analysis.
Photo credit: Vista Solar