Loans, rebates, tax credits.
These are the typical home solar power incentives offered by federal, state and local governments, as well as some utilities across the nation. Nearly all of these programs require the homeowner to come up with a sizable portion of cash up-front, a major hindrance for families in a struggling economy.
So from coast to coast, homeowners are searching for no-strings-attached home solar grants that can help distribute solar power more widely. It’s especially pressing for low-income households that struggle with rising energy bills but lack the means for decent loans or up-front funds.
Unfortunately, home solar power grants are fairly rare. While nearly every household in every state is probably eligible for some kind of solar power incentive, only nine states offer any sort of grant program for residential solar power systems. The federal government offers no such program.
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Here are the nine states that offer home solar power grants:
City of Boulder’s ClimateSmart Solar Grant Program offers grants to people with low-to-moderate incomes in single and multifamily homes covering (usually) up to 50% of the project costs. The actual grant amount is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Energy Environmental Corporation is a Denver renewable energy systems company that provides grants to low-income homeowners and nonprofits. Only solar hot water systems are eligible. Low-income households are eligible for grants totaling 100% of the post-rebate cost of the solar hot water system.
New Energy Economic Development Grant Program is a state-funded program that uses Recovery Act funds to provide grants for renewable and energy efficiency upgrades. The grants are meted out on a competitive basis. The latest round of funding closed at the end of August and the next round is expected to begin in early 2010. The program dictates that residential solar power systems are eligible for the grants, but it is unclear exactly what it takes to qualify or how they select award recipients. See the Governor’s Energy Office for more details.
The state of Minnesota offers Renewable Energy Equipment Grants for solar space heating. The grants are for low-income homeowners and come in varying amounts. However, a maximum grant amount is posted at $4,700.
Xcel Energy also offers a grant for home solar power systems in Minnesota through its Renewable Development Fund (RDF). The program is not designed specifically for solar power or for home solar power systems. The residential sector is just one of several eligible sectors, including research and development.
NorthWestern Energy offers home solar power grants at a rebate-like rate of $3.00/watt up to $6,000. Photovoltaics is the only solar technology eligible for the grant. Funds for the grant program come out of a Universal System Benefits (USB) Program established by the state of Montana that requires all utilities to create a USB fund, which itself comes as a small charge (usually $1) on residents’ monthly utility bill. The grants are geared toward low-income homeowners.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has established the Assisted Home Performance Program. It offers grants to low-income homeowners for energy efficiency improvements, including photovoltaics and solar water heaters. The grants for single-family homes max out at $5,000. Household income must not exceed 80% of the Median State Income or Median Area Income (by county) to qualify. New York has also passed legislation to allow each municipality to launch Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) initiatives, giving each city the power to tap into federal funds for commercial and residential owners.
The Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) oversees the Ohio Energy Office (OEO) which offers first-come-first-serve grants for the installation of thermal and photovoltaic home solar power systems. Projects must be serviced by one of a certain handful of investor-owned utilities in Ohio, whose customers pay into the Ohio Advanced Energy Fund that supports the grant program. Multifamily and low-income residential homes are eligible.
For home solar electric systems, the grant amount is determined at $3.00/watt with a maximum of $25,000. For home solar thermal systems, the incentives vary by housing type and max out at 50% of the system cost. Here are more details.
Pennsylvania dubs their state grant program the High Performance Building Incentives Program. Through this program, grants for home solar power systems are available for up to 10% of project costs or $500,000, whichever is less. Projects must achieve LEED Gold certification to qualify. More details at NEWPA.
The smallest state offers its low-income residents a chance at an affordable home solar power system. Grants come out of the state’s Renewable Energy Fund and vary by project, but don’t look for these grants to go straight to the homeowners. Home solar power systems are allocated funds through the Nonprofit Affordable Housing Investment Program, which divvies up grants to nonprofit affordable housing developers. Essentially, low-income homeowners or buyers may be lucky enough to buy a new subsidized house that has a home solar power system on it.
Vermont does offer grants for solar thermal and PV systems. Unfortunately, small-scale systems do not qualify at present. So home solar power systems are currently out of luck when it comes to grants.
King County in Washington State offers grants for residential building projects seeking LEED Certification. Sorry, Seattle residents, recipients must live outside the city. Grants vary between $20,000 and $30,000, depending on the level of LEED certification sought.
As you can see, grant programs – even across only nine states – vary widely in terms of how the grants are doled out and to whom. Very few have grant programs geared directly toward home solar power systems. In most, low-income homeowners have to compete with large-scale projects for funding. But these examples are nonetheless proof that there are home solar power grants out there, and the successes or failures of these limited programs could pave (or hinder) the way for grant programs to come.
Via: Solar Knowledge