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Wisconsin Cash Back Solar Energy Rebates and Incentives

For a northern state, Wisconsin is quite friendly to solar power systems, offering a variety of incentives ranging from rebates to loans to grants and tax exemptions. Much of the activity, especially among the state’s utilities, stems from a renewable portfolio standard requiring those utilities to harness 10 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2015. Here is how the state of Wisconsin and its utilities are working to advance solar and renewable energy.
PACE Financing
Wisconsin is one of a growing number of states to allow municipalities to adopt PACE financing. Property Assessed Clean Energy programs allow individuals to borrow money from their city or county to install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency upgrades to their homes. The loan is paid back through a voluntary assessment on property taxes over a fixed period. The exact details and loan terms of each program are determined locally by the municipality. So far Milwaukee is the only city we know of that offers PACE financing in Wisconsin - specifically for solar power. Contact your local government for more information.
Solar and Wind Energy Equipment Exemption
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue exempts from property taxes 100 percent of any and all added value to a home resulting from a solar energy systems. Included technologies are solar water heat, solar space heat, solar thermal electric, solar pool heating and photovoltaics (PV). In order to qualify property owners must request an exemption from their local assessor by March 1st of the year for which the exemption is to be claimed. Read this for more information.
Renewable Energy Sales Tax Exemption
In 2007 legislation was passed exempting wind, solar and anaerobic digester systems from all applicable sales and use taxes in Wisconsin. This exemption was set to take effect on July 1, 2009. However, that law was amended in 2009, with the effective date being pushed back to July 1, 2011. So in midsummer 2011 Wisconsin solar equipment purchasers will be free from sales tax, but in the meantime taxes must be paid.
Focus On Energy - Renewable Energy Cash-Back Rewards
Solar water heat and photovoltaics are eligible for the state Focus on Energy rebate program administered by WisconSUN. Solar PV and solar hot water systems creating up to 20 kW of solar electricity or 5,000 therms per year (solar hot water) are eligible.
Incentives vary based on the application and expected performance. For solar PV, homeowners get $1.00 per annual kWh produced, up to the lesser of 25% of project costs or $50,000. Solar water heaters qualify for between $7.20 and $18 per annual therm produced. Maximum incentives range from $2,500 to $36,000 but must be capped at 25% of costs. For solar hot water systems, participation in the Efficiency First program will garner higher incentive amounts.
Note that in order to qualify for any Focus on Energy incentives, you must get your electricity or natural gas from a participation utility. See Focus on Energy for more information. It is also strongly recommended that homeowners get a solar site assessment before applying, for which Focus on Energy offers a $100-$200 discount.
Production Incentives
Several utilities in Wisconsin also offer production incentives for solar energy, through which they will buy the electricity a home solar power system produces at a set rate for a specified period of time. For instance, Wisconsin Power and Light (owned by Alliant Energy)has an Advanced Renewables Tariff program in which they’ll pay $0.25 per kWh for solar power (more than double what they’ll pay for other technologies).
Other utilities with production incentives are Madison Gas & Electric, River Falls Municipal Utilities and Xcel Energy. MG&E and RFMU have set tariff rates of $0.25/kWh and $0.30/kWh respectively. Xcel Energy’s rates are negotiable on a case-by-case basis. For more information on these utility production incentives see DSIRE.
We Energies, another utility in Wisconsin offers their own solar thermal rebate program for solar water heaters that produce up to 5,000 therms per year. The program follows the Focus on Energy model described above quite closely. Look here for more info.

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