State renews green energy rebates

The state extended its renewable energy program for another five years, making available $279 millio

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The state extended its renewable energy program for another five years, making available $279 million in rebates to homeowners and businesses that install solar panels, fuel cells, wind turbines and other green devices.

The state Public Service Commission last week extended the program, called the Renewable Portfolio Standard. The program’s “over arching goal is to move New York state to generate 30 percent of its electricity by renewable resources by 2015,” said PSC spokesman James Dean. It will replace the current standard of 25 percent by 2015.

The incentives program was set to expire June 30. The new incentives program takes effect July 1 and will be paid for by an 0.25 percent increase in consumer electricity bills, Dean said. For the average homeowner who uses 500 kilowatt hours of electricity per month, the increase equals about 20 cents, bringing the total surcharge to approximately 66 cents a month.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is administering the program.

Kevin Bailey, owner of Sycaway Solar & Wind of Troy, said the state’s incentive program is helping drive demand for solar panel systems for residential homes. “The incentives make it cost effective. We probably would not have any business without the incentive,” Bailey said.

As a result of the state program, Bailey said, his business doubled in the last year. “I envision my sales will triple or quadruple this year. I am a sole proprietor, but if it keeps up at this pace, I will be able to bring on employees in next couple of years, which is my ultimate goal,” he said.

The state rebate program is currently reimbursing residential customers $1.70 per kilowatt, up to 5,000 kilowatts.

When the program started in 2004, the rebate was $4 per kilowatt.

An average solar panel system installed in a home costs between $30,000 and $35,000. Bailey said with state and federal tax credits, and with the NYSERDA rebate, the average homeowner will end up paying approximately $10,000 of this cost. The payback is about 10 to 15 years, he said.

Dean said the higher rebate generated too much demand, causing the program to run out of money quickly. “We are trying to find the balancing point between demand and need. At $1.70 per watt for solar panels, there will be more money to disperse and we can serve more people,” he said.

Said Bailey, “now is the best time to invest in solar because incentives have never been better.”

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