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What renewable energy incentives are available in my area?
A wide array of incentives are available for solar power installation from the federal, state and local governments, non-profit organizations and utilities.
Your go-to resource to find out about any and all incentives is the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, or DSIRE, at www.dsire.com. This project of the North Carolina Solar Center (part of NC State University), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy and other entities, exists solely to track incentives state by state. The DSIRE website tracks tax incentives, grants, loans, rebates, industry recruitment/support, green building incentives, performance-based incentives and other forms of incentives. It breaks down state policies, too, such as Renewable Portfolio Standards, net metering, interconnection standards and all kinds of permitting and power purchase standards. And it features a very handy glossary of terms!
Both residential and commercial solar projects also currently qualify for sizeable federal tax credits. The Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit was expanded in 2009 and is now an uncapped rebate for 30% of the cost of a solar energy system (both photovoltaic and solar thermal are eligible, along with small wind and geothermal heat pumps), and is available through 2016. The Production Tax Credit allows for a similar 30% credit on a per-kiloWatt basis for commercial projects only, which has been a major incentive for large-scale wind power projects. The Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit, which gave a limited federal credit on energy efficient appliances for homeowners including solar energy systems, expired in 2011.
States with good incentives such as California, Colorado, New Jersey, North Carolina, California, Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington DC can make it much easier to go solar. The DSIRE website, together with local non-profit and environmental resources, can get you the information you need to make an informed decision.