Solar Incentives

New incentives offer even more reasons to go solar

You may be fielding more phone calls and door-to-door visits lately from companies telling you that now is a great time to think about investing in solar energy improvements to your home. One big reason is that local, state and federal incentives are motivating homeowners to consider adding solar panels to harvest sunlight and generate electricity — and save money over the long run.

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Locally, Austin Energy offers a capacity-based incentive for residential installations, for up to 10 kilowatts (kW) of solar installed per home (systems must be at least two kW to qualify). Many installers estimate the cost of a rooftop solar panel array to be roughly $2,250 and $4,500 per kilowatt (kW) before incentives.

So how can Austin homeowners take advantage and invest in renewable energy? Of course, the cost of a solar PV system varies, depending on the number and type of panels, as well as site details. Factors such as rooftop position (panels must absorb a minimum amount of sunlight) and pitch can impact ease of installation.

Austin Energy requires consumers to use one of the participating installation companies on its approved list. These companies can estimate both the cost and the amount of electricity you can expect from a particular system, and if you decide to take the solar panel plunge, your installer can also help with the incentive process and submit the application for you. Call Austin Energy’s Conservation Program at 512-482-5346 for more information, but don’t delay, because the incentive levels will decrease as more people take advantage of them.

The financial incentive comes in the form of monthly bill credits, which offset your regular household electric charges. Austin Energy credits solar production at the current “Value of Solar Rate” of 10.9 cents per kWh (effective January 1, 2016). If your solar credit is larger than your monthly energy bill, the credit is rolled over to the next month. That rollover also applies to the credits left at the end of year, so the longer you have the panels installed, the more your savings will increase.

If the upfront costs seem prohibitive, Austin Energy has partnered with Velocity Credit Union to provide energy efficiency and solar loans to residential customers. Loan amounts are from $1,500 to $20,000 and include no feeds, prepayment penalties, closing costs or liens. For more information, call Velocity at 512-469-7060.

At the state level, your solar PV system may qualify for a property tax exemption. You claim the exemption to offset increases to your property value that may results from the solar panel installation. For example, if the new solar PV raises your home’s assessed value by $20,000, you can use the exemption to be assessed at the pre-installation value. Find out more on the State Energy Conservation Office website.

Finally, solar PV system installations can qualify for a 30% federal tax credit based on the cost of the system, including labor. The 30% is available through December 31, 2019. Both existing homes and new construction qualify. Note that rentals do not qualify. See the Energy STARĀ® website to learn more.

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