Solar savings shine on businesses

Going solar doesn’t have to mean going broke, according to energy blogger Craig Severance.

Severance, who edits the blog Energy Economy Online and also serves as a CPA, paid for a Toyota Prius hybrid car with savings from installing solar panels on his business. He wrote off the panels as business equipment on his tax forms and received a $26,000 tax credit the first year he used the solar system.

“I didn’t owe any federal income tax dollars for four to five years,” he said Tuesday during a seminar on energy-efficiency tax credits for businesses at Two Rivers Convention Center.

A combination of tax credits, grants and rebates can help businesses pay just 20 percent or less of the cost of installing an energy-efficient power system, said Lou Villaire of Grand Valley Solar Center. Stimulus funds helped extend the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 into this year. The tax credit, which is received now as a grant from the U.S. Treasury Department, has $3 billion reserved to help pay for 30 percent of 5,000 alternative power systems across the United States. A rebate from the state for businesses that operate in a rural energy co-op area or from a utility provider can get a company 20 percent to 50 percent of the installation cost back. Plus, energy savings from the system can return 5 percent to 10 percent of the installation cost and keep energy prices from inflating for a solar user that would otherwise have to deal with rising energy prices.

While some want to save the environment, cost savings are what will really drive a business owner to make the switch, Villaire said.

Xcel Energy announced a plan Tuesday for meeting Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard, which requires 20 percent of energy produced in the state to come from renewable resources by 2020. The plan is to add 257 megawatts of new on-site solar power to the state’s energy grid, plus 700 megawatts of wind power and 350 megawatts of utility-scale solar power. In order to accomplish the goal, Xcel plans to drop payments it asks from solar customers from $1.50 per watt to $1 per watt.


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