North Coast Solar Stocks

May 19, 2009

Pa. Sunshine solar rebate program opens

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 12:33 pm

5/19/2009 12:33:43 PM
By Diane Mastrull, The Philadelphia Inquirer

ROXBOROUGH, Pa.: The race to the sun is officially on in Pennsylvania.

On a back deck of a modest home in Roxborough, Gov. Rendell yesterday declared the Pennsylvania Sunshine rebate program ready to accept applications.

Rebates of up to 35 percent are available on a first-come, first-served basis to owners of homes and small businesses looking to offset the cost of buying and installing solar-energy systems.

“This is a great day for Pennsylvanians who care about saving money over the long run, who care about creating the new green-energy jobs that President Obama talks so much about, and who care about the quality of our air and the future of our environment,” Rendell said.

He began his remarks shortly after 11 a.m. with a lament that the sky was predominantly cloudy. By the time Rendell had finished speaking, the Lare Street setting was bathed in sunshine.

The dozen or so solar contractors on hand for the event, at the home of Charlie Bushka and his wife, Lynette Rundgren, underscored how eager the fledgling industry has been for help from Harrisburg in transforming consumer interest into actual orders for solar systems.

“What a great day,” said Mark J. Connolly, an energy engineer at Atlantic Energy Concepts, a Reading-based designer and installer of solar systems. “This is the beginning of the money starting to flow — and green jobs.”

The legislature has approved $100 million for the rebate program.

Despite a battered economy and a workforce on edge over sharply rising unemployment, Rendell said he believed Pennsylvanians would claim every cent of the $100 million — “and . . . fairly quickly.” He cited a number of reasons — among them the fact that the new state rebate, along with federal tax credits of up to 30 percent, would enable Pennsylvanians to get as much as a 50 percent break on the cost of a solar-energy system.

The price of an average 5-kilowatt residential unit is $35,000 to $40,000. Experts say that investment will be recouped in eight to 10 years — through reduced energy costs and from selling unused power into the grid and alternative energy credits to utilities.

Another impetus to going solar now, Rendell said, is the likely event of double-digit rate increases by utilities when state caps are lifted in 2011.

Bushka, a firefighter at Philadelphia International Airport, and Rundgren, who recently retired from the University of Pennsylvania, where she managed a clinic, have been making energy-efficiency improvements to their two-story, 2,000-square-foot home for three years. But a $30,000 solar-energy system was too expensive for them without funding help from the state, Bushka said.

So they put the project on hold, waiting for the creation of the Sunshine rebate program. That came in July, when the legislature approved Rendell’s $650 million Alternative Energy Funding Act. Actual funding for the solar-rebate portion of that program did not come until last month.

Saying it was “embarrassing” that New Jersey and Maryland had instituted solar financial-aid programs long before Pennsylvania, Rundgren said: “It’s about time . . . the state is going to start putting its foot in the water.”

Rendell was noncommittal when asked yesterday if he intended to outfit his family home in Philadelphia’s East Falls section with solar panels once he leaves office in January 2011 and can spend more time there.

“We’ll take a look at it,” he said.

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