The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), a regional electricity provider inNew York, has resolved a common problem that has plagued numerousutilities across the countries: too many people want to install a solarhome energy system.
Since 2000, LIPA’s Solar Pioneer Program has offered a per-watt solar rebate to customers who install solarphotovoltaic (PV) rooftop systems. When combined with tax incentives — a 30 percent solar tax credit from the federal government and a 25percent credit from the state of New York — the LIPA solar rebateprogram had enabled property owners to install a 5-kilowatt (kW) systemfor under $10,000, a considerable deal. The offer was a dream come truefor Long Island homeowners, but it turned out to be a bit of a nightmare for LIPA.
Last month, LIPA had to suspend its rebate program for 2010 becauseits $20 million budget had run dry. When LIPA looked around for help,the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) couldn’t do a thing. The DOE hadalready dished out $15 million to large solar projects throughout LongIsland, and could not afford to bail out LIPA’s solar program.
But LIPA CEO Michael Hervey had a plan. Hervey asked New YorkGovernor David Paterson to petition the DOE to redirect $8.3 million ofthe $15 million for large projects to the residential sector. GovernorPaterson did, and the DOE approved the request. As of Dec. 1, LIPA will end the month-long pause in its solar rebate program and fund the rest of the customer requests currently waiting in the wings.
“With this additional funding,” Paterson said said in a statement,“LIPA can now continue to fund projects that help to promote asustainable future for Long Island and New York, while providingmuch-needed stimulus to the state’s economy.”
This is undeniably good news for Long Island residents looking to gosolar. It’s unclear, however, how long the incentive program will beable to continue to run — in 2011 and beyond. LIPA has not released anestimated period of time that it expects the funds to last — and theutility will not be accepting any new applications for the PioneerProgram until Jan. 1, 2011. As is often the case, homeowners who actfast tend to have a higher chance at securing rebate funds than thosewho postpone getting a qualified solar energy quote.