July 22, 2006
Solar powering up
By Nathan Halverson
Tim McKernan, an installer with Solar Craft, looks over solar panels before a final inspection at a home in Rolling Hills in Fairfield. (Gary Goldsmith/Daily Republic)
FAIRFIELD - David Heacock believes in the power of the sun. Last February, Heacock, a Fairfield resident, had solar panels installed on his home.
"I tell people it is the greatest investment I've ever made," he said. "Just within four months we've already built up energy credits. In the first two months we had a bill of $72. Then the next two months erased that bill and now we actually have a credit of $9."
Heacock is among a growing number of residential or commercial property owners who are taking advantage of government tax credits and rebates. These government incentives have transcended solar panels from being merely environmentally friendly to being economically friendly.
"Of increasing importance, more people are buying on a strictly economic basis. Energy rates are continuing to go up and people are looking for a way to offset their electricity bill," said Richard Bennett, residential program manager of the North American division of BP Solar. "One thing that is driving this are the state rebates and federal tax credits. It's a fairly generous program."
BP Solar is a division of BP, formerly British Petroleum, which is one of the six largest energy providers in the world. BP has invested heavily in solar and now supplies Home Depot, which started a program about 2 years ago.
The federal tax credit program allows homeowners to take a $2,000 tax credit for installing solar panels. For commercial property owners, the tax credit is a much better incentive. Businesses that install solar panels can take a tax credit equal to 30 percent of the installation cost, which for larger installations can range into the six figures.
Also, the state offers a one-time rebate of $2.60 per watt of solar power installed. The rebate has a maximum limit of 30 kilowatts, or $78,000. These state rebates have been extended through 2017, but are expected to decrease 10 percent each year to offset the expected decline in the price of installing solar energy.
Christobal Estelita, a Fairfield resident, had solar panels installed on her house this month. The government incentives reduced her initial cost of $55,000 to $39,000.
"I am paying too much for my electricity and I know it will come down with this," Estelita said about supplying energy to her 3,200 square foot home. "I was paying almost $400 to $500 a month. And this way I can really save."
There is no set cost for solar panel systems, but in general a system will start at $15,000. The size and cost of a system is determined by how much energy a household uses per year. Professional installers determine that amount by examining how much energy a household has consumed during the last 12 months.
"It's not inexpensive, but if you look at it as an investment - the panels usually have 25-year warranties - it's worth it," Heacock said. "You can take out a loan and pay off that instead of paying PG&E."
Most people use a second mortgage to finance their solar panel system. On average, a system will pay for itself in 15 years, everything past that is a return on investment.
"I don't worry about PG&E rates going up anymore, because it doesn't affect me. And that's a nice feeling," Heacock said.
- ► 2007 (799)
- Golf Tourney Set
- Brewer Helps Local Teachers
- California Gets Cleaner Diesel Ahead of Schedule
- New Travis Commander Focuses on What's Important
- Expanded Port of Oakland draws major 10-year deal
- Genentech Invests in Inotek's Inhibitors
- New sewer plant will allow Rio Vista to expand
- Suisun City Council approves plan to build housing...
- New homes reflect area's history, style Fitting in...
- Home prices inch up; rents rise, sales ebb - Solan...
- Vallejo school district to call M.I. building home...
- Silicon Valley adds 4,000 new jobs in June
- East Bay unemployment up in June to 4.7 percent fr...
- Solar powering up
- SCC starts unique alifornia Insurance Careers Prog...
- Trilogy's impact on Rio Vist
- State's $3.4 billion solar power bill slated for A...
- Major profit for Dixon-based First Northern Commun...
- Open for Business
- Solano County Sees Boost in Construction Jobs in J...
- Solano County Gets Award of Excellence for Annual ...
- Together for tourism - Solano set to unveil '80 on...
- Home sales decline but prices don't
- East Bay continues to be a jobs powerhouse
- Dixon, Davis get big boost for greenbelt
- JENSEN PRECAST OPENS FIFTH CALIFORNIA FACILITY IN ...
- School Progress
- Tourism Campaign Announced
- Nut Tree Stores Set to Open
- The Fair is Coming to Town!
- Solano Gets New Tourism Direction
- Violent crime drops in Solano County
- STA OK's plan for transit expenditures
- Dixon gets OK to annex Milk Farm property
- Property values in Solano County grew at a record ...
- SCC works to keep Solano County students local
- Vacaville adopts budget, ups public safety funds
- UC Davis hires stem cell expert for new program
- First Nut Tree Store May Open Next Week
- Hurdle Scaled in Dixon
- DOWNTOWN TO STEP UP
- Solano's Grand Stands
- Boat Operators Eye Suisun City
- Tourism on Tap
- A Watering Hole for Businesses
- ▼ July (45)
- ► 2005 (627)
- ► 2004 (125)