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Solar gets another big rebate boost

Jan 07, 2011 9:57 am
A new hot water rebate program announced by the state will allow potential buyers to purchase a solar hot water system worth $9,000 for just under $3,000 — making it one of the best rebate programs in the entire country. In a story running in this week's Chatham Courier by Paul Crossman, Sundog Solar Vice President Betsy Wyman says that within half an hour of sending out a press release about this rebate, she had already received six or seven excited calls inquiring about it. She also said that this new rebate program is even better than some of the previous tax credits given, since the customer doesn’t even have to pay the rebate money — it’s given right from the state to the installer. “It really gives [the customer] a great deal,” she said. “The cost of the total project is somewhat offset by this rebate … and it can be a big portion. The big obstacle for going solar is the upfront cost. Anything that does something to lower that cost can help the industry quite a bit.” The only big caveat? Since the program is still relatively new, very few installers have the required New York state Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) certification required to get the rebate. Sundog Solar does not yet have certification, but Wyman said they have applied and should receive it very soon and in all probability, it will make them one of the first providers in New York state to have it.

“This is a true win-win situation,” said Sundog Solar President Jody Rael. “The solar thermal rebate, along with the federal and state tax credits, will reduce the cost of a typical system to under $3,000, putting solar in reach for most New Yorkers. System owners should see a quick return on their investment many times over, all while reducing the release of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.”

According to Sundog Solar, the average American spends about 17 percent of their utility bill to pay to heat their hot water. This new program will help fund roof-mounted solar collectors which will transfer heat from the sun to a fluid that is pumped to a solar storage tank connected to the existing hot water tank. When the sun is out, the system turns on, providing free heated water from the sun.

At night, or when the sun is down, the existing hot water system is still usable, which means the house will always have a source of hot water. Using the sun to preheat the water not only saves money, but is a great way of going green. According to Wyman, the system can offset between 65 and 75 percent of the 17 percent of the utility bill used to heat water.

One of the highlights of the rebate — $1.50 per watt for every kilowatt hour saved up to $4,000 — is that most solar hot water systems will pay for themselves in only three to four years.

According to Wyman, the rebate level will decrease as funding milestones are met, so the best bet is to get involved while the rebate program is relatively new. She also said that the funding is mostly geared toward off-setting electric hot water usage, but there is also some funding available for those heating hot water with oil and gas.

Once they receive their NYSERDA certification, Wyman estimates that it will take around three months from the initial consultation until the final installation of the solar panels, although she admitted that because the program is new, it is tough to be sure. While the installation only takes about three days, she said the rest of the time is spent on getting the state to accept the rebate and then the paperwork, all of which is done by the installer, not the homeowner.

Wyman and Rael both agreed that the new rebate program will not only be good for solar providers, customers and the environment, but for the solar industry as a whole. The two are also pleased that Sundog Solar was part of the solar thermal energy consortium that came together to brainstorm ideas about how to keep solar thermal growth up, one of which was this rebate.

“Because of this rebate, we are really anticipating solar thermal to grow as a whole in New York,” said Wyman. “We couldn’t be more excited.”

To learn more about the program or solar energy in general, visit Sundog Solar’s website at www.sundogsolar.net or for a free solar evaluation, call (518) 392-4000, ext. 207.

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