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Solar Grant or Investment Tax Credit for Commercial Installations

Commercial solar installation incentives help businesses add renewable energy value to their property, reduce monthly energy costs, and maybe even sell renewable energy credits.

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US Section 1603, or Payments for Specified Energy Property in Lieu of Tax Credits, program has been a renewable energy support program that claims the creation of tens of thousands of jobs and encouraged the building of tens of thousands renewable energy projects.

Senators who are requesting an extension of Section 1603 beyond 2010 cite a survey of renewable energy tax credit industry participants that anticipates a drop of 56% in financing for renewables in 2011 if Congress does not extend the program.

The letter to Senate and House leaders sent in November, 2010  reasons that the Section 1603 program did not create a new federal incentive program, but instead allowed renewable energy projects to use existing investment and production tax incentives.

The program has been so popular and such a book to the supply chain for renewable energy installations that owners of commercial buildings who are rushing to meet the end of year 2010 deadline for a federal Treasury grant program are finding that inventories of some equipment is in short supply.

According to the New York Times, incentives for commercial facilities owners to install solar panels on their warehouses or excess land has been growing in recent years as they take advantge of a federal tax credit for 30% of the solar project's cost.

That credit was converted to a Treasury grant program in February 2009 as part of the ARRA funding program. Instead of waiting to take credit against taxes owed, owners receive a check within 60 days of the project's completion.  It's an alternative form of business financing during these tight economic and banking times.

"According to a September study by the U.S. Partnership for Renewable Energy Finance, a group of renewable energy financiers, investment in solar systems nationwide doubled from 2008 to 2010 under the Treasury grant program, going from $3.4 billion to an estimated $6.7 billion by the end of 2010. By Oct. 26, 1,118 solar energy systems had been installed under the grant program, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group," reports the New York Times. 

If Congress does not renew the federal grant program, it will revert to an investment tax credit valid through the end of 2016.

Industry spokespeople say they expect investment in solar systems to shrink drastically if this grant program reverts to the tax credit form.

Companies are saving significant monthly costs by reducing their energy grid costs, and in New Jersey, businesses can turn their investment into revenue. Instead of offering rebates, New Jersey has a thriving market for Solar Renewable Energy Certificates, which enable owners of solar installations to sell their clean energy credits to utilities looking to avoid penalties enacted by the state for generators of “dirtier” energy. Companies can sell these credits for 15 years after the system’s installation.

In California, the sun does double duty. Owners who are considering a new roof could qualify for the credit by installing a system made by Solyndra, a solar manufacturer in Fremont, Calif., that uses photovoltaic cylinders that capture light not only from the sun, but also from a reflective white roof. Solyndra has determined that the re-roofing, if done before Dec. 31, can qualify for the Treasury grant — and the 30 percent grant will include the cost of re-roofing.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, Managing Editor of Solutions For Green

Publication Date: 12/1/2010

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