Drive through any neighborhood and youre bound to see at least one house or business building with solar panels on one side of the roof. Go home and do a little research and youll find that solar panels can be quite expensive to install on your own. The good news for those who are particularly eco-conscious is there are several different government funding programs that can either completely cover or significantly offset the costs.
HUDs Green Retrofit Program
HUD offers both grants and loans through the Green Retrofit Program, especially for multi-family dwellings. The property in question will undergo both financial and physical examination to make sure it is properly preserved and meets financial qualifications. Any grant money received through the program must be spent within 2 years, so you must be prepared to show proof that youve had solar panels or other energy saving retrofits installed.
Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit
While not a grant or loan program, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 provided for the reaction of the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. This tax credit allows homeowners to claim a tax credit of up to 30% of the cost of installation for both solar-electric and solar water-heating equipment. Property owners can apply this credit to any owned property, whether it is the primary residence or not. There is no cap to the 30% limit, but the energy system must provide at least 50% of the homes heating. Anyone who wants to take advantage of this tax credit needs to have the system installed before December 31st, 2016 so that it can be claimed no later than the 2016 tax filing deadline.
Rural Energy for America Program
The Rural Energy for America Program, otherwise known as REAP, is a program run through the US Department of Agriculture. This program was designed to help schools, local governments, state governments, commercial businesses, and other institutions find relief in the installation of not just solar energy technology, but wind, geothermals, wave energy, and other sources as well. The grants, ranging from $1,500 to $500,000, are issued to cover a maximum of 25% of the total cost of each project. While the application deadline for 2013 has passed, business owners, school boards, and government officials should keep this program in mind for future years.
State-Run Grant Programs
Dont forget to look a little closer to home for solar energy grants and credits as well. A lot of states offer their own incentive programs for the installation and use of renewable energy sources, especially since many have goals for the increased use of cleaner energy sources. In Maryland, for example, residents can apply for MEA grants that, in some cases, completely cover the cost on installation. Businesses, non-profits, and government agencies can use the MEA program to apply for loans and grants to either make existing businesses “go green” or to build completely new businesses with renewable energy sources. From a business perspective, the state is also working to create more jobs for individuals working in the “green-collar” industry. The states goal is for the state to be using at least 20% green, renewable energy by 2022. Maryland isnt the only state with clearly defined energy goals, and stacking both state and federal benefits could make the installation of solar energy even more affordable.
Solar systems will provide a renewable source of energy for years to come. While the initial installation of materials may be costly now, the equipment should more than pay for itself and become profitable throughout the course of its usable life. Talk to a home improvement or energy expert if you arent sure about the viability of solar energy in your area. Otherwise, you should seriously consider the benefits of installation and start looking for local, state, and federal funding programs.