Most states offer tax incentives, rebates, or loans for installing solar energy systems in commercial and residential buildings. Actual grants for solar panels in single-family homes are much harder to come by, but not impossible.
So, you’ve decided you want to harness the sun’s incredible renewable energy source to heat and/or power your home. Fantastic! You’ve found a contractor and laid out the plans. Now you have to figure out how to pay for your project.
Residential solar energy systems can be expensive, but there are some renewable energy grants and other financing options available to eco-minded homeowners.
A grant is simply an amount of money that you don’t have to repay. Solar power grants are a financial incentive to reduce the use of non-renewable energy sources. They are gifts, to you and the earth!
Types of Solar Energy Grants
Unfortunately, there are currently no federal or non-profit grants geared toward home solar power systems.
Much of the federal and non-profit funding targets such entities as agricultural producers, community electric cooperatives, and rural small businesses. The USDA REAP (Rural Energy for America) Program has made about $12.5 million available in renewable energy grants in 2012, along with $48.5 million in loan guarantees, for the development of renewable energy systems in those sectors.
Other federal and non-profit grant money is allocated to schools, public and government projects, utilities, commercial and industrial buildings. However, some states, local governments, and utility providers do offer residential incentives.
If you are installing or updating the following technology in your single-family residential building, you may qualify for financial assistance in the form of local and utility grants, tax breaks, or loans:
- Solar Pool Heating: Heating an outdoor pool with solar energy is an efficient eco-friendly way to extend the pool’s usage into the cooler months or evenings.
- Photovoltaics: This system uses solar cells to convert the sun’s energy into usable power.
- Solar Thermal Electric: This is not for homeowners, but is used to convert the sun’s energy into thermal energy for large-scale power production.
- Solar Space Heating/ Passive Solar Space Heating: Panels collect energy from the sun and convert directly into electricity to power your home or building. Often, buildings will use passive solar heating in conjunction with solar panels, positioning the house and designing its construction to maximize the sun’s energy.
- Solar Water Heating: Exactly like it sounds, these systems use solar energy to directly heat hot water supplies.
State and Local Incentives
States sometimes have grants, rebates, or tax incentives for energy-efficient updates to homes. The place to start is the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE). By clicking your state on the interactive map, you can pull up a list of all available renewable energy incentives.
Some grants will pay for up to fifty percent of total project costs, often setting a cap around $30,000. Others will pay a set amount per watt for residential photovoltaic systems.
Utility companies have a vested interest in your solar paneling project. Once you start producing power, you an sell it back to the grid. You have essentially installed another power generator for your electric company. After you look up the information on the DSIRE database, check with your local power company for more specific details. They may require certain systems or warranties for projects to qualify for rebates or grants.