NOTE: Information on this page may be obsolete. Many hanges in incentive programs have occurred since 2011.
What incentives are there for solar energy in SW Florida? Here are a few:
- Save the planet
- Reduce your electric bill
- Stick it to the utility company
- Give something lasting to your kids or grandchildren
- Impress your neighbors
These are all legitimate reasons to install a solar energy product, but probably not what you were hoping to read here. No worries – I know what you want. MONEY!
There have been a lot of misconceptions about solar incentives, especially in Florida where we had a virtually scandalous failure on the part of the Florida Legislature to fund a rebate program that was signed into law by the same body. Literally thousands of Florida residents installed solar energy products with the expectation that a rebate check would arrive weeks after installation. Solar dealers were selling systems like never before based on the generous rebate, and marketed these incentives to customers. Scores of customers are waiting for their rebates years later (some money is trickling out again now). The dealers were made to look like fools, just like the consumers, by the embarrassing choices our lawmakers made by not funding the program they created.
The word on the street in Southwest Florida is that incentives are not secure. They are not guaranteed. They are a gamble. Solar energy dealers are even hesitant to guarantee incentives, for fear that a mistake could put them out of business.
The truth: solar incentives are alive and well in the State of Florida – just not State incentives!
The big incentive that never went away, was never in jeopardy, and never failed to pay out is the Federal Investment Tax Credit. This tax credit provides a 30% tax credit for residential and commercial customers who install qualifying solar energy products. A simple IRS form (5695) is all you need to claim the credit and take a dollar for dollar reduction on your tax bill. If you don’t have enough taxable income, you can carry you incentive forward to future years. Businesses can even file for a grant in lieu of the credit and receive a check in 60 days from acceptance. This incentive is good through 2016, and I am not aware of any discussion to take it away. Reversing it would put the industry out of business nationwide, costing scores of jobs. That’s not going to happen.
The other big news in Southwest Florida is the Florida Power and Light Solar Rebate Program. There is a five year pilot program authorized by the Public Service Commission for FPL to provide direct rebates to customers for solar energy products. Consumers can apply for $1,000 toward a solar water heating system or $2.00 per watt for a solar electric (photovoltaic) system up to a certain size. Businesses can qualify for larger incentives. The catch? You need to apply and be approved before you start the project. If you are approved, rebate money is set aside for you provided that you follow through with the program standards as clearly outlined by the company. Fair enough, right?
The reason the FPL program will succeed where the State of Florida program failed is that there are limited funds, and you get in line for a reservation. It just so happened that the funds for the first round of solar electric rebates ran out within 15 minutes of program starting on June 29, 2011 at 8:30 am! That’s right – 15 minutes. Poof! Gone! Only 310 lucky rebate applicants were successful in the first round of funding. The enthusiasm shows what a great incentive this is.
The good news – as of the time I write this, funds for $1,000 solar water heating system rebates are still available. You can apply right now and receive a reservation for your rebate. Also, FPL will take reservations on August 30 for “leftover” funds from the first round of funding. October 30 starts the next round of funding, and competition for limited funds is expected to be fierce.
Fortunately, all you need to do is contact a licensed solar contractor to learn about the program and get a quotation.
Solar incentives are alive and well in Southwest Florida, both financial and in other ways!