PUC relaxes solar rebates program because of high demand and high cost of going green

The Public Utilities Commission on Thursday decided that if one person or business can't use their solar rebate before it expires, NV Power should issue that permit to a new customer.

The program created in 2003 has been very popular and has lots of applicants who want the rebates to help pay for solar systems on homes, businesses and government buildings. Current rebates are $2.10 per watt to residences and businesses, $5 a watt for schools and public buildings.

Commissioner Rebecca Wagner said the program has been very popular since its creation and draws far more applicants than there is money available.

"But all these people get in on it and then they don't install," she said.

In most cases, the reason is the high cost of photo-voltaic systems.

The result: a high percentage expire after a year without being used. She said in the past five to six years, only two megawatts of solar power have actually been brought on line by the program.

Thursday's order, she said, takes all that unused capacity from previous program years and directs NV Power to award it to people with projects on the waiting list.

"It gets us to what I believe was the intent of the Legislature," she said.

Tom Price of Black Rock Solar said the combination of the PUC order is "a tremendous step forward" for renewable energy programs in Nevada.

"This brings so much capacity back to the table for people who can actually use it," he said.

"This is a good chance to put construction workers back to work."

Price said Black Rock, a non-profit organization, is working on a major project to put a solar system on the roof of the new Food Bank of Northern Nevada. He said most of the benefit in creating jobs will go to the for-profit construction industry.

"When we can save money for an institution like that and when contractors can put people back to work, it's a huge win for the state," he said.

Wagner said she would urge NV Power's SolarGenerations program to open up the program as soon as possible and get projects on that waiting list approved.

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