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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Finding Funds for Nonprofits Renewable Energy Projects

Posted by SEPCO

8/26/14 9:30 AM

Money_for_Non_ProfitsMany organizations do not qualify for the renewable energy tax credits since they are nonprofit. That seems unfair since there is little incentive to get these types of organizations to utilize renewable energy. This bothered me and so I did some research and here is what I found that nonprofit organizations, such as churches, HOA’s and other organizations can do to gather the funds to utilize solar energy without killing their bottom line.

Grants

There are still grants that are available and nonprofits can qualify for these. Grants can be difficult to find, but with a little research, you may be able to find one that fits your needs best. Some great information can be found on the Energy.gov, FedCenter.gov and EPA.gov website about funding and financing of renewable energy project. Also talking to your local community representative may help find what local incentives are available for renewable energy projects. If there is nothing currently available, you can work on possibly sparking an interest and getting them to consider it in the near future.

Fundraising

Fundraising is a great way to get your community involved in your renewable energy efforts. You can hold something as simple as a spaghetti dinner or bake sale that can end up generating quite a bit of funds. You can also dedicate a plaque to larger donors of the project. As long as you make your community feel involved in the process, they will be happy to step forward and take a sense of pride in the project.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is becoming hugely popular as a way to run get funds for a project by giving different level of incentives to help gain more traction. I’m sure by now you have heard of the Potato Salad at Kickstarter to more relevant Solar Roadways at Indigogo that gained some huge traction. Once you create your campaign, sharing it with your community is the first step, but having them share it out can allow those who would like to help your cause, but may not be located nearby, become a part of your project.

Leasing

Some organizations have gone through a leasing agency who can take care of the tax credits and grants search and claiming paperwork and your organization can still benefit. Instead of paying full price, there are leasing organizations that will take an additional discount off your system and then lease it back to you over the course of a number of years. You get a lower price and can slowly pay off your system instead of needing the total amount in one lump sum.

These are just a few options to those nonprofit organizations that still want to utilize renewable energy sources and complete projects to help make their organization a little greener to gain the funds for their projects. What other options have you heard of? We’d love to be able to add more to our list and help all organizations be able to put their green foot forward.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Tax Incentives, Solar Rebates, Funding

What the Solar Tax Credit Can Do for Your Solar Installation

Posted by SEPCO

2/18/14 9:30 AM

30_Tax_CreditSolar has come down in price a lot over the last couple years; however, it is still out of reach for a lot of people. There are different tax credits available that can help cut down the out of pocket costs of solar and provide an incentive to installing solar. Here is a basic overview of the federal tax credit available to residences and businesses alike.

The Federal Tax Credit for solar installations allows for a 30% tax credit on costs at installation. The Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC) states that 30% for solar, wind and fuel cells is available and 10% for geothermal and microturbines. The maximum incentive is $1,500 per 0.5 kW of solar installed, so there is a cap to the tax credit. Microturbines is only $200 per kW. If you install solar on your business and want to claim the tax credit, you need to fill out IRS Form 3468.

Residential Federal Tax Credits include solar electric, solar hot water, wind turbines, geothermal heat pumps and fuel cells. There is no maximum on most of these for the credit and it is 30% all the way around. There is more information on DSIREUSA’s website along with Energy Star and you will need to fill out IRS Form 5695.

Both Federal Tax Credits are available till the end of 2016 as of now. This may or may not be extended beyond and we won’t find out for quite some time. If you are looking for money to help your solar installation, make sure to push while the money is still available.

State incentives vary depending on what state mandates are available. Hot solar states provide better incentives then states that aren’t pushing for renewable energy installations. To find out what incentives are available in your state, DSIREUSA’s website is the best resource. You can also contact your local power authority to find out if they provide additional incentives for using solar on your home or business.

The final resource I will leave you with is 1BOG. They work with your local solar companies to help you get the best value. I personally have worked with them and it is a breeze. You type in your location and they will contact the local solar providers and set up appointments with you. The solar providers will come out and assess your home and provide you a quote for the system and installation. There are a lot of solar companies that will even deal with all the tax credits, rebates and such, find you money to help with the purchase, and quote you what is left. To read more about my personal experience, check out Solar Power is More Feasible than I Thought.

Solar is completely feasible, but make sure you jump on board while the financial help is still available. What other questions about going solar do you have? Let me know below and I’ll make sure to answer them.

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Topics: Solar Power, Clean Energy, Solar Tax Incentives

Is Solar Lighting the Answer? Here’s 4 Great Reasons Why

Posted by SEPCO

9/25/12 9:39 AM

SolarLightSolar power has been around for quite some time, and the sun has been around a little longer, a few million years or so. The solar industry is growing at an enormous rate, faster than ever imagined. Solar lighting makes up only a small percentage of the industry, but can provide many options to standard electrical lighting.

1. Solar Lighting Lasts Longer

Solar panels have become more efficient over the years. New panels are smaller while providing more power than their larger predecessors. LED technology has added to this efficiency to make solar powered lighting one of the most sustainable lighting sources other than the sun. And as battery efficiency has increased, there is no worry about lights running out of power after only a couple hours. Most commercially manufactured solar lights automatically come with a battery backup to provide extra days of energy storage.

2. Solar Lights Are Environmentally Friendly

Standard electrical lights need some sort of non-renewable energy to make them work; fossil fuels, coal, or nuclear power. All these forms of energy produce harmful CO2’s and also cost the owner lots of money year after year. Solar powered lights are practically free after the initial purchase and installation and produce no harmful pollutants to the environment. The upfront cost of solar lighting can easily be paid back within the first couple years of operation, even on the larger systems.

3. Look to the Government for Incentives

Want an even lower cost for a solar lighting system? Look to the Government to help you with your purchase and installation. Federal and State tax incentives can be easily found; the energy.gov website is a great resource. Even some local power companies provide incentives to install solar power both for your home, business, and lighting. This not only saves you money in the initial phase of the project, but also provides an almost immediate ROI.

4. Solar Lights are Maintenance Free and Movable

Solar lights provide great lighting for years with no maintenance. Solar panels are rated for over 25 years of life expectancy, and with high powered LED’s lasting 12 to 15 years and batteries lasting longer and longer every year, there really isn’t much to do after installation. You can even take them with you if you move since the units are self-contained. No losing your initial investment, which is always great!

So next time you ask yourself if going solar is worth it, think back to this and check all your options. The ROI on solar lighting isn’t just for you; it’s for our world too. Let’s help them both.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Solar Tax Incentives

Solar Power Advantages and Disadvantages

Posted by SEPCO

1/26/12 9:30 AM

I have been following a post on Wiki Answers for a while on the advantages and disadvantages to solar power and wanted to share the results. The discussion started a while ago and has had a lot of feedback. Here are the results.

Solar Power

Advantages:

  1. Solar power is pollution free and causes no greenhouse gases to be emitted after installation
  2. Reduced dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels
  3. Renewable clean power that is available every day of the year, even cloudy days produce some power
  4. Return on investment unlike paying for utility bills
  5. Virtually no maintenance as solar panels last over 30 years
  6. Creates jobs by employing solar panel manufacturers, solar installers, etc. and in turn helps the economy
  7. Excess power can be sold back to the power company if grid intertied
  8. Ability to live grid free if all power generated provides enough for the home / building
  9. Can be installed virtually anywhere; in a field to on a building
  10. Use batteries to store extra power for use at night
  11. Solar can be used to heat water, power homes and building, even power cars
  12. Safer than traditional electric current
  13. Efficiency is always improving so the same size solar that is available today will become more efficient tomorrow
  14. Aesthetics are improving making the solar more versatile compared to older models; i.e. printing, flexible, solar shingles, etc.
  15. Federal grants, tax incentives, and rebate programs are available to help with initial costs

Disadvantages

  1. High initial costs for material and installation and long ROI
  2. Needs lots of space as efficiency is not 100% yet
  3. No solar power at night so there is a need for a large battery bank
  4. Some people think they are ugly (I am definitely not one of those!)
  5. Devices that run on DC power directly are more expensive
  6. Depending on geographical location the size of the solar panels vary for the same power generation
  7. Cloudy days do not produce much energy
  8. Solar panels are not being massed produced due to lack of material and technology to lower the cost enough to be more affordable
  9. Solar powered cars do not have the same speeds and power as typical gas powered cars
  10. Lower production in the winter months

There is more solar power that hits the earth every day then the current population can use in a year. Let’s keep working to harness this great power and put it to good use. What do you think?

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Power, Clean Energy, Solar Tax Incentives

Financials Behind Renewable Energy

Posted by SEPCO

1/17/12 9:30 AM

Renewable energy presents numerous exciting financial benefits to consumers, in addition to the obvious environmental merits. As fossil based energy reserves – natural gas, coal and petroleum – continue to dwindle, there is an increasingly growing drive to seek alternative sources that are more sustainable and eco-friendly.

From federal tax credits and bonus depreciation schemes to state incentives for efficient energy use, consumers stand to gain from adopting renewable energy alternatives. Additionally, a number of utilities offer rebates of up to $4000 for wind and solar installations. The most widely used forms of renewable energy in homes are wind and solar electric systems. Homeowners can either choose to power parts of their homes or meet their entire home power needs using a renewable source. Here’s how you can benefit from your renewable energy system:

Solar Save Money

Federal tax credits

When you install a renewable energy system or purchase an energy efficient appliance, you automatically become eligible for some form of federal tax credit. Some existing tax credits run through 2011, while others run through 2016.

Products eligible through 2011, according to the Department of Energy:

• A $300 credit on biomass stoves rated with at least 75 percent thermal efficiency assessed using a lower heating value.

• Electric heat pumps and central air conditioning split and package systems also carry a credit of $300. For central air conditioning split systems, the requirements are that EER ≥13 (Energy Efficiency Ratio); SEER ≥16 (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), and the package system requires that EER ≥12; SEER ≥14. For electric heat pump split systems, requirements are that HSPF ≥8.5 (Heating Season Performance Factor); EER ≥12.5; SEER ≥15, while the package system requirements are HSPF ≥8; EER ≥12; SEER ≥15. Other eligible HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems include $150 for furnaces and boilers, and $50 for an advanced main air circulating fan.

Products eligible through 2016:

• Geothermal heat pump systems carry a 30 percent credit without an upper limit. It applies both to new and existing homes as long as it is placed in service by December 31 2016.

• Solar electric systems carry a credit of 30 percent of cost without an upper limit. The requirements for a solar water heating system is that the qualifying property must generate at least 50 percent of the energy from the sun, as well as having a certification from the SRCC – Solar Rating and Certification Corporation. For photovoltaic solar systems, they must generate power for the home and must meet fire and electrical code regulations.

• Wind energy systems also carry a 30 percent credit without an upper limit. The requirement for small residential wind turbines is that the nameplate capacity should not exceed 100 kilowatts.

• Residential fuel cell systems with efficiency of at least 30 percent have a 30 percent credit but must have a capacity of 0.5kW minimum.

• Plug-in vehicles and other small electric cars also have tax credits of up to $7500, depending on battery capacity.

State and utility incentives

There are various state and utility incentives both for residential and commercial setups. Many states operate rebate programs through environmentally based non-governmental organizations. Other states allow consumers and utilities to directly enter into power selling arrangements, where a consumer can either sell excess power generated by their renewable energy system, or have their annual energy costs heavily slashed.

One of the most popular consumer-utility arrangements is the net-metering system, where the consumer benefits most. It’s no surprise that many utilities are hostile to this concept, and some have even opposed a number of proposed state policies that would have even made it easier for homeowners to use the concept.

The net-metering concept works under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), which allows consumers who generate their own energy to connect to a utility grid and the utility must purchase any excess power generated.

Net-metering works for both wind and solar electric systems. Homeowners, for instance, can save between $10 and $40 a month with a 10-kilowatt wind electric system. But savings can be bigger depending on how much energy you produce.

In a net metering system, a meter will read backwards (credit) when there’s excess power generated. The value of that credit is normally calculated at the prevailing wholesale unit rate – for peak or off peak. When there’s less power generated from the system and the grid supplies the majority, the meter reads positive and the credit reduces. At the end of the year, if your meter has a net credit, the utility will pay you the equivalent in cash, calculated at the wholesale cost of a unit.

There are a number of other state specific incentives for renewable energy. It’s imperative to look for a particular scheme in your locality that you might be eligible for if you’re planning to install a renewable energy system.

This guest post was written by Couponing contributing writer, James Lander. Couponing is devoted to sharing couponing techniques and top retailer coupons.

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Topics: Guest Post, Solar Tax Incentives, Solar Rebates

Good News from FPL 2012 Solar Incentives Application is Back

Posted by SEPCO

11/3/11 9:30 AM

Solar Rebate Program

FPL has opened the application period for the 2012 solar rebate program on October 27th. This is an ongoing pilot program to help reduce energy consumption and peak demand, but you have to hurry as it is first come, first serve. The rebates include solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar water heating systems.

How much is available?

The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) has authorized $15.5 million for 2012 and the program will be available from October 2011 through September 2012. Half the funds were issued on October 27th, but the remainder is going to be issued in Spring 2012, so there is still time to get your application in.

FPL’s vice president Marlene Santos states “These rebates can help significantly defray the upfront cost of a customer’s investment in distributed renewable energy generation, but the annual funding is limited and first-come, first-served so we continue to encourage interested customers to make sure they have the necessary components of the application ready.”

What is available?

Residential Solar Water Heating: FPL’s program for residential solar water heating provides $1,000 per installation.

Business Solar Water Heating: Businesses will be eligible for variable rebate based on the size of the system equaling $30 per 1,000 BTU / day of the maximum rated output of the new system, up to $50,000 per site. Businesses with multiple sites can receive up to $150,000 for the year.

Residential Solar PV: The incentive for solar power installed on a home is $2,000 per kW of the rated direct-current (DC) output up to $20,000.

Business Solar PV: Businesses will be eligible for variable rebate based on the output of the system up to $50,000 per site and is calculated at $2 per DC Watt of the solar panel rating up to the first 10 kW, $1.50 for 10 kW to 25 kW, and $1 for every kW above 25. Multiple locations can receive a total of $150,000 per funding year.

What about Non-for-Profit Organization?

FPL has a limited number of rebates available for qualifying non-for-profit organizations that install solar water heaters in new construction for low income families. FPL also provides education programs while producing energy at schools and other educational facilities. FPL plans on installing at least oneNextGenerationSolarEducationCenterin 28 school districts inFlorida.

What to do next?

Visit www.FPL.com/solarrebates for more information on the application process and checklists. Also contact your local PV or Solar Hot Water systems installer. You can also look up more information on technology advancements and information at www.fsec.ucf.edu.

What if you are not an FPL customer?

Don’t worry; there is still money available through Federal, State, and Local tax incentives. Visit www.dsireusa.org for more information on tax incentives. You can also contact your local energy company to see what is available locally.

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Topics: Solar Power, Solar Tax Incentives, Solar Rebates

Renewable Energy and Commercial Buildings: Tax & Energy Savings

Posted by SEPCO

10/27/11 9:50 AM

What if you could reduce your energy costs, utilize cutting edge technology, generate a significant tax reduction AND receive a tax credit all at the same time?

Federal and state tax incentives available for the purchase and use of renewable energy products can have dramatic impact to a company’s bottom line and tax savings.

Renewable Energy Help Buildings

What is the Commercial Building Energy Efficiency Deduction?

In 2005, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 established a new tax deduction for expenses incurred for energy-efficient commercial building property. In summary, commercial buildings can qualify for up to $1.80psf additional deduction for expenditures made on qualifying energy-efficient commercial buildings.

Solar PanelsHow do I determine if my building will qualify?

An energy-efficient commercial building property is defined as property that is (1) installed on or in any building located in the US (within the scope of ASHRA Standard 90.1-2001) except for low-rise residential buildings; (2) installed as part of the interior lighting, HVAC or building envelope, and; (3) certified as being installed as part of a plan to reduce the total annual energy and power costs of the building by 50% or more when compared to a reference building.

How Does Renewable Energy Fit into this Tax Incentive?

Congress intentionally wrote this tax incentive to be fuel neutral rather than give preference to a specific type of fuel. So, while expenditures for any new equipment that helps reduce energy costs will qualify, certain renewable energy products will both qualify for this deduction and qualify for a tax credit as well. Expenditures for geo-thermal, solar, and small wind energy that are part of an overall plan to reduce energy costs can be included as part of the qualified costs (under Section 179D). Assuming the building meets the qualifying standards, the expenditures for renewable energy equipment should be included in the calculation for the deduction under Section 179D and the tax credit under Section 48 of the US Tax Code.

What if I don’t meet the 50% test? Can I still qualify for a portion of the deduction?

Yes, the deduction is broken down into three components, interior lighting, HVAC and building envelope. If you meet only one component of the formula, you can receive $0.60 psf deduction (up to the amount spent); if you meet two components, you can receive $1.20 psf deduction (again, up to the amount spent).

Are there other deductions available to commercial buildings for renewable energy sources?

Yes, the Energy Investment Tax Credits have been extended through January 1, 2017. This 30% credit applies to solar energy and fuel cells properties as well as qualified small wind energy property. There is also a new 10% investment tax credit for combined heat and power systems and geothermal heat pumps.

Where Can I Find More Information on These Incentives?

The links below will provide you with additional information related to the incentives listed above.

Dept of Energy Buildings Technologies Program

Internal Revenue Code-Section 179D Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Deduction

IRS Notice 2006-52 – Deduction for Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings

Solar Electric Power Company- Great resource for information on solar energy commercial products

Randy Eickhoff, CPARandy Eickhoff, CPA is President of Acena Consulting. With more than 20 years of tax and consulting experience, Randy focused on helping companies successfully document and secure tax incentives throughout the US. He has been a long-time speaker nationally as well as conducted numerous training sessions on R&D tax credits and other US tax incentives. Randy can be reached at www.acenaconsulting.com or via email at andy.eickhoff@acenaconsulting.com

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Topics: Guest Post, Solar Power, Solar Tax Incentives

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