Rush for home solar panels expected as end of federal subsidy looms

Winter in Western Oregon may seem an odd time to consider the benefits of solar power, but industry experts say a couple of compelling financial reasons should prompt residents to think now about installing solar panels on their homes. Unless Congress acts, federal solar investment tax credits to encourage the installation of residential photovoltaic solar energy systems will expire Dec. 31, 2016

To qualify for the credits, which save taxpayers money, the systems must be installed and operating by the end of next year, said Steve Mital, sustainability director at the University of Oregon.

A year from now may seem like a long time, but it can take several months to select a system, hire a contractor, get permits and have the solar unit installed, he said.

“Now is the time,” Mital said. “The sun is setting on federal tax credits.”

The federal solar income tax credit was enacted in 2005 and renewed by Congress three years later.

Solar industry supporters worry that the Republican-controlled Congress will not renew the credit for residential systems, allowing it to expire at the end of next year. The tax credit for commercial systems will remain, though it will drop to 10 percent from 30 percent by 2017.

There’s another reason for homeowners to give solar energy immediate attention: If they attend a solar workshop on Monday, they could save 10 percent on the installation, or about $1,200, on a typical residential system compared to what it would cost if they purchased one on their own, Mital said.

The workshop, at the University of Oregon, is being offered by Solarize U, which was created by Mital’s office and is managed by Northwest SEED, a nonprofit organization that promotes clean energy in the Pacific Northwest. The event is free, but registration is required.

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Appeared in The Register-Guard on December 7, 2015.

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