States add incentives for going solar

Renewable energy is blowing in the wind (and in the water, sunlight, earth...

Renewable energy is blowing in the wind (and in the water, sunlight, earth...)

One of the largest incentives to “go solar” is probably the least known.

The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) isn’t a cash-to-buy program. In fact, it doesn’t even involve consumers — at least not directly. Still, depending on where you live, the RPS program can cut your up-front cost of installing solar panels by thousands of dollars.

Many states have implemented some form of RPS to smooth the economic transition to renewable energy sources and cut GHG emissions. In a nutshell: utilities that generate electricity are given a specific number of years to increase their use of renewable energy sources.

Utilities in Arizona, for example, have until 2025 to get 15% of their electricity from renewable sources. That puts us about in the middle of the pack in terms of how aggressively we’re pursuing a change.

Arizona Corporation Commision Chair, Kris Mayes

Arizona Corporation Commision Chair, Kris Mayes

Kris Mayes, who chairs the Arizona Corporation Commission, has said she would like to see the renewable target raised to 30%, which would position Arizona at the head of the pack.

How utilities reach these mandated numbers is determined largely by geography. Different renewable energy sources are found in different locations. That’s why you find large wind farms being planned in the Midwest and massive solar projects here in the Southwest.

As part of the RPS, many states mandate or encourage small-scale energy production (distributed generation).

A home with solar panels on the roof is one of the best examples of distributed generation. When electricity produced on your roof is allowing you to watch Stephen Colbert face down a Formidable Opponent, no energy is lost traveling long distances over high power lines. It also reduces the need for building and maintaining expensive high power lines (that can create environmental problems of their own).

Here’s how an RPS works directly for you: If your utility company is going to meet its mandate, it needs you to install solar power or some other renewable form of electricity. But the upfront cost of putting a solar array on your roof still challenges most of our budgets. We’re talking in the $20-$30,000 range. To entice you over that range, utilities are willing to pay a cash incentive. In Phoenix at the moment, my provider, APS, is paying $3.00/watt. So the 3.1 kW system I’ve got my eye on (one of several systems I’m considering) would put over $9,000 back in my pocket.

Here’s the latest list of states offering with mandated RPS programs. (For more information go to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.)

Renewable Portfolio Standards by State

Renewable Portfolio Standards by State


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One thought on “States add incentives for going solar

  1. Thank You for your article.

    I am the president of a Home Owners Association of a Multifamily complex of 31 loft condominiums in downtown phoenix (warehouse district.) We have a large flat rooftop that I believe would be conducive to the production of solar energy to either support the electical needs of the common area specifically lighting and operation of elevator or the sale to the Arizona Public Service to adjust our electricity useage described above.

    I look forward to your feedback.

    Silverio Ontiveros

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