The Fine Print

Investigative reporting involves very little glamor, movies like State of Play notwithstanding. (Although, I’ve been told that I don’t look much like Russell Crowe and that may have something to do with my non-glamorous lifestyle.) The only story I did that went viral in the blogosphere (so far) was a piece I wrote for Rolling Stone magazine involving a tiny item tucked away in the fine print of the Bush administration’s 2006 budget proposal.

The devil, as they say, is in the details.

But so are the angels.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is a perfect example of how good is as likely as bad to get enmeshed in fine print.

Here are two little known provisions that can help anyone trying to go solar.

1. Most solar enthusiasts and wannabes probably know that you can get a 30% tax credit on the cost of installing a solar electric system. Most probably know that there is no official cap on the size of the system.  And even with an average-sized one, the 30% tax credit can be larger than your federal tax bill.

So, what do you do, aside from crying into your beer (make mine a Corona, please) about the hundreds or thousands of dollars in tax credits that you couldn’t use?

Buck up! Don’t cry. You can apply the unused portion of your tax credit to the next year’s tax bill! Yee-haw!

2. Solar produced electricity has one thing in common with electricity made by a coal-fired power plant: the cheapest and most environmentally friendly form is the stuff you don’t use in the first place. Here in the desert, a roof that reflects sunlight rather than absorbing it radically reduces the amount of electricity needed to cool down your living space. That’s because it’s, um, well, cooler to begin with, so… Ok, so that part’s obvious.

Our roof could probably qualify for its own AARP card, so we were thinking of replacing it before installing the solar Array. Energy efficient shingles are more expensive though, so we were trying to figure out what to do. Luckily, there’s also a “residential energy efficiency tax credit” provision in the new law.

We can take an additional 30% tax credit on the cost of installing an energy efficient roof. This credit maxes out at $1,500. Still, that’s an incentive to get the job done.

I’ll keep posting these buried incentives as I find them. If you, dear readers, find others, please share them in a comment or Email them to me and I’ll post them.

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