Monday, February 21, 2011

No more solar power gimmes

Ohio's solar subsidies have bitten the proverbial dust............

Whitemyer is one of 204 Ohio businesses and homeowners who filed grant requests before Nov. 5 only to learn that they won't get money this year - if ever.

Money for the grants came from a 9-cent monthly fee tacked on to most Ohioans' electricity bills. The fee expired Dec. 31, after state lawmakers didn't reauthorize it.

Chad Smith, interim energy resources director for the Department of Development, said he's aware people are upset about the fund's cutoff and demise, but he said the state can't give money it doesn't have.

"The (grants) were structured on a first-come, first served basis," Smith said. "From July to November, we did more projects than we ever did in any fiscal year."

Before it ran out of money, records show, the program awarded $15.6 million worth of grants for 161 solar-panel and wind-turbine projects from July to November.

The program began in 1999 when the legislature first enacted the fee, initially offering low-interest loans to homeowners and businesses. It has given out a total of

$49.3 million since it was transformed into a grant program in July 2006.

The 204 grant applications filed in 2010 asked for $20.8million from the state. Five years earlier, the fund provided $2 million for 67 projects.

Why such an increase in demand?

The price of solar panels has dropped substantially in recent years, said Geoff Greenfield, co-owner of Third Sun Solar, a company based in Athens that installs alternative-energy systems.

A 10-kilowatt solar-panel system that cost $80,000 in 2005 now sells for $50,000, he said. With the help of state grants and federal tax credits, the electricity generated would help a home system pay for itself in about eight years.

Here's my take away from this article.

Basically, the working poor have been paying a higher utility rates so some rich dude in Dublin can subsidize his solar roof.

Even after the subsidies (which account for more than half the price) it still takes 8 years to recover costs. That sounds amazingly inefficient to me.


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