The Main Stream

Apr 29, 2014 12:11 PM by Ryan Haarer

As solar prices drop, some say incentives could be better

TUCSON- Solar is more affordable than ever right now. Panels have dropped in price about 60% and photovoltaic electric systems have dropped in price by half. Still, it's an expensive installation and some are calling for more incentives in Arizona.

"We like to talk about being in the solar industry as like riding a roller coaster. The ups and downs. It's been pretty challenging," said Katharine Kent, president of the Solar Store. She says she's seen the roller coaster on an uphill climb in the last few years.

"Homeowners are putting in larger systems so they are looking at trying to get all of their money back, to be in sort of a net zero position."

The technology has greatly improved with the price. Compared to one kW systems in 2001 systems today are eight to nine kW. but installations still cost tens of thousands of dollars. There is a sizeable federal tax credit of 30% of the installation cost. Katherine feels the state credit could be better.

"We do have a state income tax credit which is taxed at $1,000 per installation. That also applies to hot water systems or pool systems or tubular skylights. So it doesn't really go very far. It would be nice to see that possibly expanded."

An initiative by the Obama administration may help move that along after allocating $15-million to help state and local governments to build solar infrastructures. Some utilities are beginning to charge a monthly fee for solar because they are eating the cost of energy pumped back into the grid. Properly financed, solar makes a lot of sense for a growing number of desert dwellers.

"Bottom line is it's still sunny in Arizona and it's still a good idea to put solar on your home," said Kent.

This money allocated by the Whitehouse to solar initiatives is just a small part of the overall plan. The department of Defense is committing to solar as well. That's very evident in Southern Arizona as both Davis-Monthan and Ft. Huachuca are currently building massive solar installations to power their bases.

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