Monday, June 28, 2010

Solar Rebates Out of Energy

In part for the "feel-good factor" of saving energy, Steve Marino equipped his guesthouse with a $35,000 solar electric system.

But some of those good feelings began to diminish when Marino learned the $20,000 in state solar energy rebates he expected from the 24 solar panels on his south Fort Myers property would probably never come.

The state doesn't have exact numbers, but Marino is one of thousands of Floridians owed more than $14 million in energy rebates. The problem is, the program is so popular not even an infusion of cash by the federal government can meet the huge demand.

Marino and countless others have their names on a waiting list in the Governor's Energy Office.

"I was very disappointed, Marino said. "Florida comes up with this program, people jump on board and start installing panels on the roof and on the ground and start producing their own energy. Then, the rug is pulled out from under us."

The office will still accept applications through Wednesday. Legally, the state must file these applications until the program ends, even if there are no funds available.

Without those rebate dollars or some form of government subsidy, Marino is reluctant to equip his own home - adjacent to the guesthouse - with the solar power.

The program provided a maximum rebate of $20,000 for homes and $100,000 for businesses. It also included money for commercial and residential solar water heaters and pool heaters. Anyone who purchased a system also was eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit.

"There are some people that made out like bandits. They got a rebate check from the state and the full 30 percent tax credit from the federal government," said John McNicholas, owner and president of Key Power Services, a solar contractor that serves Lee and Collier counties.

Marino was not one of those people. Had he received the state rebate and federal tax credit, he would be out only about $7,000 for a $35,000 system.


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