Austin Solar

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Austin Solar Energy

Yes, I know solar energy is not robotics. Still, the Austin solar power rebate program is so admirable that I would like to chronicle and comment on its progress.

On December 1st, 2003, Austin city leaders announced their intention to create an aggressive program to buy 100 megawatts of solar power a year by 2020. 100 megawatts represents almost half of the solar energy currently produced nationwide. The phased plan includes buying 15 megawatts by 2007, 30 megawatts by 2010, 50 megawatts by 2014 and 100 megawatts by 2020. The program creates the highest rebates in the nation for users of energy producing solar cells.

Austin Energy is driving towards this goal using rebates to the consumer. The rebate is six dollars and twenty-five cents per Watt if the solar power system is "made in Austin" and five dollars per Watt for solar power systems "made outside of Austin."  The "made in Austin" label will likely be decided on a case-by-case basis with a rough metric that 1/3 of the value added to the system must be done within Austin City limits.

Austin Energy set a rebate cap of $15K or 80% of the total cost of the system; whichever is less. A rough calculation suggests that this set of incentives will drive "Austin optimal" systems to have a capacity of 3 KW and cost the consumer roughly $7,000. Basically Austin Energy will cover 2/3 the cost of the $21K solar system. These rebates have already started.

You have to want to be green. Rough calculations show the payback period of a solar installation in Austin to be in the neighborhood of 10 years. Do it for the environment and do it for your children, but no businessperson is going to tell you that a solar installation makes sense if economics are your sole motivation.

Solar Water Heaters - If you are using an electric water heater, converting to solar could be a good option. The payback would be on the order of 5 years and the energy roughly equivalent to a 2.5 KW PhotoVoltaic (PV) system.

There is a local installer that I have met with and feel comfortable recommending. If you would like that contact, please let me know.

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