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.