With incentives beneficial for both the wallet and the environment, solar panels are popping up on rooftops across the country. Allocations in the 2009 stimulus bill allow the federal government to offer homeowners a 30 percent tax break off the cost of solar installation until 2016. Add in tax incentives at the state level, plus rebates from power companies, and solar panels can pay for themselves in as few as seven years. As if that wasn’t motivation enough, there’s the bonus of reducing fossil fuel usage. Mass consumption of fossil fuels has created a dependence for supply from oil-producing foreign countries, and the burning of these fuels are the suspected cause for such environmental problems as air pollution and climate change.
As savings from solar energy become more enticing, power companies in the U.S. are ramping up efforts to make it accessible. Last year, Western Massachusetts Electric Company completed the Silver Lake Solar Project, the largest solar energy facility in New England, which powers 300 homes. Utah used $3 million of stimulus funds to purchase solar panels for every school district in the state.
In Rocky Point, N.Y., homeowner Howard Robinson has had solar panels for four years, generating about seven kilowatts of power per year, about his yearly usage. While he was able to reap tax benefits plus rebates from the Long Island Power Authority, Robinson had a vision bigger than dollar signs. “It seems to me that here in the Northeast, we can greatly reduce the carbon dioxide released from our domestic oil burners by using solar,” he says.