Going Solar in Atlanta

Powering your home can be big expense, especially if you happen to live in a big city. In fact, Atlanta energy users pay an average of $132.01 each month on their power bills, which puts them in 4th place for cities with the highest electricity bills. These bills put a strain not only on our wallets, but on the environment as well.

As a whole, Georgia derives the majority of its power from natural gas (44%) and coal (25%), two nonrenewable and environmentally destructive forms of energy. Whereas, only 6.7% of power for the state, comes from the renewable industry, which includes wind, solar, and hydroelectric sources. While, wind and hydro power certainly have their place, for Atlanta homeowners looking to make the move to renewables, solar makes the most sense. And the best part is, you could actually save money by switching, with an average savings of $751.68 annually.

A lower monthly bill is something we all can get behind, but the initial costs of solar may be a deterrent for some homeowners. Fortunately, there are programs in place to make the switch easier and more affordable.

Tax Credits

The Investment Tax Credit, also known as the solar tax credit, is one of the most popular incentives. It allows for taxpayers to deduct 30% of installation costs from their federal taxes. Estimates show that on average, solar users who apply this cost saving measure could save upwards of $5,000. There is no cap on the value of this tax credit and it can be used for both residential and commercial purposes.

Rebates

While there are currently no rebates available specifically for Atlanta homeowners, there are offers available to surrounding communities that use the following electric companies: Central Georgia EMC, GreyStone Power and Jackson EMC. These providers promote a rebate for customers who install rooftop solar panels, reimbursing $450/kW, with a maximum rebate of $4,500. Tennessee Valley Authority also offers a rebate of $1,000 towards installation costs.

Net Metering

TVA also offers premium pricing for those participating in net metering. This is the process of collecting excess power from your unit and transferring it back to the power grid to be used later. You’re essentially selling the power produced by your grid, so nothing goes to waste, which is pretty cool if you ask me. Georgia Power offers a similar solar buy back program as well which credits customers based on use. Payouts for these programs vary greatly depending upon output and location. They also work on a first-come, first-serve basis, so you may be required to sign up for their waitlist.

Loans

Most people don’t have the cash on hand to install a brand new energy system in their home, which means loans could be a good financing option. Personal loans have the potential to impose high interest rates and fees, so fortunately there are government loans available to assist. While Georgia lost funding for their state run loan program last year, there are federal loan options still accepting applications.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development offers their FHA PowerSaver Loan Program to qualifying applicant who wish to make their homes more energy efficient. Loan amounts vary based on which part of the home you are looking to upgrade, but interests rates start as low as 4.99% with approved credit. For more information on applying to this program, click here.

There are also other options for financing available aside from loans, such as leasing the equipment or participating in a PPA (Power Purchasing Agreement) where panels are installed, upgraded, and maintained for you in exchange for an agreed up monthly payment. Leasees then have the option to purchase the system at the end of the contract.

For those interested in learning more about the energy regulations in Atlanta, the standards and policies can be found here.

**sourcing for loans, rebates, grants, tax credits, and performance based incentives came from http://programs.dsireusa.org/system/program?fromSir=0&state=GA unless otherwise noted.

Image Credit: Flickr / Elliot Brown

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