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Solar savings and wind windfalls
by Sarah Cooper
Oct 29, 2009 | 1993 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Courtesy photo/NV Energy -
Nevada Solar 1, a 64-megawatt, concentrating solar thermal power plant built by Acciona Solar Power, is operating in the Eldorado Valley near Boulder City, Nev.  A plant using similar solar technology is being proposed for an area in Sparks’ eastern sphere of influence by WSG Energy.
Courtesy photo/NV Energy - Nevada Solar 1, a 64-megawatt, concentrating solar thermal power plant built by Acciona Solar Power, is operating in the Eldorado Valley near Boulder City, Nev. A plant using similar solar technology is being proposed for an area in Sparks’ eastern sphere of influence by WSG Energy.
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To a business wanting to go green, renewable energy technology may seem like an appealing, and business savvy, idea: Install renewables, like solar or wind, on your business and watch the tax credits, incentives and savings roll in.

However, seeing the green may be a little more complicated.

The intricacies of Nevada’s evolving renewable energy industry will attract more than 500 researchers, federal contractors and venture capitalists to John Ascuaga’s Nugget Monday. Their goal is to untangle a $2.5 billion web of federal grants and contracts for energy efficient technology. The conference and its workshops will start Monday and finish up on Thursday.

According to NV Energy spokesman Karl Walquist, the utility has received 2,788 total applications for renewable energy projects since it began tracking renewables. Of those, 500 have been constructed. Solar applications taken in the fall of 2008 totaled 966, whereas wind applications in the same period totaled 26.

Even amid the slew of grants and government policies, local businesses say that profits in renewable energy are a simple equation of cost divided by long-term payback.

“Say you install a 5 kilowatt system,” said Tim Brown, president of local wind installation company, Planet Safe Systems. “It takes $25,000 to do that. The average home could use $200 worth of electricity (per month). Let’s say you take care of your bill completely with renewable energy. Divide $200 (per month) into $25,000 and it takes a while to get your payback.”

Doing the math, payback on the initial investment would take more than 10 years. Many businesses, especially startups, will not wait that long to see returns, Brown added.

But, what about the state, federal and local incentives?

(Click here for a comprehensive list of incentives by state)

Nevada offers property tax assessment abatements, property tax exemptions, property tax financing authorizations, sales tax exemptions, state rebate programs and utility rebate programs - all for going green.

“Nevada has absolutely poisoned itself as a leader in the industry,” said John Hargrove, program manager for NV Energy’s renewable generations program

. “The leaders have shown great commitment and implementing renewables.”

Speaking to the Tribune from a renewable energy conference, Hargrove outlined the financial incentives a business may get for installing a renewable energy source.

“First, the savings could come in the form of a rebate through the utility,” he said.

NV Energy, through its renewable generations program, offers a one-time cash payment after approval and installation of a photovoltaic, small wind or micro-hydro generating system. (Click here for a fact sheet on the rebates program)

NV Energy charts how much energy the system produces. According to a fact sheet from the utility, business owners and residents will first use the electricity they produce from their system.

Excess electricity is then sent to the grid where it remains as kilowatt hour credits on their power bill.

The catch? Businesses in Nevada will never make money off of their excess energy production.

“You can’t generate so much that the utility pays you,” Hargrove said. “Some states are studying (paying energy generators for their grid contributions).”

The second incentive meant to entice green energy comes in the form of federal tax credits. Renewable energy users in Nevada receive a 30 percent tax credit for solar, fuel cell and wind technology. Geothermal energy production can generate a 10 percent tax credit. Other federal incentives include corporate tax deductions and accelerated depreciation on the asset.

State incentives include possible property tax abatements for green-certified buildings, detailed in Assembly Bill 621, and sales tax exemptions on the purchase of renewable infrastructure.

According to the Nevada Department of Taxation

, “certain purchases of tangible personal property that become a fixture of/or an integral or inseparable part of a building that has been approved by the Nevada Office of Energy as meeting the qualifications of a LEED building, are exempt from any local taxes.”

However, the department adds that these project purchases are not exempt from the state’s 2 percent chunk of the sales tax pie. In this case, the state always gets its sales tax money.

There are currently six projects that have received LEED approval from the Office of Energy and they are all located in Clark County.

More details on energy incentives for businesses can be found at http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives.

According to the Department of Energy, Nevada currently ranks second in the nation for development and use of its geothermal resources and has considerable hydroelectric capacity. In addition, the state recently changed its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) increasing the percentage of renewable energy generation required each year through 2025.

The energy convention entitled “Re-Energizing America” runs Monday through Thursday at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks. The sponsors and exhibitors include Boeing, Lockheed Martin, NASA, the Desert Research Institute, Nevada Commission on Economic Development and the U.S. Departments of Defense, Energy and Homeland Security.

Useful links:

University of Nevada, Reno's Business Environmental Program provides concise description of energy incentives offered for Nevada businesses.

Information from Gov. Jim Gibbons office on property tax abatements available for green business

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