Here are some guidelines to help you determine if generating your own power will fit your budget.
Solar power costs and incentives
Solar systems designed to connect to the electric grid generally cost about $4 to $6 per watt. For example, a 2,000-watt (2 kW) solar system would cost about $8,000 to $10,000.
If you participate in the PGE Net Metering program, you are eligible for the tax credits and Energy Trust incentives described below. If you choose the PGE Solar Payment Option instead, you may receive federal tax credits but you are not eligible for the Oregon solar tax credit and Energy Trust incentives.
Solar incentives and tax credits include:
- Energy Trust: Claim an Energy Trust financial incentive of $1.00 per watt up to a maximum incentive of $75,000. See list of Energy Trust-approved contractors, which are required for eligibility.
- State: The State of Oregon significantly modified tax credits effective July 1, 2011. The modifications mean that some tax credits, especially those involving renewable energy generation, have been curtailed but are still available. Visit the Oregon Department of Energy for the latest information on tax credit program parameters and availability.
- Federal: A solar tax credit or grant option is available.
GreenStreet Lending through Umpqua Bank is a financing option for helping you go solar, especially if you don’t have a home equity line of credit. According to Energy Trust, GreenStreet Lending products offer low-interest rate financing, have no origination fees or closing costs and have flexible terms when you work with an Energy Trust solar trade ally contractor.
Because of the complexity of various financial incentives, we recommend working closely with your financial professional.
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Wind power costs and incentives
Most wind systems need a generator, an inverter, a tower and other smaller components. A rule of thumb is the average wind speed should be above 10 mph. Generally, wind generators need to be at least 30 feet above buildings, trees and other obstacles to eliminate as much turbulence as possible, and must abide by zoning laws. This means small wind systems are rarely suitable for urban areas and should generally be on at least one acre. You can use this calculator from Windustry, a renewable energy organization, to evaluate the costs of a wind turbine installation.
A wind generator with an inverter will cost $2.50 to $3 per watt, not including installation or tower costs. The American Wind Energy Association is a good resource for small wind energy systems.
A variety of incentives are available for wind generation:
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- Energy Trust: The small-scale wind program from Energy Trust provides incentives on approved turbines up to 50 kilowatts. For incentives related to larger installations, see Energy Trust’s commercial scale wind program.
- State: The State of Oregon significantly modified tax credits effective July 1, 2011. The modifications mean that some tax credits, especially those involving renewable energy generation, have been significantly curtailed but are still available. Visit the Oregon Department of Energy for the latest information on how these recent changes effect wind generation program parameters and availability.
- Federal: The federal government provides a tax incentive for wind turbines 100 kW or smaller. They also provide production-based tax credits and other financial support from the USDA’s Office of Rural Development.
Hydro power costs and incentives
Hydroelectric systems are cost effective relative to other types of renewable generation. They typically run 24 hours a day, so a small generator can produce a lot of power.
Hydropower is dependent on water flow rates — gallons per minute — and “fall,” or the distance the water drops, usually measured in feet. Hydroelectric generators for net metering usually need a minimum flow of 12 GPM and a minimum fall of 3 feet. If your site has more than 3 feet of fall, the minimum flow can be as low as 3 GPM (at 200 feet of fall).
The cost of a hydroelectric generator starts at $1,000, not including installation. They may also require an inverter, which costs about $1 per watt. Total installed costs of hydroelectric generators are difficult to estimate because of the many variables involved.
See these additional resources on hydropower development:
These incentives are available for hydropower:
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- Energy Trust of Oregon: Energy Trust will help fund a feasibility study and provide other incentives.
- State: The State of Oregon significantly modified renewable tax credits effective July 1, 2011. The modifications mean that some tax credits, especially those involving renewable energy generation, have been significantly curtailed but are still available. Visit the Oregon Department of Energy website for the latest information on tax credit program parameters and availability.