Will installing your own generating system fit your needs and budget? Here’s help:
Solar power costs and incentives
Solar systems generally cost $4.50 to $6 per watt. Home solar system sizes vary, but most are 1,000 watts to 4,000 watts (1 kW to 4 kW). As an example, a 2,000-watt (2 kW) solar system would cost about $9,000 to $12,000. Use this handy solar cost calculator from Energy Trust of Oregon to see how installing a solar system will impact your budget. You can plug in different system sizes and quickly see the costs before and after incentives, along with the estimated electrical output and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
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 Oregon tax credits and Energy Trust incentives.
Solar incentives and tax credits include:
- Energy Trust: Claim a financial incentive of $0.75/watt, up to a maximum of $5,000 from Energy Trust. See list of Energy Trust-approved contractors (required for eligibility).
- State: The State of Oregon significantly modified tax credits available for solar generation effective July 1, 2011. The tax credits have been curtailed but are still available. Please visit the Oregon Department of Energy website for the latest information on tax credit program parameters and availability.
- Federal: A federal solar tax credit is available for 30 percent of the installed cost, after the Energy Trust incentive. Both Net Metering and Solar Payment Option customers are eligible for the federal solar tax credit.
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.
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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 that the average wind speed should be above 10 mph for a wind energy site. Generally, wind generators need to be at least 30 feet above buildings, trees and other obstacles to eliminate as much turbulence as possible. Zoning laws may apply. This means small wind systems are rarely suitable for urban areas. Most require at least an acre of land.
Small wind energy systems cost from $3,000 to $5,000 for each kilowatt of generating capacity, or about $40,000 for a 10-kilowatt system, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The association is a good resource for developing a small wind energy system.
A variety of incentives are available for wind generation:
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- Energy Trust of Oregon: Incentive amount is based on the turbine’s yearly estimated average energy output (AEO), and depends on whether the AEO is more or less than 9,500 kilowatt hours. See the Energy Trust website for information on eligibility and how to participate.
- State: The State of Oregon significantly modified tax credits available for small wind generation effective July 1, 2011. The tax credits have been significantly curtailed but are still available. Please visit the Oregon Department of Energy website for the latest information on tax credit program parameters and availability.
- Federal: Consumers who install small wind systems can receive a 30 percent federal tax credit.
Hydro 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. Depending on the system, you also may need an inverter, which costs about $1 per watt, or a protective relay. The total installed costs of hydroelectric generators are difficult to estimate because of the many variables.
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; see hydroelectricity on the Energy Trust website.
- State: Oregon provides low-interest loans on hydro projects for individuals. See the Energy Loan Program on the state’s website.