Solar power pilot program offers rebates |

Solar power pilot program offers rebates

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Bret Alexander, right, and Matt Stanford install solar panels on the roof of a home.

As the sun shines down on the solar panels newly installed on her roof, Elizabeth “Zib” Babbitt knows her home will benefit from the energy produced by the sun’s rays.

Babbitt is the first person in South Lake Tahoe to participate in a solar panel installation pilot program in the area that offers rebates to customers. On Tuesday, panels were installed at her house by Golden Sierra Power. The whole system will be running in a few days, she said.

Golden Sierra Power is located in South Lake Tahoe and provides renewable energy options for individuals. The company works with other corporations to provide solar power to customers.

“Solar panels have been my goal for this house,” Babbitt said.

Babbitt said she didn’t go out looking for the program — it found her. She met Mark Johnson, CEO of Golden Sierra Power, because they were both located in the Angora fire burn zone. She told him about how she wanted solar panels. He filled out an application for the pilot program, and soon she was on her way to using solar energy.

The house is an ideal location for solar panels, Babbitt said. The roof faces southwest and the area isn’t forested, so shade isn’t a problem, she said.

Johnson said Lake Tahoe is a great place for solar power because of the elevation, temperature and the high number of sunny days. The perfect direction for a roof to be facing is south, he said.

Babbitt’s house will serve as a model program for upcoming local systems, Johnson said. Other projects are in the works, but Johnson said he did not have exact figures.

The house’s location wasn’t the only good reason for joining the pilot program.

“She stepped up,” Johnson said. She wanted to do it, and she had the money. People need the rebates so they can afford to do this, he said.

The whole project is $23,000 but will only cost Babbitt $14,000 with the rebate she is receiving, which is the first of its kind for California customers, she said. The panels will last 25 years, Babbitt said.

In June 2004, Golden Sierra Power filed a solar information brief to the California Public Utilities Commission Proceeding to provide incentives for customers investing in solar panels. In September 2006, the implementation of solar rebates for California customers began. In Nevada, customers already were offered rebates. This is part of the Sierra Pacific self-generation program that expanded to California customers, Johnson said.

According to Sierra Pacific’s Solar Generations Web site, the maximum rebate is $15,000. These rebates will be available until the end of the year but are on a first-come, first-served basis and are limited by available funding. Installation costs can run from $10,000 to $50,000 depending on the home.

An income-tax incentive also is offered to individuals who install solar panels in their home, Johnson said.

For her bill, Babbitt said she will be on a net metering agreement, which means when she is storing electricity, the meter will run backward. She will only have to pay for the electricity she uses, which will be less than what she is paying now, she said.

Right now, she pays between 12.1 and 17.1 cents per kilowatt-hour, but with the solar panels, she’ll be paying 8 to 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Babbitt always has been interested in green energy. “I use all those funny bulbs now,” she said, referring to energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.

She said her next project will be heating her water with solar energy, but that won’t be for a while.

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