From: John G. Edwards, Las Vegas Review-Journal
Published December 29, 2004 12:00 AM

Nevada Commission Issues Solar Power Rebates, Adopts 'Green Power' Program

Dec. 29-State regulators on Tuesday approved solar power rebates for 50 residential and small-business electric customers and adopted a program designed to help independent power developers secure financing for wind, solar and geothermal power projects.

The Public Utilities Commission voted 3-0 to approve the recommendation of the 50 rebate applications based on a recommendation from the Nevada Renewable Energy and Conservation Task Force.

Nevada Power Co. of Las Vegas and Sierra Pacific Power Co. of Reno accepted applications this summer for residential and small-business customers who wanted to receive a rebate of $5 a watt for solar systems. A typical residential customer installing a 2,000 watt solar system will get $10,000 from the utilities to offset part of the $20,000 cost of the installation.

The maximum rebate for residential customers is $25,000, but financial incentives for small businesses are capped at $15,000.

In addition, customers can use the solar systems to reduce quantity of power they buy from the utilities. The rebate program applies to photovoltaic systems that convert sunlight directly into electricity.

The Legislature established the program under Assembly Bill 431, which was sponsored by Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas.

The utilities accepted applications from residents and businesses on a first-come, first-serve basis, and all of the available rebate for these customer categories have been allocated for the current program.

The program continues but the rebate authorized next year drops to $4 per watt.

In a related development, the commission approved applications from Solargenix Energy and Ely Wind to participate in the temporary renewable energy development program.

The program is designed to protect contracts between renewable-power developers from possible cancellation if Nevada Power or Sierra Pacific Power filed for bankruptcy. The utilities have been in weakened financial condition in recent years, and renewable-power developers said they needed some protection against the possibility a bankruptcy judge might void their contracts if the utilities did file for bankruptcy.

Without the protection, renewable-power developers said it is difficult to obtain financing for projects that sell power exclusively to the utilities.

Solargenix proposes to build a 50-megawatt solar thermal power plant in the Eldorado Valley near Boulder City. Ely Wind expects to build a wind farm on a ridge near Ely.

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