SOURCE: Sierra Pacific Power

March 16, 2006 14:35 ET

Applications for Solar Projects Approved By Public Utilities Commission of Nevada

RENO, NV -- (MARKET WIRE) -- March 16, 2006 --The Nevada Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday approved 402 applications for customer-installed solar energy projects in Nevada that could eventually produce up to 1,900 kilowatts of renewable energy.

Customers who install photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight into electricity could earn $3 per watt of electrical capacity or up to a total of $5.7 million in rebates. Among those eligible to participate in the rebate program are residential customers, small businesses, public buildings and schools.

Approved "Year 3" projects can come on line as soon as July 1, 2006, according to Bob Balzar, director of energy efficiency and conservation at Sierra Pacific Power and Nevada Power Company. The two utilities administer the state's solar demonstration program, which is marketed to customers as "SolarGenerations." The Nevada State Legislature created the program in 2003, and thus far Nevadans have installed 378 kilowatts of solar energy.

PUC Chairman Don Soderberg praised PUC Staff, the Nevada Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Task Force and both power companies for their hard work, "In the beginning there was some red tape involved in this that made it tough because we were learning, but everyone worked hard to cut that red tape and make it easier for folks to get into this program. All the hard work is evident by the fact that this program has been so successful."

Projects approved by the PUCN for the third year of SolarGenerations must be completed by June 30, 2007, to be eligible for rebates. Since the start of the program in 2004, more than $1 million in rebates has been paid to participants, who can also earn credits on their monthly electric bills if they generate more power than they use. Up to $4.8 million could be paid to second year participants whose applications were approved in 2005.

Photovoltaic panels have been installed on 42 homes in northern Nevada and 25 homes in southern Nevada, and another 121 Year 2 projects are under construction.

"SolarGenerations has proven to be a great program because it gives Nevada consumers the opportunity to personally invest in renewable energy and in the future of our state," said Rebecca Wagner, energy advisor to Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn.

Guidance for the solar demonstration program is provided by the Nevada Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Task Force, an advisory group appointed by Governor Guinn. The Task Force screens applications and provides their recommendations to the PUCN.

"This is our most successful year so far," said Mark Russell, chairman of the Nevada Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Task Force. "In fact, Nevada's SolarGenerations program has been such a success that we're now focusing on expanding the program to include others who are interested the opportunity to participate. In addition, based on our success other states are using it to develop their own solar photovoltaic programs."

Balzar said the program allows licensed Nevada electrical contractors to complete the installations and that 19 contractors representing more than 400 customers are participating in Year 3 of the program. Over 50 contractors have taken advantage of the free solar electric training offered in both northern and southern Nevada. The next class is scheduled for April 13-15 in Las Vegas. (Contractors interested in participating should contact Larry Burton at 775-834-3530.) Another class will be held later this year in Reno.

Residential rebates are capped at 5 kilowatts or $15,000, and small businesses, public buildings and schools can earn rebates for up to 30 kilowatts or $90,000 per installation. The rebates cover approximately 30 percent of the costs for installing a photovoltaic system, Balzar said, adding that customers who install solar energy may also be eligible for federal tax credits.

The Clark County School District earned a $250,000 rebate from Nevada Power Company in June 2005 for installing photovoltaic panels on the roofs of four elementary schools that are capable of generating a total of approximately 50,000 watts of electricity. In addition, those installations feed information into computers in science classrooms where pupils learn about renewable energy.

"We are thrilled that the PUCN approved the solar application, which will help to encourage consumer awareness and use of renewable energy," said Bob Balzar, director of energy conservation programs for Sierra Pacific Resources. "The hope is that this program will contribute to increased demand for alternative energy sources, thus leading to systems that become more affordable for everyday consumers."

Some of the projects approved today will be placed on a waiting list due to the total kilowatts available in Year 3. In years past, a portion of those on the waiting list were built in place of projects cancelled by other applicants.

To learn more about photovoltaic energy and the rebate program, visit www.solargenerations.com or call 866-PVNEVADA.

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Karl Walquist
    (775) 834-3891