Dreamin’ Green

July 19, 2009

My green dream is to have solar panels on our garage roof and a wind turbine in the back field both generating electricity, maybe enough for us to turbine head sell some back to the utility on occasion.  But this is the real world and we have just rebuilt the garage and reroofed a shed, are still paying off the kitchen remodel from 2 years ago, and are likely to need at least one new (to us) car in the next year.  So it has stayed a dream and perhaps will only be a dream for the foreseeable future.

Or not.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is offering various and sundry tax credits for a variety of energy efficiency related purchases including this one as described by the Department of Energy:

Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credits
Consumers who install solar energy systems (including solar water heating and solar electric systems), small wind systems, geothermal heat pumps, and residential fuel cell and microturbine systems can receive a 30% tax credit for systems placed in service before December 31, 2016; the previous tax credit cap no longer applies. (italics added)

I’ve been hearing about these tax credits for several months now, but I didn’t have a clear sense of how they worked.  Would I get a break on 30% of the taxes I pay for the system or would it be something better than that?  Would this be easy or so difficult that Turbo Tax wouldn’t be able to cope and I’d have to hire a tax expert?  An article by Dick Pirozzolo in the July/August 2009 issue of Natural Home magazine clarified the issue.  According to Pirozzolo, 30% of the cost of a qualifying improvement, such as solar panels or a wind turbine (or both!) would be taken off your income tax bill.  So if I installed a $30,000 system then $9,000 would come off the top of our tax bill – – if I owed $19,000 in taxes the bill would be reduced by to $10,000.  Now typically we get a tax refund, so the $9,000 would be added to my refund.  Suddenly we’d have enough money for a decent used car.  It’s a “buy a residential renewable energy system and get one used car free” deal!

Will we do it?  I don’t know.  But my husband and I have moved from the dreaming phase to the talking phase and are about to move to the consulting phase as soon as I call the solar/wind energy people for a site visit.  After that we’ll take it a step at a time – there’s no big hurry since we do have until 2016 to get this deal from the government, except I’m pretty sure my Ford Focus with 190,000 miles is not going to last until 2016.  Mostly I’m just a little giddy that it’s even a possibility.  I’ll keep you posted.




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