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Get Powered Up! Certified Energy Manager Jeff Yago answers your alternative energy questions

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Archive for the ‘Financial’ Category


Solar and Wind Tax Credits

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009


I read your article entitled “Solar and Wind Energy Credits” in the most recent edition of Backwoods Home Magazine.  The article implied that one could get a tax credit for solar powered water wells.

I live on ten acres, and during 2008 installed a solar water pump, tank, and two photovoltaic panels.  I called the Complex Tax Lawï section of the IRS 800 number system to enquire about the tax refund for 2008, and the man told me that I could NOT get a credit unless the solar panel went to directly power my house or heat my house.

So, at least for residential purposes, I am out of luck.  The same individual told me that the latest law (2009) still only applies to solar for residences, and not water wells, and only the caps have changed.

It was unclear if there are differences for businesses, but my little pecan orchard is not an official business.

If you know absolutely something different from this and better, please let me know.


Richard Gollad


The reason I wrote the article is this new legislation is complex and I anticipated there would be misunderstandings and limited solar tax advice out there.

The new October, 2008 bill has no limits on the Federal income tax deduction and covers solar equipment purchased (or first placed into operation ) after Jan.1. 2009, which appears to be after your installation was completed.  The older solar bill passed in 2005 is almost the same legislation, but has a limit of  $2000 tax credit which is what applies to your situation.

Several national solar associations have had their attorneys study this bill and have determined that a solar power system to power a well does meet the requirement for a tax credit, but not the cost of the well or the well pump.

However, these groups ( and Jeff Yago and Backwoods Home magazine) are not tax attorneys and this information is for general information only.  You are advised to get the assistance of a tax professional to resolve this question, but I would question any advice from a government website or phone tax help center as the tax code is very complex and most will have only a limited knowledge of any specific code section.

Good luck,

Jeff Yago


EPA Woodstoves vouchers

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Dear Jeff,

I was in the hardware store last week, and was speaking to the owner about the wood and pellet stoves he had on display. I told him I had an old Franklin stove in my bedroom that I wanted to replace with a propane stove, as it gets too hot in the room once the fire is lit, and a propane stove can be turned off, where the Franklin stove, once lit, could not.

He told me to hold off on buying a new anything because the Salt River Project in St Johns, AZ. (the local power plant about 6 miles away) was going to give out vouchers towards the purchase of a new stove, and my Franklin stove would qualify as one that could be replaced with an EPA approved model.

Try as I might, I was and am unable to find anything online about this new program, and was wondering if you knew anything about it, and if not, then perhaps it may be something you might want to research for the BHM readers.

Thanks for your time, I look forward to hearing you response.


Len Torney
St Johns, AZ


I am not aware of any national EPA programs.  This sounds like a local program funded by your utility, and they just require the EPA rating as a way to set the quality of the stoves they will help purchase.

It’s not unusual for utilities that are facing power demands higher than they can provide to offer credits or rebates to customers to help lower their energy usage.

The alternative is for them to build another 10 billion dollar plant and they usually find it is more cost effective to just lower their peak demand.  Virginia Power here supplying Virginia always has excess capacity, regardless of demand, so they never have offered any programs like this as they don’t need to reduce demand.  Some utilities in California offer rebates like this to install solar systems.

Hope this helps,

Jeff Yago

Thanks Jeff,

I did some in-depth searching and found out it was part of a settlement between the local power plant here where I live and the EPA. I appreciate your efforts, and sorry to send you on a wild goose chase.

Thanks again,

Len Torney


Book on solar power

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Hi Jeff,

I’m a long-time fan of BHM and your articles.

Please advise, is there one single book out there that will best explain to a middle-aged single gal how best to go solar powered at home? I don’t have the large sums to spend on big systems, but a smaller project, perhaps, or a system in steps?

I know you get tax credits but I don’t have the cash flow upfront to spend, let alone to wait for the rebate or credit. What can people with no mechanical skills and modest means do to get the benefits of solar power other than making ‘sun tea’?


PJ in Hillsboro, OR


I am going to help you feel better about yourself and what you are wanting to do. I would bet over 75% of the initial phone calls and email I receive from potential solar clients are women. Yes, most are married, but they seem to be driving this effort in their household and are very aware of what is involved. I would also point-out that our two most recent totally off-grid solar projects were for a single middle-aged women and a 84 year old widow, both living by themself. Both were very capable and very much into solar. You will also find that a good solar dealer can design a system with a reduced solar array to keep down initial costs, but have the wiring there to add more solar modules later in several stages which avoids having to finance a larger up-front system cost.

Please see the Jan/Feb, 2009 issue of Backwoods Home magazine as it will include a book review on a solar text I am recommending, plus an article describing the new solar tax credits includes several financing methods.

Good Luck!

Jeff Yago


Grants for solar

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Where might I find information about free grants to install solar panels or an inexpensive way to finance the installation of the solar panels?


Misty Brice


I receive many emails like this and you will not like my answer. Solar is expensive, and some countries like Germany provide very heavy “buy downs” to make it affordable there. Some states like California and New Jersey have their own version of solar rebates, and some utilities that are having problems meeting higher demands are even offering some form of solar rebates.

Unfortunately, although most of these started with very good intentions, after a few years they become so plugged up with added forms, additional inspections, insurance requirements, and more overhead that most installers just raise their prices to a level that totally offsets any price reduction benefit.

I believe the market will adjust supply with demand and establish a fair pricing level for all, but again, this is hard to do when some areas of the international market is not playing by the same rules.

There is some form of “Energy Office” in every state and they would be able to help you if there are grants available where you live. I suggest staying away from those out there promising to “Lease” or some other form of time payments, as most of these are tax related arrangements that heavily favor them, not you.

For example, in these third party arrangements, the “leasor” could lease a solar system that is installed on your house, you pay them a big cash down payment and so much a month,then they default at the bank where they borrowed the money to buy the solar system, then the bank sends somebody to your house and rips it off your roof, and sometimes they are not too concerned about plugging any holes they leave behind.

If you can’t afford solar then perhaps you should not buy at this time.  As an alternative, many solar systems are “modular” and if you start with the right basic hardware, you can add the more expensive solar modules a few at a time as you have the funds.

Good luck,

Jeff Yago



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