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SOLAR INCENTIVES STILL AVAILABLE
WHY TO USE THEM
AND HOW TO FIND THEM

Solar lighting makes sense for many applications, particularly areas where there is no existing power lines. Retrofitting old energy hogs is also a practical way to be good to the environment while saving money on utility bills.

While there aren't as many incentives today as there were a couple of years ago, particularly at the federal level, there are still incentives available through most US states. Many of these are in the form of tax deductions, others are grants or low cost loans of funds to purchase and installation of solar lighting.

It's important to note that if you are interested in these, you should act fast because grant funding is being snapped up quickly. While tax incentives for solar lighting is on the books for 2013, who knows what the future holds?

Even Alaska offers incentives for solar lighting, which is a bit odd because very advanced systems would be necessary for reliable lighting. But it does prove that solar lighting is a viable green option for areas outside of California, Florida and the Sunbelt.

For example, the Vermont Public Service Board recently approved plans for a pilot solar streetlight pilot in Rutland, VT. The plan, a collaboration between the City of Rutland and Green Mountain Power, will install eight solar-powered LED streetlights in a public park. The new lights are part of Rutland's plan to "significantly reduce the environmental impact of the park’s lighting, and make a very visible statement as part of the Solar Capital initiative in Rutland.”

The new lights use solar power and high-efficiency LED lighting and are expected to cut energy consumption by about 8,000 kilowatt-hours, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by more than three tons annually. Think about it: not only does Vermont have frigid temperatures several months each year, on average only 159 days are deemed sunny or partly sunny each year.

Along with Vermont, solar lighting is used in places such as Illinois, Kentucky, and Indiana. The US Navy not only has installed solar lighting at many of its facilities, the Naval Construction Training Center in Gulfport, Mississippi has a training program specializing in the installation and maintenance of solar lighting.

The most benefits are often seen when streetlights are installed in areas without existing lights or power. Even when extra engineering and manufacturing costs are factored in to make solar lighting feasible in areas with long and cold winters or small amounts of daily sunshine, it still makes dollars and sense.

Here's why: not only is it expensive to install electric lines in many locations, trenching can often severely damages roadways. In addition to lighting improvements, public and private sector entities must pay for repaving. Often, the combination of new lights and surface repairs require roadway upgrades to meet current FHWA standards for roadway width or sidewalks.

And often these roadway improvements trigger extensive and costly permitting and mitigation efforts to protect environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands.

So even the most complex solar lighting projects for roadways not only are more environmentally friendly and provide long-term energy savings. They also mean less money, less time, and far less hassle than their electric counterparts.

If you think solar lighting may help your home, subdivision, town, or business, there's a great way to find out what incentives are available through your city, county, or state is easy. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) has a website, www.dsireusa.org. IT's updated constantly with a list of virtually all local, state and federal incentive programs in the United States.

With the United State's current budget woes, it's important to act fast to take advantage of subsidies. Many programs proposed and approved in 2007 by the Bush Administration have been cut dramatically.

And, if you believe that your tax money should be shared between big oil companies and renewable energy incentives, please contact your US congressional representative and senators and make your voice heard.

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