Grassroots organization seeks to make solar attainable
Solarize Indiana, a grassroots organization that aims to accelerate the transition to clean energy by increasing the number of solar owners across Indiana, will sponsor a free informational and training workshop on Saturday, June 22 at Englewood Christian Church, 57 N. Rural St., Indianapolis.
The free workshop is open to anyone in Indiana who is interested in joining or starting a Solarize Indiana initiative in his or her community.
A light breakfast will be available at 10 a.m. The workshop will run from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. People interested in attending should email email@example.com that they plan to attend.
For more information, to connect with a local Solarize Indiana team or to join the organization as a volunteer, interested people also may email Solarize Indiana if they cannot attend the workshop. Solarize Indiana also is on Facebook.
Solarize Indiana, established in mid-2017, has a network of local teams of volunteers who have public information sessions about solar energy for their area residents. The volunteers also provide connections to competitive pre-selected installers that each team determines will offer the best value on equipment, price and other factors.
In the organization’s first six months of operation, Solarize Indiana increased the number of solar installations across the state by 20 percent, and, on average, it helped double the number of installations in the 11 regions of Indiana in which it has been active. Solarize Indiana teams have facilitated more than 326 installations prior to 2019.
The number of individuals interested in purchasing a solar installation is expected to increase this year for a few reasons, said Carolyn Vann, a Solarize Indiana team leader in Muncie.
2019 is the last year that solar projects are eligible for the full 30 percent federal tax credit. For projects installed in 2019, 30 percent of the cost of the installation can be credited against federal tax due when taxes are filed in 2020. The federal tax credit declines to 26 percent for 2020 and 22 percent in 2021. After 2021, the federal tax credit is gone for residents, but will remain at 10 percent for businesses.
For those homeowners and businesses whose electric utility is an investor-owned utility, such as Indiana Michigan Power/AEP, Duke Energy, NIPSCO, Vectren and Indianapolis Power and Light, net metering will be “grandfathered in” until mid-2032 if installation is completed by mid-2022.
“That means, contrary to what many assume after the change in state law in 2017, net metering is still available for about another 13 years for projects installed this summer,” Vann said.
Net metering allows solar owners to receive a credit on their account when their panels export electricity to the grid at times when the amount the panels produce is greater than what they are consuming at that moment. The credits offset electricity use when the solar owner draws electricity back from the grid when needed.
A few other benefits of solar are that installations do not increase the assessed property value for property taxes and typically increase the house selling value. Businesses also can take advantage of accelerated depreciation. Rural small businesses and agricultural producers can apply for USDA grants to further reduce the cost.
Panels have decreased 70 percent in price since 2010. Panels require little maintenance and typically have a warranty guarantee that they will produce 80-90 percent of the rated production after 25 years. They may continue to produce power for 40 years or more – losing about 0.5 percent annually.
The payback time for homeowners varies based on the cost of electricity the system is offsetting. The simple payback period ranges from seven to 15 years with a rate of return of about 7 percent to 14 percent.
Because of the growth of Solarize Indiana, the founding volunteers of organization have named its first coordinator to support existing Solarize teams and recruit new teams around the state.
“We’re excited about adding new Solarize teams throughout Indiana,” said Quintin Thompson, the Solarize Indiana coordinator. “Solarize volunteers facilitate the process of going solar by making it easier, more transparent and cheaper. This is especially helpful in places where few people know someone who has gone solar and people don’t know how to start.”
Solarize Indiana has formed a new partnership with Solar United Neighbors (SUN), a national nonprofit that expanded to Indiana early in 2019 and operates initiatives similar to Solarize across the country.
“We have developed a model for the Solarize-SUN collaboration to expand solar initiatives across the state by building on the strengths of both organizations,” Thompson said. “Solarize Indiana has the capacity to quickly expand the number of solar initiatives thanks to the grassroots efforts led by volunteers in local communities, and SUN has the capacity to effectively transform solar owners into solar advocates.”
A pilot program of the Solarize-SUN collaboration is underway in Hamilton County and Indianapolis.