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Going solar hits rebate wrinkle in Delaware

April 24, 2009 3:54:46 PM PDT
A farm in Hockessin has joined a growing trend in energy conservation.

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The owners of the Woodside Creamery installed solar panels recently with the help of federal and state dollars that cut the installation costs in half. The trouble is, the demand for government energy rebates in the Diamond State is so high now, the subsidies made soon have to be cut.

"It's just we have more applications than we do funds at this time," said Scott Lynch of the Delaware Energy Office. Lynch says everybody wants a piece of the action.

Making matters worse, Lynch says people who have already gotten solar panels installed have been told their state rebates will be slow in coming. So companies that install the systems are now asking customers for the money up front.

"We have to get the full amount from a customer and they have to wait for the rebate," said one installer, "because we don't know if it's going to be three months or two years until we get that rebate back."

"We're not rich people, so we took savings to do it," said homeowner Nancy Sauders of Newark. "And if we knew for sure we were not going to get 50% back, it would have been a harder sell for my husband."

The Sauders are among the lucky ones. The rebate for her $60,000 solar system is expected to come within the coming weeks. Like Scott Lynch, she is convinced Delaware will find the money to fund future solar projects for homeowners who want an eco-friendly home.

"I believe," she said. "I'm an optimist."

After just one month, the Sauders have already realized a major savings. Their first electric bill totaled just $50. Nancy is hoping that with the help of the sun, the savings will keep on going.

Lynch is hoping homeowners and businesses keep the faith like Nancy Sauders. His office is already working on legislation to help fund solar energy projects, even in these cash strapped times.

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