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Attempting to increase the amount of energy produced directly from the sun is the goal of these grants. Some aim to provide incentive for individuals and businesses to install systems by paying or reimbursing some of the up-front costs. Others give money to manufacturers to spur the making of these technologies. Yet another avenue is to give the cash based on how much energy the systems are actually producing.
The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Tribal Energy Program awards federal grants for systems on tribal lands. According to dsireusa.org, qualifying solar technologies for this program include solar water and space heating as well as photovoltaics. Determination of recipients is done through a competitive application process. The United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Energy for America Program (Reap) distributes renewable energy grants to farmers and rural small business owners.
Their website states "The grants are awarded on a competitive basis and can be up to 25 percent of total eligible project costs." The monetary limit is $500,000. The U.S. Department of Treasury offers grants for non-passive, new solar system construction up to 30 percent of the value of the property where the system will be used. Using this grant means losing eligibility for the renewable production tax credit.
Availability and type of state grants vary widely depending on the state. Some target manufacturers and/or production while others are for end users. California is a leader among states, while others have followed its lead in providing funding to kick-start solar power. Local governments and utility companies around the U.S. have chipped in, providing some of their own programs. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency has excellent accounting of these various opportunities.
Decreasing reliance on fossil fuels is the primary benefit and goal. Lessening fossil fuel use in the U.S. improves environmental quality and reduces reliance on oil from foreign sources. Creating jobs is also a benefit, as it is often estimated that solar industry jobs outweigh the number of domestic jobs in traditional nonrenewable resource industries per unit of energy produced by as much as a factor of two.
Tightening of government budgets may put some of these programs in jeopardy around the world. This is so business can plan ahead with the knowledge that incentives will be there when they need them. Stating that PV project levels were so high that the £50m funds were dried up the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced there will be no funding for over a year. Advocates for the program fear this lack of consistency will drive investment away from solar projects as consistency is vital for project planning.
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