SolarGenerations Rebate Program

A PV array is installed on another Nevada rooftop.

There is some good news on Nevada’s renewable energy scene. For those of you who have been waiting for the right opportunity to invest in a solar electric (photovoltaic or PV) system for your home or business, this might be the time to jump in. Prices are down, efficiency is up, incentives are strong and the return on investment for solar has never looked better.

The next phase of the popular SolarGenerations rebate program is set to resume soon. NV Energy will begin taking new applications on March 24 April 21, 2010. The program has some significant changes that should be good news for customers and contractors. The program basics can be read online but here are a few of the more salient points from a residential perspective:

SolarGenerations is structured in Program Years, now called Steps. Each Step will see an increase in yearly capacity and a slightly lower dollar per watt rebate. The Step One rebate is $2.30 per watt, Step Two is $2.10 and Step Three is $1.90. Pending final approval by the Public Utility Commission, individual rebate limits will increase from 5 kilowatts to 10 kilowatts. Thus, the maximum available residential rebate for the current year should be $23,000 for a 10 kW system. Not everyone will need or be able to afford a system of that size, but it’s great to have the option for those who do.

Another major change in the program is the requirement for residential/small business applicants to demonstrate their intent by providing a signed contract to purchase and install a solar energy system. In the past, many who were approved for rebates never followed through, making the program difficult to administer. This new requirement is reasonable and should really help streamline the process.

NV Energy’s website provides a lot of good information, including a list of contractors and consultants. Selecting the right contractor is of utmost importance. Experience and integrity are more important than low bid in my opinion. Also, make sure you know exactly what the contractor is quoting before making assumptions.

One of the most common mistakes is in not knowing the difference between AC and DC watts since this can affect the price of a system significantly. NV Energy uses AC watts to calculate your rebate and your contractor should always base their quote on AC watts as well. There have been cases of contractors quoting systems based on DC watts, making their bids look better on paper to unwary customers. The bottom line: Do your research, educate yourself about energy basics and select a quality contractor!

A good contractor will not only provide a high-quality system but will handle the rebate application process and provide financing options if needed. They should be able to provide a detailed cash flow analysis to help you make a decision. Some will even allow you to assign the rebate to them, lowering your upfront system cost and the need to wait for a check from the power company.

If you get a Step One rebate and qualify for the 30% Federal Income Tax Credit, a roof-mounted PV system could be just about the best investment around. Net costs after all incentives can be well under $15,000 for a 5 kilowatt system, depending on the installation complexity of your particular home. A properly-designed system on a south-facing roof can provide an internal rate of return of 15% or more and a payback period as short as six years (there are many variables and assumptions included in the calculations and actual mileage may vary). There is no substitute for doing your own detailed analysis.

Living in a home powered by the sun is a joyful experience as well as an opportunity to be a part of the solution to some of the world’s most pressing issues. It is a commitment that benefits everyone as we transition to a post-carbon economy and a future of green living.

Green Living column for Thursday, March 11, 2010, published in the Las Vegas Review Journal: “Sunny outlook on horizon for renewable energy”


  1. Dominique Philmon says

    Hello! Have been looking into renewable energy sources that i can just setup at home, and solar energy was a definitely on my checklist. The post is just making me want to get some small solar panel systems installed on my roof so bad. I initially planned to buy them, but they are quite expensive at the moment, think im gonna look up a way to build some cells at home and give em a whirl. Well, thanks again for the post, really good insight into this area.