Solar Incentives Still Available: Where to Find Them and Why to Use Them


Solar lighting makes sense for many applications, particularly areas where there is no existing power lines. Retrofitting energy lamps or street lights with solar fixtures are two practical ways to be good to the environment and save on utility bills.

True, there aren’t nearly as many renewable energy incentives today as there were 18 months ago, particularly at the federal level. But, many incentives still are available for solar lighting throughout the US at the state, county and city level. Some incentives are tax deductions, others are cash to help purchase and install via grants or low cost loans.

If you’re interested in these, act fast. Grant funding is snapped up quickly and while tax incentives for solar lighting is on the books for 2013, who knows what the future holds?


Let’s remember that the largest incentives for renewable energy were not implemented by liberal green tree huggers.


The 2009 Bush Stimulus Package Was Jam Packed With Renewable Energy Incentives

In fact, President George W. Bush put forth one of the largest batch of incentives for a wide range of renewable energy for businesses, public entities, institutions and home owners as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better know as the Bush “Stimulus Bill.”

At that time, the incentives were widespread and while they were originally slated to remain in effect until at least 2016, many were phased out in 2011 and 2012.  Even W recognized that oil, coal and gas were finite resources.

It’s important to note that even though renewable incentives at the federal level are a smidgeon of what they were only two or three years ago, the incentives to traditional big oil and coal companies continue.

Now there is a somewhat popular opinion that perhaps some of the tax right off’s given to oil companies such as ExxonMobil (who alone gets $4 billion from the US Treasury each year) should be shared among renewable energy. While that issue is not the purpose of this post, it does present the opportunity that it’s easy enough to let your congressional rep and senators know what you think.

We did notice that while just a couple of month’s ago, I guess “Sequester” has impacted the House’s ability to maintain it’s website with current email addresses for congressional reps. Instead of the old page where all reps and email addresses were listed conveniently, it’s now up to “each individual member.” Regardless. Don’t make the fact that it’s harder to contact them throw you off: the extra work will let them know that you are FAR more likely to vote than the average John or Jane Doe.


List of House of Representatives and their Web Sites


Don’t think that they don’t care about your email or phone call. They know that if you bother to email them, odds are you also bother to vote.  Just click on either icon above and you’ll get a list of contacts for either your US Senators or your US Congressman/woman.

The bottom line: all federal and state budgets are going to get cut, and it’s up to you to give your thoughts to the people you will or will not vote for.

Solar Incentives

Even Alaska offers incentives for solar lighting (photovoltaics), 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.”


Rutland, VT Is Going Solar!

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.

And the program is ambitious, as Vermont has a few things going on that would make one think solar is not the prime choice:

  • History of hydropower and wind energy programs
  • Frigid temperatures several months each year, which places extra demands on batteries necessary for solar lighting and
  • Vermont has an annual average of only 159 days that with deemed “sunny” or “partly sunny”each year.

Along with Vermont, solar lighting is being used for roadway and bridge lighting 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 focusing on the installation and maintenance of solar lighting.

Solar Lighting Great Choice for Areas Without Electric Power

solar_street_lightsThe most benefits are often seen when streetlights are installed in areas without existing lights or electrical power lines.

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 often VERYit expensive to install electric lines in many locations, trenching can often severely damages roadways.


Typical Roadway Within One or Two Years of Trenches for Electricity

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.

Easy to Find Incentives that for Your Business, Residence, Institution or Agency

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,

It’s constantly updated to list virtually all local, state and federal incentive programs in the United States.

Make Your Voice Heard!


Ask For Incentives Now and For the Future! Speak Up!

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 please contact your US congressional representative and senators and make your voice heard.

Copyright 2013, AM McElroy,,

1 thought on “Solar Incentives Still Available: Where to Find Them and Why to Use Them

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