Nevada Solar Incentives

State Legislation

Nevada’s Renewable Portfolio Standard states that the state’s two investor-owned utilities, Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific Power, must generate a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources. First set in 1997 the standard has been increasing every few years. The most recent changes were in 2005 when Assembly Bill 3 increased the standard to 20% from renewable sources by the year 2015. AB 3 also stated as part of the portfolio 5% of that 20% standard must be generated, acquired, or saved from solar sources.

Nevada also now promotes green commercial construction, including developing solar power systems. If you build certified green power and other energy efficiency features into your business you can take a property tax credit. In 2007 the tax credit was reduced to a maximum of 35% of your annual property tax.

The Legislature in Nevada has been trying to consolidate several different bills proposed since early in 2009 concerning how to maximize Nevada’s potential for not only generating electricity from renewable sources, but the potential for the state to lead the country is developing an economically successful model to help transition to renewable sources of energy. A long debate about how much the state government should be involved in developing the renewable energy industry has been taking place. This should be an interesting year for legislation in Nevada, as many bills and ideas are in the works. A few of the issues being worked out include how prepared the state’s work force is to accomplish what will need to be done. Unions lobby for requirements that state projects hire in-state workers, but the industry is so new its difficult to gauge how many workers may be needed and how quickly they can be trained. Another issue being debated is whether or not the state should focus on promoting the construction of large-scale solar power plants, or the smaller home and business-based solar systems where the electircity generated can be used on site. Large-scale power plants require more land, which puts them further away from consumers who would use the electricity and requires transmission lines be built.

Senate Bill 358 is a combination of several different bills that have been a part of the debate on the road to establishing a strategy for producing more electricity from renewable energy sources that is best for the state. SB 358 does include a requirement that companies hiring workers in the solar industry would receive tax abatements if those workers hired were residents of Nevada, but the requirement is only for companies to put forth their “best effort” to hire only two thirds of their workforce from within the state, something that doesn’t make labor advocates very happy.  SB 358 will require that 2% of the 5% to be generated from solar power be generated specifically from small-scale solar systems such as are installed on the rooftops of homes and small businesses. This suggests the legislature is taking steps to ensure a more balanced approach to the debate over whether large or small-scale solar systems are best for Nevada.

Assembly Bill 448 attempts to make necessary improvements to the existing renewable energy incentives programs. If passed, AB 448 will increase the available rebates for solar projects and sets long term goals – not just for the solar industry, but wind and small hydro programs as well.

Assembly Bill 456 would help lower the formidable barriers to home solar systems, namely the up-front installation costs, by creating a low-interest rate loan pool which homeowners could borrow against.

Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) exist when a third party installs, owns, and operates a solar system and simply rents it to the user. These types of agreements allow both residents and small businesses to benefit from the power without the often daunting up-front installation costs. Assembly Bill 186, which is currently in process would clarify the definition of what a “public utility” is and what a “utility” is so that Power Purchase Agreements can further facilitate the development of the solar industry in Nevada without making smaller producers of electricity play by the same rules and the bigger investor-owned and municipal utilities.

Assembly Bill 522 is also still in process as of May 2009. AB 522 could change the state’s approach to managing energy policy by creating a Nevada Energy Commission to oversee policy formulation and implementation in the energy industry. The Commission would create renewable energy zones within the state, manage rebate programs for renewable energy projects, and strategize on ways to reduce energy costs for residents. In the past such responsibilities have been scattered among a variety of task forces, agencies, and committees.

Rebate Programs

To meet the Renewable Portfolio Standard requiring 20% of the state’s energy be generated from renewable sources, power companies can apply for credits based upon the number of renewable kilowatts they generate. The largest credit is for Solar Power at a rate of $2.40/kW. An extra credit of $0.05 is added in for customer-generated electricity. The incentive for home solar energy installations offered by the two major investor-owned utilities in the state, Sierra Pacific and Nevada Power, and is a $2.30/watt rebate through the Solar Generations Project.

Solar Generations was created by Assembly Bill 431 – the Solar Energy Systems Demonstration Program, was passed by the Nevada State Legislature in 2003 and authorized the funding so that rebates could be provided to residents who install photovoltaic systems. The program was launched in August of 2004 and its success led to the Nevada State Legislature making the SolarGenerations Program permanent in 2007. The size of the program nearly doubled from 1,900kW to 3,760 kW. The new HydroGenerations and WindGenerations Programs were also created. All three Programs together form RenewableGenerations.

The incentive amounts available for solar power in the 2010/2011 program year are $2.10/watt with a maximum rebate of $10,500 for residential installations. Small businesses installing a solar system receive a rebate of $2.10/watt and a cap of $63,000. Schools and public buildings are eligible to receive a rebate of $4.20/watt. The incentive amounts available for the 2010/2011 program year will be $2.10/watt with a cap of $10,500 for residential installations, $2.10/watt with a cap of $63,000 for small businesses and $4.20/watt for schools and public buildings.

Participants must be current customers of NV Energy to participate. The limits for the PV program consisted of 1,000 kW for residential and small business installations, 2,000 kW for schools, and 760 kW for public and non-profit buildings. There are no size restrictions for PV systems, but rebates are limited to 5 kW for residential installations, 30 kW for small businesses and public or non-profit buildings, and 50 kW for schools.

NV Energy RenewableGenerations Rebate Program

The 2009-2010 application period for solar rebates ended on October 31, 2008. The 2010-2011 application period will begin early in 2010. NV Energy, formerly Sierra Pacific Power and Nevada Power, administers the RenewableGenerations Rebate Program on behalf of the Nevada Task Force on Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy. Residential, small business, agriculture, public building and school customers from across Nevada can benefit from the RenewableGenerations incentive program.

Solatron Technologies, Inc

Solatron Technologies, Inc. offers their customers an additional $400 rebate per PV Test Conditions rated kilowatt. It has introduced programs like SolarGreenBacks, which offers an additional cash rebate from $150 to $400 depending upon the option chosen by the customer.

Net Metering

The first net-metering law for renewable-energy systems in Nevada was enacted in 1997. It was then amended in 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007. Systems up to one megawatt are generally eligible, although systems greater than 100 kilowatts may be subject to certain costs levied by the utility company. Systems must at least offset a portion of the electricity used at the site. The investor-owned utilities in Nevada must offer net metering until the consolidated capacity of all net-metered systems in its service territory reaches one percent of the utility’s peak capacity.

For systems up to 100 kW the utility companies must offer their customers a meter that can register the flow of electricity in two directions. The utility companies may not charge any fees resulting in an increase in the customer’s minimum monthly charge, up to an amount which is greater than their other customers in the same rate class.

For systems greater than 100 kW the utility companies can require their customers to install at their own cost a meter that can measure electrical output and customer load. A utility may also require customers to pay for any upgrades to the utility’s system which may be required to make the customer’s system compatible with the utility’s system.

The procedure for net excess generation, or the amount of electricity produced but not used by the generator, designates that the excess amount be carried over to the following month as a kilowatt-hour credit. Prior to the enactment of AB 178, larger systems and smaller systems were treated differently. If the cost of purchasing and installing a net-metered system is paid for part by a utility, either a portion or the full amount, then the electricity produced by the system is considered to be produced by the utility, or at least acquired from a renewable-energy system so the utility company can count it towards the state’s renewable portfolio standard. If the cost of the system was paid for entirely by a customer, then the Public Utilities Commission issues portfolio energy credits to the customer.

Solar Projects in Nevada

Amonix Integrated High-Concentration Photovoltaic (IHCPV) System The project features five modular panels, each rated at 5KW making it 25-Kw ICHCPV. The exclusiveness of this project can be truly appreciated by going through this passage published on their web. “The efficiency of any solar-electric system increases if the sun is tracked (in order to absorb the most direct normal light), and this system additionally performs sun tracking. The Amonix system is an example of a “concentrator” system. It uses a tracking (not stationary) concentration scheme by use of a proprietary hydraulically-driven tracker and by integrating the lens, solar cell, and solar receiver plate into a single unit.

Zero Energy Home Nevada Southwest Energy Partnership, Pinnacle Homes, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the Center for Energy Research have joined with ConSol and Nevada Power to create a home which generates as much electricity as it consumes. The house will face north and have a 5 kW photovoltaic system installed on the roof of the south side of the house. In cool months the PV system will be able to generate more power than the home is able to use. That excess power is sent to the grid. In the summer months the house will use more electricity than the PV system can generate, but at the end of the fiscal year the generate – use ratio will have evened out. The house will also save energy in water heating thanks to a 50 gallon solar water heater also positioned facing south. This water heater will supply the entire house with hot water. When the weather is not warm enough to produce very hot water, there will be an electric water heater to supplement.

ACCIONA’s Nevada Solar One™
is the third largest concentrated solar power plant in the world. The cost to development Solar One was more than $260 million before it became operational in June of 2007. Solar One demonstrated that solar power generation is not only feasible on a commercial scale, it generates electricity without carbon emisions. Solar One makes Nevada the largest per-capita solar energy generator in the United States. Under Power Purchase Agreements Nevada Power Company and Sierra Pacific Power Company have purchased all of the electricity generated by the plant. The Power Purchase Agreements make sure that the electricity is produced in reasonable rates.

Nellis Air Force Base trains both U.S. and foreign aircrews at the Air Combat Command located in Nellis. The base is spread across over an area of 11,300 acres and has several photovoltaic plants. The largest is Nellis Solar Star where 72,000 solar panels produce power but no carbon emissions – the equivalent to removing 185,000 cars from the road. Nellis Solar Star generates 14 megawatts of electricity and demonstrates the abundance of renewable energy resources available in the United States.

Solar Business News

“The Debate Over Distributed Solar in Nevada”

The debate in Nevada concerning solar energy involves the two different approaches to generating solar power; large-scale utility plants or distributed solar power where the power is consumed where it’s produced. The state could fund small-scale solar systems that produce renewable energy kilowatt by kilowatt, or invest in larger power plants. Proponents say distributed solar power has several advantages over the larger power plants. For one thing distributed solar doesn’t consume vast stretches of desert and it’s more efficient because energy isn’t lost during transmission, something that happens when power must be brought in from a distance. Distributed solar can also help stabilize the grid and lower energy prices during peak times and creates a more steady stream of high-paying jobs.

Nevada’s renewable standard portfolio requires 5% of the electricity generated in the state come from solar power, and it may be a combination of solar panels on rooftops and miles of mirrors in the desert that help Nevada reach that goal. Most of the other states in the southwest have policies requiring at least some distributed solar. Advocates say the industry needs only a little push to get going here.

Those opposed to the distributed solar approach include NV Energy and several legislators on the Senate Energy committee. They argue distributed solar is less efficient economically and costs more than building large-scale solar plants and a mandate to require it gives an unfair market advantage to manufacturers of rooftop panels rather than the rows of curved mirrors you see at large-scale plants.

Regardless of what is contained in Senate Bill 358, the bill is likely to include property and sales tax abatements for solar companies and new renewable energy portfolio requirements. States are competing for investment dollars and jobs as the country begins taking the generation of renewable energy seriously, so Nevada doesn’t want to fall behind. If solar companies get better tax abatements in other states, Nevada could lose key investment dollars, but if the state doesn’t get behind distributed solar programs as other states do – Nevada could lose out on the opportunity to create jobs in the state. It can be a delicate balancing act.

Older data that used to be contained within this article can now be found here.