It appears that demand for rooftop solar panels is, ahem, heating up. Even in Minnesota, hardly a, ahem, hotbed of solar innovation, the industry is seeing significant activity.
High demand for rooftop solar electric panels, especially for commercial buildings, has exhausted Xcel Energy’s Solar Rewards subsidy program for the year, shutting out other customers, solar industry officials said Monday.
“People are really excited about solar,” said Rebecca Lundberg, CEO of Powerfully Green.
Sounds great. Right?
It seems that our fearless CEO has troubles ahead:
“People are really excited about solar,” said Rebecca Lundberg, CEO of Powerfully Green, a solar installation company based in Champlin that now has eight residential solar projects in limbo. “Now all of a sudden, they pull the rug out.”
And by “pull the rug out” Ms. Lundberg means:
John Wold, who manages Xcel’s solar programs, said that the final $1 million of its $4.6 million 2011 Solar Rewards program was awarded recently to commercial projects whose applications had been on hold while the Legislature enacted changes to another solar subsidy program. “That took a big chunk,” he said.
Ahh, I see. The Minnesota interest in rooftop solar panels only really took off when the government added incentives to the tune of $4.6 million. But really, what’s a cool four and a half mill amongst friends? Certainly that’s only a drop in the bucket?
In the first year of the program in 2010, nearly half of the Solar Rewards allocation went unspent because not enough customers applied. But that changed after the Legislature last year ordered the utility to offer a second subsidy for Xcel customers who install solar panels made in Minnesota.
That subsidy, known as the Minnesota Bonus, has been a boon to Xcel’s commercial customers. Until recently the only panels produced in the state were for flat-roofed, commercial applications. Many commercial customers combined the two subsidies. Under the rules, the bonus covers up to 60 percent of the cost.
Only after the state increased the subsidy by generating a second program did it really take off. Face it, when a product costs $50,000 and no one will buy it until they are subsidized $30,000, the product is a loser.