April 11, 2018
The Time is Ripe for Agribusinesses and Public Agencies to Go Solar
The solar industry has been growing at a blistering pace over the last 10 years, leading to a record-breaking installation rate across the country – from homes to businesses to solar for agriculture and public agencies. More than 2,000 farms in California rely on on-site solar generation – more than any other state, according to the USDA’s most recent report – although other states are catching up fast.
"Solar farms" have sprouted up across the country as thousands of landowners, dairies, ranches and agricultural processors have chosen to add solar to unused land – saving operational costs and generating additional revenue. Public-sector agencies like water districts – swimming in fiscal challenges from California's water crisis – have found solar’s predictable, long-term energy cost equally attractive.
But over the last six months or so, clouds have begun to appear on the solar horizon. With recently imposed tariffs on imported solar panels and cells, as well as the expected sunset of the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), many have begun to ask, does it still make sense for your farm, agribusiness or water agency to install solar?
The answer, unequivocally, is yes. Now is a better time than ever before to go solar. Here's why:
Solar Prices: How Low Can They Go?
The cost of installing solar has plummeted nearly 70% since 2010, according to SEIA. Most of this price decrease has come from solar hardware, such as solar panels and inverters. The cost of solar will continue to decline with technology innovations and installation efficiencies. But as time goes on, the tariffs will have some effect on panel pricing. The time to lock in low solar pricing with maximum incentives is now.
The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is stepping down – but not yet. So act fast.
Time is the tyrant to take full advantage of tax incentives. For years, the federal government’s ITC has provided a boost to the industry as homes and businesses could get up to 30% of their installation costs back in a dollar-for-dollar a tax credit. In 2015, SEIA lobbied hard to get the ITC extended, but the credit is still expected to sunset over the next three years, providing 26% in 2020 and 22 percent in 2021. After 2021, the residential credit will disappear while the commercial and utility credit will drop to 10% “permanently.”
No Tax Appetite? No worries! But other solar incentives are time-sensitive too.
Even if you can’t take advantage of the tax incentives, there are other ways to gain maximum cost benefits from solar energy. For example, public agencies can monetize tax benefits through a power purchase agreement (PPA), in which a third-party financier passes down a portion of the tax savings in the form of a long-term price guarantee.
Another way public agencies can squeeze the most value out of a solar project in California is to utilize the Renewable Energy Self-Generation Bill Credit Transfer (RES-BCT) program. RES-BCT allows a local government with one or more eligible renewable generating facilities to export energy to the grid and receive generation credits to benefitting accounts of the same local government -- defined as any city, county, special district, or other public agency. The benefiting account may be at remote locations within the same city or county, which helps these entities optimize savings from solar across their districts.
Local utilities must install a certain amount of MWs of RES-BCT projects. So again, the sooner you act, the more likely you are to benefit from this program.
Next Step? Free Energy Assessment
To find out how much you could be saving with solar, drop us a line. CalCom has been installing large-scale solar projects in California since 2013 and our specialty is finding the right solution for each customer’s needs. We’ll analyze your energy use and provide a free assessment of how your business or public agency can generate the most value from solar.