The US Department of the Treasury has released guidance documents for the federal cash grant program for solar electric projects. According to the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), the program aims to make it easier for US electric utilities to integrate solar electricity into the power grid in the near-term.
The cash grants can be used in lieu of federal tax credits, which have become more difficult to monetize under current economic and market conditions, SEPA reports. The program guidance; terms and conditions; and sample application documents will provide solar project developers - including electric utilities - with helpful direction in the uncertain business environment.
"In October 2008, the federal solar investment tax credit was extended to electric utilities - an important step in moving the electric utility industry towards a cleaner future," states Julia Hamm, SEPA's Executive Director. "The tax credits boosted utility interest in solar power, and the addition of the federal cash grant program will further assist electric utilities as they strive to meet their renewable portfolio standards and future power generation needs."
Thousands of megawatts of solar electric projects have been announced in the last year, many of which are on hold until they can utilize the cash grant program, SEPA reports. Electric utilities are eligible to participate in the program directly for utility-owned projects, but are also working with project developers to purchase the solar electric output from third party-owned systems.
"Utilities across the country are developing portfolios of distributed and centralized solar projects," Hamm says. "The solar-utility nexus will continue to gain momentum in the coming months and years, especially as technology prices rapidly decline. The cash grant program will provide a short-term measure to prevent many of these projects from dying on the vine just as utility interest is gaining strength."