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Oregon Approves 50% Solar Tax Credit

Oregon's legislative session has ended -- and June 2007 will be remembered as one of the sunniest month on record. Building on the momentum of its new Renewable Energy Standard, Governor Ted Kulongoski recently signed several key solar policies designed to encourage solar manufacturing and the installation of solar hot water and photovoltaic (PV) systems in the state.

The state's Renewable Energy Standard (RES), requiring 25% renewables by 2025, includes a provision that extends funding for the Energy Trust of Oregon (ETO) until 2025. The ETO funds programs for both solar hot water and PV system installs.

In addition, the Oregon Business Energy Tax Credit was increased from 35% to 50% of eligible renewable project costs (up to $20 million); a tax exemption for solar net metered systems passed along with a statewide public buildings solar provision requiring 1.5% of the construction budget to fund onsite solar technologies.

"The legislature's approval of a 50% tax credit for both [solar] installations and manufacturing facilities clearly places Oregon as one of the lead states in the advancement of solar energy," said Christopher Dymond, solar program manager at the Oregon Department of Energy.

Already ranked 5th in the U.S. for solar hot water systems and in the top 10 with PV, Oregon's solar industry is growing at over 30% annually.

"This will be remembered as a banner year for solar energy in Oregon," said Governor Ted Kulongoski. "We have already attracted two new major solar manufacturers to the state, with more likely on the way. And the steps we have taken this session with a renewable energy standard, tax incentives and greenhouse emission mandates have put us on a path to become the national center for renewable energy development and production."

According to the Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association (OSEIA), the arrival of German-based SolarWorld AG and California-based Solaicx mean over $400 million of investment in solar manufacturing for the state. By 2009, SolarWorld's Hillsboro, Oregon, plant plans on being at capacity of 500 megawatts (MW) and Solaicx, in Portland will add another 48 MW making Oregon the largest producer of PV cells in the U.S.

"This is great news. It's another example of how we're growing manufacturing in the northwest. We're now a powerhouse in the United States in solar manufacturing," said Jon Miller, executive director of OSEIA. "Oregon's established and educated semiconductor workforce makes it a natural fit for the solar PV industry."

Along with the legislation passed above, the state is raising it's net metering for investor owned utilities (IOU's) to 2 MW. IOU's serve over 75% of Oregon's utility customers. The new 2 MW limit, fashioned after the NJ standard, is expected to become final in September 2007.

The 2007 legislation passed this term includes:

Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC)
• Credit is available for solar PV and thermal installations
• Credit is also available to manufacturers siting facilities in Oregon
• Increases tax credit to 50% of eligible project costs
• Increases eligible project costs to $20M (50% of $20M = $10M max credit)
• Credit is 10% annually for 5-years
• Includes $9,000 tax credit available to builders for solar PV and Hot water in new construction single family dwellings

Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC)
• All previous credits included ($6,000 for PV and $1,500 for SHW)
• Enables homeowner to apply for credit for installing both solar hot water and PV in the same year

HB2620, Solar on Public Buildings
• Requires all public buildings that receive state funding to invest 1.5% of project costs in solar technologies: solar technologies include PV, Solar Hot Water; Passive solar energy qualifies only if the system achieves a reduction in energy usage of at least 20%.

HB3488, Solar Teamwork bill
• Provides tax exemption for solar net metering systems
• Enables Investor Owned Utilities to provide low interest loans for solar customers

SB819, Sate kicker fund/BETC
• Fixes problem with interaction of kicker refund and BETC
• Critical for BETC pass through partners and out of state investors/developers

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