The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Department of Energy (DOE) have released the long-awaited guidelines for the $3 billion renewable energy grant program created through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The program provides direct payments – in lieu of tax credits – equal to 30% of the cost of solar property placed in service during 2009 and 2010. According to the Treasury and the DOE, the initiative will offer payments to an estimated 5,000 solar and other renewable energy production facilities.
‘The renewable energy program provides another important avenue for the Recovery Act to contribute to economic development in communities around the country,’ said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. ‘It will provide additional stimulus to economies in urban and rural America by helping to develop domestic sources of clean energy.’
The Treasury and the DOE have published the program's terms, conditions and guidance, as well as a sample application, on the Treasury's Web site to assist applicants in preparing materials in advance of the Web-based application's actual release.
"The Treasury guidelines allow solar developers to prepare formal applications that will be accepted at a later date," Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a statement. He called the grant program a ‘critical alternative’ to the solar investment tax credit market – but noted that further action is needed.
‘With delays in releasing the Treasury's and other guidelines, we call on Congress to include a one-year extension of the grant program project sunset date in the energy bill currently being debated so that the program meets the intended goals for jobs and investment,’ Resch stated.
In the meantime, the news of the guidelines' release was eagerly welcomed by major solar players.
‘This is something we've been waiting for,’ Chris O'Brien, head of market development at Oerlikon Solar, told Solar Industry. ‘It will be an important catalyst for accelerating the U.S. market.’
‘The collapse of the tax-equity market had certainly been a big factor in slowing market growth in the U.S.,’ he noted, adding that he anticipates a ‘significant pickup in demand’ as a result of the Treasury's program.