Energy Fair powers ideas of energy conservation

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Shelly Birkelo
March 14, 2015

JANESVILLE—There was so much interest in the first Janesville Energy Fair; people were waiting at the door to get in at 10 a.m. Saturday at Hedberg Public Library.

“Forty-five came within the first hour,” said Terry Nolan, city of Janesville associate planner.

Those in attendance were eager to hear about money-saving options during the fair that was presented by the Janesville Sustainability Committee, in partnership with Alliant Energy.

Information focused on energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy for homes. Experts in the field provided information, Nolan said.

Among those attending was Philip Putman, who came to talk to representatives from Alliant Energy and UW-Rock County.

“There are going to be some rate changes by Alliant Energy so I wanted to know how those would affect me,” said the Darien man, who has 22 electric solar panels on his insulated concrete form house.

He also picked up some informational fact sheets that described ideas about solar energy and how it works from Bob McCallister, a professor of geography and geology at UW-Rock County.

“I'm always looking for ways to save money,” Putman said.

And Putman has. Since 2011, when he added the solar panels to his home, he has been paying only around $450 a year to heat his 2,500-square-foot home.

Janesville resident Neil Deupree also attended Saturday's energy fair to show his support for the Sustainability Committee and to search for ways to save energy.

“This is a wonderful idea and a one-stop shop where if you have questions about energy savings there should be somebody to give you the answers,” he said.

Exhibitors included representatives from Alliant Energy, Blackhawk Technical College's Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning program, City of Janesville Water Utility, Focus on Energy, Home Depot, Janesville Home & Solar, Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund, Neighborhood and Community Services and U-Rocks Solar Project and Solar Activity program.

McCallister shared these tips for those considering installing home solar electric panels:

1. Examine the 11 Reasons to have a Sunny Outlook on Solar Panels.  Brought to you by the National Association of Realtors, visit houselogic.com/home-advice/solar-energy/solar-panel-cost/

“Falling costs (of solar systems for homes), a host of temporary incentives, and thousands in value-adds make this a great time to add solar power to your home,” he said.

2.  Tax Credits. Through December 2016, a residential solar electric system may be qualified for significant savings due to federal tax credits for the cost of the system that is a direct tax reduction, McCallister said.

Below is a listing starting with the more general energy-related tax incentives and the specifics of residential solar electric credits, he said.

-- For federal tax credits for consumer energy efficiency, visit energystar.gov/about/federal_tax_credits.

-- For federal tax credit for residential solar electric, visit energystar.gov/about/federal_tax_credits/solar_energy_systems.

The tax credit is 30 percent of the cost with no upper limit and expires Dec. 31, 2016, McCallister said.

“Existing homes and new construction qualify. Both principal residences and second homes qualify. Rentals do not qualify,” he said.

-- How to apply for the residential solar electric federal tax credit. Visit energystar.supportportal.com.

-- For instructions for federal energy credits such as residential solar electric, visit irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i5695.pdf.

3. Rebates. Focus on Energy helps Wisconsin residents and businesses offset installation costs by offering cash-back rewards for qualifying solar electric equipment. Visit focusonenergy.com/residential/renewable/solar-electric-systems.

4. Find a Trade Ally. These are knowledgeable professional installers who are qualified so you can get the Focus on Energy rebate, McCallister said.

“These professionals are usually very willing to come talk with you at your home and give you the best idea about the specific details and costs for solar Photo Voltaic—the method of converting solar energy into direct current electricity using semi conducting materials that exhibit the photovoltaic effect--for your home,” he said.

For more information visit: focusonenergy.com/trade-allies/find-trade-ally.

5. State Incentives. Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy is the most comprehensive source of information on incentives and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the United States. Established in 1995, DSIRE is operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, McCallister said.

“It's website dsireusa.org/ details all Wisconsin incentives and policies that support renewable energy and energy efficiency,” he said.

6. What is the difference between tax deductions and tax credits?  McCallister said a person could find answers to this question by visiting taxpolicycenter.org/index.cfm.

7. Which states provide incentives and policies that support renewable energy and energy efficiency? Visit dsireusa.org/ and connect with the Wisconsin link that is very useful, he said.


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