Solar deadline approaches; help available for Hoosier homeowners

Published: Jul. 21, 2017 at 6:01 PM EDT
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Hoosier homeowners who are thinking about going solar better think fast.

The economics of installing a solar system in Indiana will change substantially at the end of this year.

Anyone looking to beat that deadline will have plenty of help from a new group of community volunteers called Solarize South Bend.

The light at the end of the tunnel was reached about two weeks ago for the owner of a now solar powered South Bend home on the city’s west side.

“I have 17 panels, it's a 5.525 kilowatt system,” said James Lodwick. “There’s a 30 percent tax credit on the installation costs for your federal taxes that will gradually diminish after 2019.”

Lodwick figures his solar system will end up costing between $12,000 and $18,000 but he expects it to reduce his monthly electric bills to next to nothing and pay for itself in a decade at most. “They tell me eight to ten years, which considering what you get on a CD these days,

is actually a good investment.”

Leah Thill is the technical advisor for the SolSmart program. She says the average cost of a home solar system is $10,000 to $14,000. “We're not even talking the cost of a new car here; we're talking a nice used car. That's the magnitude of the purchase.”

Thill and other solar supporters who have been around the block know that now is the time to get the very best deals. They’ve formed Solarize South Bend to offer assistance and further discounts.

“It’s like COSCO for solar because you’re working together with others, you’re leveraging your buying power, it’s cheaper up front,” said Thill.

Through Solarize, James says he’ll save about 15 percent on his equipment and by going solar when he did—he says he’ll save 30 years.

“If you have your system up and running by 2017, by the end of this year, you're grandfathered in for 30 years. So that made sense to me.”

Being ‘grandfathered in’ means for 30 years James will keep receiving a credit from the electric company for the power he produces that is based on the retail price of electricity. That retail price practice is being phased out. Eventually investor owned utilities will pay a rate that is substantially less than retail.

Indiana homeowners who install solar equipment in 2018 will only be grandfathered for 15 years.

In order to take part in the Solarize South Bend program you have to attend a community workshop. There are three scheduled for August, the first of which will be held on the 5th at the South Bend Main Public Library.

The program is also open to small business owners who want to solarize.

Solarize is open to residents of St. Joseph, Elkhart, Marshall, and Kosciusko Counties. Officials expect to assist with about 25 new solar installations.

Solarize South Bend workshop

August 5th, 10:30 a.m.

St. Joseph County Public Library Main Branch

Solarize South Bend "Going Solar" Workshop - First Unitarian

Thu 6:30 PM · First Unitarian Church of South Bend · South Bend