Thursday, June 19, 2008

Prince George’s offers tax credit for solar power

Proposal would give homeowners up to $5K for alternative energy switch

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Prince George’s County residents seeking to add solar power to their homes may soon be eligible for an additional tax break.

A new proposal would allow homeowners who install solar panels, which helps power home appliances through energy from the sun, to get up to $5,000 off their county property tax bill.

‘‘When it’s running, your meter actually runs backward,” Richard Deutschmann, founder of the Chesapeake Solar contracting business in Jessup, Md., said of the benefits of solar energy. ‘‘The power companies actually pay you.”

The tax credit, added to a grant of $10,000 that the state offers for homeowners, could significantly cut the average $40,000 expense of installing solar power systems, contractors and state officials said.

Sponsored by Councilmen Eric Olson (D-Dist. 3) of College Park, Will Campos (D-Dist. 2) of Hyattsville and Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Dist. 1) of Laurel, the measure is designed to encourage more homeowners to switch to alternative energy. In addition to solar power, homeowners who install geothermal power — systems running on steam from geysers or hot springs — can also receive the credit.

Olson, the chief sponsor, said increasing alternative power use in county homes is needed. Electric utility officials have warned that increased demand on aging power lines could lead to outages and higher power bills in the years to come.

‘‘These are obviously an expensive investment,” Olson said. ‘‘But we’re looking at a future of rolling blackouts. We need to do everything we can.”

Sponsors hope to pass the bill before the summer recess in August.

The bill will allow owners who install solar panels to apply the one-time credit to their property tax bill that year. The bill caps the total credits to $250,000 in a given year, enough for about 50 owners to claim on a first-come basis.

For more information on the state’s grant program for solar power use, visit www.energy.state.md.us.

E-mail Daniel Valentine at dvalentine@gazette.net.

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