City’s solar rebates advantageous for area nonprofits
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The nonprofit LifeWorks in East Austin is already housed in a four-star green building, but it’s about to be even more eco-friendly thanks to new solar panels leased from the city.
Mitch Weynand with LifeWorks says the panels will save $40,000 a year over the next 10 years in energy costs through a rebate from Austin Energy. It's the same a business would get through local and federal tax credits, but LifeWorks doesn't qualify because the nonprofit does not pay federal income taxes.
Weynand said he explored solar before building the center last year, but Austin Energy's rebate cap then was only a tenth of what it is now. With today's rebate, LifeWorks opted to install the 200 kilowatt maximum.
"It basically pays for itself over the 10-year period,” Weynand said. “Then we have another three-year period where it will take to pay off the rest of it."
In addition to the solar array on the roof, Weynand said they also plan to install a carport-type structure in the parking lot and install even more panels on top of it.
"We want everybody in Austin to participate in our solar programs and get the benefits, the economic and environmental benefits, that come from solar power," Austin Energy spokesman Carlos Cordova said.
Cordova says Austin Energy will pay nonprofits 14 cents for every kilowatt hour their solar array generates. Since there are no tax breaks possible for nonprofits, it will go toward a lease.
"This allows them to have a contractor install a solar system for them, and they lease the equipment from the contractor," Cardova said.
Weynand said the rebates will cover two-thirds of the cost of this solar system, helping him avoid astronomical energy costs for the next two and a half decades.
The system LifeWorks is installing will be enough to power about 22 homes. Austin Energy plans to roll out a program for apartment dwellers in the coming months.