The energy bill signed by President Bush in August provides tax credits of up to $2,000 for homeowners who activate solar energy systems in 2006 and 2007, with potentially larger benefits for businesses, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (.pdf). Industry insiders are also eyeing a bill pending in California: The Million Solar Roofs Initiative aims to place solar energy systems on a million residential and commercial sites -- including 50 percent of new home developments -- within 13 years.
"That'll be a game changer for California and the United States," said Ron Pernick, co-founder of Clean Edge, a research and marketing firm focused on clean-energy technologies.
Currently, the United States lags Japan and Germany in installing new solar power systems, something that Rhone Resch, the Solar Energy Industries Association's president, attributes in part to weaker tax incentives and lower conventional electricity costs. Resch believes tax incentives in the new U.S. energy bill will be particularly beneficial in boosting installations of solar thermal systems, which are used to heat water and typically cost less than $5,000 to install.