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Friedman's in Sonoma has $1.3 million system; 'wonderful in summer'

NORTH BAY – The tax benefits that come along with solar projects and going green coupled with the environmental benefits can make it a desirable move for many businesses.

Friedman’s Home Improvement installed a 234- kilowatt solar photovoltaic system in  its Sonoma store last fall.

“Remodeling the Sonoma store provided the perfect opportunity to install solar panels and implement our company-wide best practices – green choices.   Solar energy will not only help us offset our electricity costs, but reduce greenhouse emissions and propagate the environmental ideals of Sonoma,” said Barry Friedman, vice president of Friedman’s Home Improvement.  

David Proctor, Friedman's chief financial officer, said that while installing the solar aligned with the green practices of the company, the incentive packages helped in the decision making process of putting the solar in.

The project cost the company $1.3 million and was installed by SPG Solar, Inc.

“The economics do work and because of the tax credit we were able to afford the project,” he said.

The federal stimulus bill authorized $2.3 billion in tax credits for qualified investments in advanced energy projects, to support new, expanded, or re-equipped domestic manufacturing facilities.  The Manufacturing Tax Credit was implemented with the intent to grow domestic manufacturing industries for clean energy.

It provides a 30 percent credit for investments in new, expanded, or re-equipped advanced energy manufacturing projects.  The department of energy expects the credits will support total capital investments of almost $7.7 billion in new renewable and advanced energy manufacturing projects.

In California, there are different levels of incentives depending on the size of the business and the size of the solar project.

There is the Expected Performance Based Buydown for owners of solar systems less than 50 kilowatts. They may apply for an up-front cash rebate known as the Expected Performance Based Buydown. A customer's rebate is calculated using the expected performance of the owner's system based on equipment ratings and installation factors such as geographic location, tilt, orientation and shading. Customers receive their incentive payment in a lump sum after their system in fully installed and interconnected.

There is also a Performance Based Incentive for customers with solar systems between 50 kilowatts and 1 megawatt. They must apply for the Performance Based Incentive structure, which is a five-year stream of fixed monthly payments determined by the actual output of the system, as metered and reported to the utility.

At the end of each year, if a solar system is sized to zero out the electric bill, the customer will not pay anything other than metering fees. Otherwise there will be a bill for the electricity used in excess of what is generated based on the value of this electricity at the time it is used or generated.

There is peak time, partial peak time and off peak time. The rates and credits change depending on when the solar system is in use.

“You come through the winter and you are using more power than you are generating, but once you move into summer that changes,” Mr. Proctor said.

“It is wonderful in the summer. You have maximum solar impact during the max demand time. I have been watching month over month and in April I started to see the shift from less solar impact to more,” he said.

The system runs a building of just under 40,000 square feet.

Mr. Proctor said they expect to have reached the break even point in terms of cost in six or seven years.

In 2008, Friedman’s received its certification from the Sonoma Green Business Program.