Austin Utilities offering more rebates, workshop

Published 7:23 am Saturday, July 21, 2012

A new equipment discount program, utility rebates and existing federal tax credits make it a good time for southeastern Minnesota homeowners and businesses to install solar, according to Austin Utilities.

Customers can receive deep discounts on specific solar equipment if they sign up for the Make Mine Solar program by Sept. 30. The program, sponsored by the nonprofit Minnesota Renewable Energy Society, is supported by a grant from the Clean Energy Resource Team in southeastern Minnesota. Workshops will be held to educate home and business owners about the benefits of going solar.

A free workshop will be held on July 25, 6-8 p.m., at the Hormel Nature Center (Ruby Rupner Building) to highlight the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society’s Solar Hot Water/Air Heat Bulk Purchase Program, Make Mine Solar. Participants will learn the basics of energy efficiency, solar hot water and solar air heat technology, how the bulk purchase program works, rebates, incentives and financing.

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Southeastern Minnesota is being targeted for the program because of utility rebates available through Rochester Public Utilities, Austin Utilities and Owatonna Public Utilities. All three have a rebate of $695 for the two-panel Velux solar hot water system that is being purchased for the program, rebate amount changes as size of system varies.

Southeastern Minnesota also has an abundance of customers who are currently using electricity and propane for their water and space heating. Solar thermal systems provide a quick payback for customers using these expensive energy sources. A 30 percent federal tax credit, which comes to about a $3,000 incentive for the solar hot water system and $2,200 for the solar air heating system, is an important incentive as well. More information is available at

For interested parties, the first step is to sign up on the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society’s website for a $20 virtual site assessment, which will assess a site’s solar potential, estimate costs after rebates and incentives, and estimate the payback period based on an energy use estimate. Good candidates for solar would then purchase an onsite assessment for $100, which would provide a detailed proposal for a solar thermal energy system and information on how to proceed with the program.