Modesto Irrigation District corrects fumble over solar rebates

06/29/2014 4:35 PM

06/29/2014 4:36 PM

The Modesto Irrigation District appears to have appeased dozens of customers by reopening for a short period a window for solar rebate applications.

Many customers and solar contractors complained when the district abruptly canceled installation and performance rebates for the rest of 2014 upon running out of $4.2 million set aside for the yearlong program in four months.

The outcry prompted a one-week reopening in early June, accommodating 160 applications from homeowners able to produce a total of 1 megawatt. MID will cover the extra cost, estimated at $1 million, by postponing two unrelated projects until 2015.

The district additionally accepted applications for performance rebates from seven businesses capable of producing 1.7 megawatts. Those checks would not be cut before establishing track records for a year, so they won’t affect the 2014 solar budget.

Justin Krum of Manteca-based 1st Light Energy said district leaders “deserve a lot of credit.”

“Too many times we see arrogant people make a wrong choice and are unwilling to adjust because of their pride and stubbornness,” said Krum. His company, which has roots in Modesto and Oakdale, hustled to complete about 70 applications during the brief reopening.

MID’s Web page advertised solar rebates until the third week of May, but the district startled many by saying no application received after May 1 would be considered. Dozens contemplating investing in rooftop sun-powered technology had factored rebates into partially completed applications.

When questioned by The Modesto Bee, management apologized for providing no warning and later accepted applications for a five-day period.

The district normally covers rebates by taking a bit from everyone’s power bill, amounting to nearly $46 this year for the average customer.

With the latest additions, MID will have 930 customers with solar panels among 113,000 total customers. Solar energy amounts to 2 percent of MID’s total load, with the rest coming from burning natural gas and coal, from hydropower and from windmills.

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