Homeowners Rush To Go Solar Ahead Of Oklahoma's Solar Panel Surcharge
TULSA, Oklahoma - Oklahoma is adding a new surcharge on solar panels this fall and that has sparked a surge as homeowners are racing to get those panels installed before it goes into effect.
If you install solar panels before November 1, 2014, you do not have to pay the solar panel surcharge. But after that date, the fee could be anything from five cents to $100 or more, making a big impact on renewable energy in Oklahoma.
A canopy of 36 solar panels will soon perch above a home in west Tulsa. The homeowner has been debating whether to install the panels for years and after Governor Mary Fallin signed the Solar Panel Surcharge Bill in April, the decision was made.
"There's a reason to go now, you know? Get it done now because there's this fee out there," said Seth Christ with Ion Solar. The rush to beat the solar panel tax is generating big business for Ion Solar.
John and Cathy Rains made the $17,000 decision to install their panels a year ago, when they became empty nesters.
"We had a large house and wasn't sure we wanted to stay in it," said John Rains.
They say they used to pay $300 a month for utilities and now pay half that. They estimate solar panels will pay for themselves in eight years.
"We saved a little over $1,400," said John Rains.
The Rains' home is still connected to an electric utility so they can light their home when the sun isn't shining. They pay Public Service Company of Oklahoma for electricity they use at night, plus a monthly fee for infrastructure.
If they had installed the solar panels after the tax goes into effect in November, they would have also paid a monthly surcharge.
“I was really surprised when they passed that law," said John Rains.
Seth Christ with Ion Solar says the surcharge is unfair, because many solar panel homes will generate more energy than they consume.
"If you use electricity, you should be happy people are doing this because they're investing in everybody's infrastructure," said Seth Christ.
Many people in the Oklahoma solar industry says this bill passed almost without a fight. They say Oklahoma should be giving people more incentives for choosing renewable energy and in some cases generating energy.