EUGENE, Ore. - Harnessing the power of the sun is within the reach of more people than ever before.
"It's a great return on your investment. You're being green. You're reducing your carbon footprint," said contractor Luke Rabun.
Rabun said solar is expensive at first, but the incentives to buy have never been better.
"There's a lot of free money there for people; 94 percent of the cost of the system is paid through these tax credits and incentives," said Rabun from Pacific Solar and Rain.
So what's the cost break down? Rabun used a sample solar system that costs about $14,000.
A Eugene Water and Electric Board "greenpower" incentive applies immediately. Tax credits come over a series of years. All told, the incentives top $13,000.
The final cost to you is about $800.
However, those state and federal tax credits phase in over 4 year. Rabun said you have an up-front cost of as much as $10,000.
To break even, "you're looking at like 3 to 5 years in what we tell people and it depends on what system you go with," Rabun said.
The average homeowner using the system would save more than $268 a year on power, paying back that $800 investment in less than 4 years.
EWEB has been working with local contractors to promote solar systems since 2006 because, officials say, customers want it.
"We'll be at the front of that technology when it does become affordable and the market transforms and we won't need to offer incentives anymore," said Colleen Wedin with EWEB's solar-electric program.
And now the City of Eugene is pursuing a new program called Solarize Eugene.
"The end goal is go get 50 to 100 systems installed in Eugene at a very reasonable cost," said Dr. Frank Vignola, director of the University of Oregon Solar Energy Center.
Of course, there is fine print:
"The first reservation period for EWEB's net metered program is now fully subscribed. We will accept applications for the next reservation period beginning April 16, 2012. Please do not apply early, as EWEB cannot hold applications. Read more about the new reservation process, which started in 2012."