CHARLES BABINGTON | May 27, 2009 06:26 PM EST | AP

President Barack Obama on Wednesday hailed solar energy as a cost saver for a major Air Force base, one stop on a Western trip devoted to raising political money and promoting his economic policies.

Obama’s aides had mocked reporters for making a fuss over his first 100 days in office, but the president was eager to assess the first 100 days of his $787 billion economic stimulus package.

It has “saved or created nearly 150,000 jobs,” he said, including “jobs building solar panels and wind turbines; making homes and buildings more energy-efficient.”

The White House job claims are difficult to verify because they are based on estimates of how bad the economy might have been without the stimulus rather than actual employment data. The country has lost 1.3 million jobs since February, a figure the Obama administration says would have been far higher if not for the recovery effort.

Obama also announced more spending for renewable energy after touring a large field of solar panels at Nellis Air Force Base, near Las Vegas. The sun-powered cells provide a quarter of the base’s power needs, Obama said, speaking in a large hangar warmed by the desert heat.

“That’s the equivalent of powering about 13,200 homes during the day,” he said, and it will save the Air Force nearly $1 million a year.

Obama said more than $467 million in stimulus money will be used “to expand and accelerate the development, deployment and use of geothermal and solar energy throughout the United States.”

The president sandwiched the midday event between two political fundraisers: one on Tuesday night in Las Vegas for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and one set for Wednesday night in Los Angeles for the Democratic National Committee.

At Nellis, Obama addressed 400 people, including Air Force personnel, civilian workers and families living on the base.

The base’s $100 million public-private solar power system covers 140 acres and generates more than 14 megawatts of electricity.

As he departed the hangar, Obama bypassed his limousine and walked a quarter-mile along the tarmac to examine fighter jets, chatting with Air Force personnel as he went.

Our perspective:

Solar is the new energy growth maket. For the first time, with Federal and State incentives, the investment is solar finally makes sense.

To find out more how you can make solar your solution email george@hbsadvantage.com  or call 856-857-1230. We will review your opportunity and discuss the financial options available.

ANGELA CHARLTON | May 28, 2009 05:01 PM EST | AP

PARIS — The top U.S. environment official says it’s time for the United States to shed its energy-wasting image and lead the world race for cleaner power sources instead.

After several years with a relatively low profile under President George W. Bush, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “is back on the job,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told The Associated Press on Thursday during a trip to Paris.

What the EPA does domestically this year will be watched closely overseas. Nations worldwide are working toward a major meeting in Copenhagen in December aimed at producing a new global climate pact. The U.S. position on curbing its own pollution and helping poor countries adapt to global warming is seen as key to any new pact.

Jackson was in Paris for international talks on how rich governments can include global climate concerns in overall development aid.

She dismissed worries that economic downturn was cutting into aid commitments or investment in new energy resources. She said the United States should take the lead on clean energy technology, recession or no.

“We have to get in the race now _ and win it,” she said. “I don’t expect a moving backwards because of recession.”

At climate talks in Paris earlier this week, European environment ministers welcomed greater U.S. commitment to environmental issues under the Obama administration _ but said it still wasn’t aiming high enough in its targets for cutting U.S. emissions.

Jackson said a shift in the American mindset is only beginning.

Talking about energy efficiency and saying companies should pay to pollute _ “that’s a revolutionary message for our country,” she said.

For a long time, she said, “People didn’t even expect the EPA to show up” at events, much less set policies that could be seen as examples for the rest of the world.

“Now it seems like every day we’re rolling back or reconsidering a Bush era policy on clean air,” she said.

She said it was time for the United States to take a more active role in limiting chemical pollutants, after falling behind Europe in that domain.

The U.S. also has lessons to learn from countries such as the Netherlands, she said, after visiting its low-lying, flood-prone lands to study ways cities like her native New Orleans can better manage water.

Our Perspective:

It is good to hear the administration making positive comments about our energy’s future. Alternative energy is a growth business and the correct path for insuring our future energy indepenence.

Let us know your thoughts? You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

Would you like to know more about the financial opportunities that drive this investment. Feel free to contct us.

May 15, 2009, 8:15 am

SolarKirk J. Condyles for The New York Times Not all homeowners associations approve of this sort of thing.

John Wood, a homeowner in Woodbury, Minn., wanted to put solar panels on his roof. Last month, his homeowners association rejected his application.

“I felt extremely disappointed,” Mr. Wood said by telephone.

He added: “It made me think that homeowners associations are in place to do only one thing, and that is to maintain the status quo, and they have no interest in any sort of change whatsoever.”

Al Rudnickas, the president of the board of the Wedgewood Association, the homeowners’ group, said that the board was open to less obtrusive technologies like solar shingles. But in this case, “The feeling of the board was that what was proposed wasn’t aesthetically pleasing in keeping with the standards of the community,” he said.

Mr. Rudnickas said that the association invited Mr. Wood to submit a modified application, but Mr. Wood — who is the first homeowner in the association to apply for solar panels — said he was not sure whether he will do so.

Mr. Wood’s case, first reported in the Woodbury Bulletin, has echoes around the nation.

 

In Somerset County in New Jersey, a homeowner was ordered to take down 28 panels.

In California, another homeowner, Marc Weinberger, sued his homeowners association last year after his efforts to put solar panels on his roof were rejected.

Mr. Weinberger and his lawyer, Michael McQueen, have since told Green Inc. that their motion for summary judgment was granted, and Mr. Weinberger installed a system early this year.

In another California case, Marty Griffin, a homeowner in Santa Clarita, applied to put solar panels on a hillside on his property. The association said no, but he went ahead anyway and got sued.

The litigation has been under way for more than a year. Mr. Griffin says the association did not respond in a timely way to his application; a lawyer for the association, Ricardo Cestero, told Green Inc. that Mr. Griffin “did not follow correct procedures.”

Mr. Griffin details his saga, including legal documents, on his Web site.

For solar installers, the roadblocks can be frustrating. John Berger, the chief executive of Standard Renewable Energy, a Houston-based firm that designs and installs solar systems for homes, said that the homeowner associations’ prohibitions had already cost him more than $1 million in business.

“It is a big problem,” he said.

Lawmakers in Texas are considering a bill that would prevent homeowner associations from banning solar panels, and similar laws are already in place in a dozen or more states, according to the Database of State Initiatives for Renewable Energy — including Arizona, Colorado, Florida and California, among others.

Mr. Wood said he planned to contact his state legislators in the hopes of enacting this type of law in Minnesota.

The laws, however, are rarely comprehensive, as some of the California cases suggest.

Rusty Haynes, a project manager at the North Carolina Solar Center, which manages the D.S.I.R.E. database, said that some applied only to new construction, and others might be vague or limited in scope.

In Arizona a few years ago, a homeowner was challenged over the color of her panels (they were apparently too dark), despite a state law intended to smooth the process.

Has this happened in your community? Is this an issue for you? Feel free to comment below, or e-mail george@hbsadvantage.com

Daniel C. Esty

Posted April 20, 2009 | 03:50 PM (EST)  As reported in Huffington Post Green

Talk has begun to turn to the new economy that will emerge from the present collapse. General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt has suggested that the current crisis is not just a recession but a fundamental “reset” of how business gets done. And Time magazine has taken up this theme with a reset cover story. But there has been little discussion of exactly what changes – in principles and practices — should be made so that we rebuild our economy on firmer foundations. As we celebrate Earth Day this week, it is a good time to commit to “sustainability” as a centerpiece of a revitalized regulatory system.

For the past three decades, debate has raged over whether and how to deregulate. But while markets offer the prospect of promoting innovation, growth, and prosperity, few now believe that capitalism is self-correcting or that the private sector needs only minimal supervision. From the demise of Lehman Brothers and AIG to the skullduggery of Bernie Madoff and Allan Stanford, the signs of inadequate regulation and market failure surround us.

Two particular forms of market failure underlie the meltdown of the past year and make sustainability the right touchstone for our regulatory reset efforts:

• Externalized costs and risks
• Incomplete information

Both of these problems require that we rethink our approach to regulation — and re-establish the fundamentals of our economy on a more sustainable basis. And note that this principle should apply broadly, not just in the financial arena.

We need regulations which ensure that companies cannot structure their operations so that any upside gains accrue to their owners (or worse yet their managers), while risks or costs get shifted onto society as a whole. In the banking sector, rules against over-leveraging are urgently required. The recently released Turner Report in the UK outlines the first steps in this direction that should be taken. More generally, financial reporting rules must be designed to expose hidden risks and externalized costs.

We should likewise insist that companies which send emissions up a smokestack or out an effluent pipe cease their pollution or pay for the harm inflicted on the community. In our “reset” world, economic success cannot come at the price of harms imposed on the public in the form of contaminated air and water or risk of climate change. Thus while we lay the foundation for a more sustainable economy, let’s similarly adopt rules that provide for a sustainable environmental future. This will require overhauling the traditional approach to environmental regulation which countenances way too much in the way of externalities by offering “permits” up to a certain level of harm.

President Obama’s call for a price on carbon dioxide emissions represents a good first step in the “no externalities” direction. But let’s broaden the push and make polluters pay for all the harm they cause. If companies — and each one of us in our personal lives — had to pay for our waste and pollution, behavior would change. Putting a price on harm-causing creates incentives for care and conservation — efficiency and resource productivity.

More importantly, these price signals will drive a market response. Companies that are positioned to help others reduce their waste or cut their emissions will find customers eager for their goods and services. And where no easy solutions are available, harm charges will motivate “cleantech” innovation as inventors and entrepreneurs recognize the prospect of making money by solving environmental problems.

In parallel with a commitment to internalizing externalities, we must adopt transparency as a watchword. Market capitalism does not work without adequate information about economic actors. This reality has been understood in theory, but now needs to be advanced in practice. Government has a critical role to play in establishing the terms of disclosure about companies, markets, products, investment vehicles, and more. Public officials must also be empowered to ensure that disclosures are complete and accurate.

Well-designed reporting rules make it easier to spot externalized costs or risks and harder to hide malfeasance. Widely available metrics also facilitate benchmarking across companies, which offers a mechanism for assessing performance, highlighting leaders and laggards, and spurring competitive pressures that drive all toward better results. Studying the leaders offers an important way to identify best practices in everything from corporate strategy to pollution control. Likewise, outliers (such as those who make 10% returns year after year without fail) can be isolated for special review and scrutiny.

Such transparency would make it easier to refine our compensation systems to reward superior performance and real value creation. Carefully constructed disclosure rules could help, on the other hand, to unmask mere financial engineering, which should not be credited with outsized rewards.

There is a great deal of work to be done to re-establish prosperity across our country and the world. Smart regulation can channel corporate behavior and individual effort toward sustainable economic growth — that is durable because it rests on solid underpinnings not hidden risks or externalized costs.

Daniel C. Esty is the Hillhouse Professor at Yale University with appointments in both the Yale Law School and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He is the co-author (with Andrew Winston) of the prize-winning book, Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage (just released in a revised and updated edition published by John Wiley). A former Deputy Assistant Administrator at the US Environmental Protection Agency, Professor Esty advised the Obama Campaign on energy and environmental issues and served on the Obama Transition Team.

Written by Seth Borenstein  AP

WASHINGTON — A new scientific study finds that the absolute worst of global warming can still be avoided if the entire world cuts emission of greenhouse gases the way President Barack Obama and Europe want.

A computer simulation by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., looked at what would happen by the end of the century if greenhouse gas levels were cut by 70 percent. The result: The world would still be a warmer world but by about 2 degrees instead of 4 degrees. Arctic sea ice would shrink but not disappear, and sea level would rise less.

About half the temperature increases and changes in droughts and floods can be avoided compared to a scenario without emission cuts, according to the study, which will be published next week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Future heat waves would be 55 percent less intense. Thawing of permafrost in the far north would also be reduced.

The study is one of the first to use computer models to quantify how much of the effects global warming can be avoided, compared to a world if nothing is done about the problem.

While the study looked at what would happen with dramatic cuts in future pollution, history has shown that reductions are much easier to talk about than to make. The controversial 1997 Kyoto Protocol called for industrialized countries to cut emissions but since then levels worldwide have gone up 25 percent. In the U.S., where emissions are up 6 percent in the last decade, Congress is fiercely arguing over a plan to reduce pollution.

“If we follow on the path that Obama has outlined of cutting emissions by 70 or 80 percent and the rest of the world does it, then we can make a big difference on the climate by the end of the century,” climate scientist and study chief author Warren Washington told The Associated Press.

But if the United States and Europe cut back on carbon dioxide and China, India and other developing countries do not, then the world is heading toward a harsher hotter future, not the one the study shows, Washington said.

The study mapped areas that would benefit the most by emission cuts, comparing what would happen with less carbon dioxide pollution and what would happen if greenhouse gas continue to grow. The difference between the two scenarios is starkest for temperatures in Alaska and the mountain west, which would see temperatures rise a couple degrees less with emission cuts. Reduced carbon dioxide would also significantly lessen predicted future droughts on the Pacific coast and flooding in the Northeast.

Much of Europe, Russia, China and Australia would see the biggest temperature benefits from reductions in greenhouse gas pollution, while the Mediterranean, Caribbean and North Africa region would benefit the most in predicted changes in rainfall from less global warming.

If the world cuts back on fossil fuels, “it isn’t going to be as bad,” Washington said.

Austin, Texas, is getting closer to its self-imposed goal of using more renewable energy, and creating jobs in the bargain. The Texas-sized solar plant being planned would be the largest in the Unite States, according to Austin Energy.

The Council approved an agreement under which the City’s municipally-owned electric utility, Austin Energy, will purchase all of the electricity produced over a 25-year term by a 30 megawatt (MW) solar project to be built on city-owned property located about 20 miles from downtown Austin.
Gemini Solar Development Company, LLC, one of 15 companies competing for the massive project, will construct, own and manage the solar facility. The project of photovoltaic solar panels will span approximately 320 acres, producing energy each year sufficient to power about 5,000 homes. Austin Energy will pay about $10 million per year for the power.

The solar project represents a major step towards fulfilling a Council goal to develop 100 MW of solar capacity for Austin by 2020. The Council also has set a goal that 30 percent of the power delivered to customers by Austin Energy by 2020 will come from renewable resources. Construction on the project is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2010 and completed by the end of that year. The project will result in at least 600 local construction jobs.

 

The Austin American-Statesman said that critics remain — they’re worried about the financial
aspects of the plan, like how much the power will cost.

By unanimous vote, the council approved a partnership with Gemini Solar Development Co. to build and operate the facility and sell all its power to Austin at $10 million a year for 25 years. City officials say it would help them get closer to the city’s goal of using more renewable energy.
Other questions remain that critics said they would raise at the meeting. The city won’t say how much the power from the plant would cost, although most estimates are around 16.5 cents a kilowatt hour — more than most other types of power. Even that calculation is foggy, though, because federal tax credits could reduce the construction cost, thus making the electricity cheaper. But the city isn’t sure how much cheaper. The credits weren’t factored into Gemini Solar Development’s pitch.

TRUST IN THE WIND

April 8, 2009

ATLANTIC CITY – Windmills off the East Coast could generate enough electricity to replace most, if not all, the coal-fired power plants in the United States, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said yesterday.

His view was challenged as “overly optimistic” by a coal-industry group, which noted that half the nation’s electricity currently comes from coal-fired power plants.

The secretary spoke at a public hearing in Atlantic City on how the nation’s offshore areas can be tapped to meet its energy needs.

“The idea that wind energy has the potential to replace most of our coal-burning power today is a very real possibility,” he said. “It is not technology that is pie-in-the sky; it is here-and-now.”

A spokesman for Salazar said yesterday evening that the secretary does not expect wind power to be fully developed, but was speaking of its total potential if it were.

Offshore energy production might not be limited to wind power, Salazar said. A moratorium on offshore oil drilling has expired, and President Obama and Congress must decide whether to allow drilling off the East Coast.

“We know there are some people who want us to close the door on that,” he said. “We need to look at all forms of energy as we move forward into a new energy frontier.”

Salazar said ocean winds along the East Coast can generate one million megawatts of power, roughly equal to 3,000 medium-sized coal-fired plants, or nearly five times the number of coal plants now operating in the United States, according to the Energy Department.

Salazar could not estimate how many windmills might be needed to generate one million megawatts, saying it would depend on their size and how far from the coast they were located.

Jason Hayes, a spokesman for the American Coal Council, said he was puzzled by Salazar’s projections. He said wind-power plants face roadblocks including local opposition, concerns about the impact on wildlife, and problems in efficiently transmitting power from far offshore.

“It really is a stretch,” he said of Salazar’s estimate. “How you put that many new [wind] plants up, especially in deep water, is confusing. Even if you could do what he said, you still need to deal with the fact that the best wind plants generate power about 30 percent of the time. There’s got to be something to back that up.”

Yesterday’s hearing was hosted by Salazar and was the first of four nationwide to discuss how energy resources including oil, gas, wind and waves should be used as the Obama administration formulates its energy policy. It was held at the Atlantic City Convention Center, whose roof-mounted solar-energy panels are the largest in the nation.

Salazar said it is essential that the nation fully exploit renewable energy resources to reduce its reliance on imported oil.

By buying oil from countries hostile to the United States, “we have, in my opinion, been funding both sides in the war on terrorism,” he said.

Environmentalists are urging the Obama administration to bar oil and gas drilling off the East Coast, and invest heavily in wind, solar and other energy technology.

Our Perspective:

I have found there is no silver bullet. There are multiple forms of alternative energy solutions, each playing a unique part in the overall solution.

To install wind mills out in the ocean and rid ourselves of the mining of coal would amount to a homerun! Safety is always a concern. Not only the safety of our workers mining the coal but also the safety of the environment. All the pollutants discharged into the air from its’ use.

Let us know your thoughts? You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

Have a question about financing your investment in alternative energy? Contact us. We specialize in creating the financial structure that make sense. 

As reported in NJ Biz Written by Shankar P

Vineland and Ocean City are implementing ambitious programs to attract investments in renewable energy, particularly solar power, and their city administrations are leading by example. Investors from across the world are showing interest in their projects, according to municipal officials in both cities.

New Jersey has the second-biggest solar energy program in the country, according to Mark Sinclair, executive director of the Montpelier, Vt.-based Clean Energy States Alliance, an organization of 20 states with renewable energy programs.

Vineland is the state’s only city with its own electricity-generating plant, but the 100-megawatt facility uses coal and oil as fuels, and needs replacement, said James Lelli, the city’s director of economic development. The city plans to replace the plant with one operating on solar power, and also build a 60-megawatt natural gas generator, financed by a $60 million bond issue, by 2012.

Five companies have shown interest in building a solar panel farm to supply the city’s needs, including one from China, Lelli said. The city is negotiating with some of the interested parties, and expects to make an announcement soon. Power generated at the plant would be sold to the regional grid, he said.

One of the proposals is to build a 50-megawatt solar panel farm at a cost of some $150 million, Lelli said. About 300 acres would be needed to generate that much power; the city already has earmarked 100 acres for the farm and a 100,000-square-foot plant building, he said. All that land would cost the prospective investor $4.5 million at the prevailing market rate of $45,000 an acre, he added.

Vineland has kept the site shovel ready, with utility infrastructure and an industrial zoning status, Lelli said. He expects to have a deal by the year’s end, and the solar farm up and running nine months afterward.

Vineland also last week signed a deal with utility company Conectiv to build a 4-megawatt solar farm in the city, Lelli said.

Ocean City, another old hand at implementing green projects, is also exploring a plan to band together business owners who might want to install solar panels on their premises. Together, they would be able to justify the investment in solar panels that might otherwise not be feasible, said Jim Rutala, Ocean City’s business administrator.

Rutala said over the past month, the city has been in talks with several businesses about solar energy plans, and that Nicholas Asselta, commissioner of the state Board of Public Utilities, is helping in the process.

Ocean City, in fact, has one of the state’s largest municipal solar energy projects, Rutala said. In February, it completed an ambitious project to install 1,800 panels on five city-owned buildings, providing 550,000 kilowatt-hours. It plans to extend panel installation to another half-dozen buildings, he added.

The city chose Entech Solar Inc., of Fort Worth, Texas, through a competitive bidding process to install the required infrastructure, he added. The solar project deal allowed Ocean City to lower its energy costs as Entech earns a return on its investment, Rutala said; the city sells leftover power to the regional grid.

The deal also allows the city to purchase its power at a concessional price of 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, said Jim Bryan, commercial and municipal markets manager at Entech in its Ewing offices. That price could go down to as low as 2.5 cents after factoring in the value of tradable renewable energy certificates the city gets, he said. The prevailing price of such electricity would be between 12 and 18 cents a kilowatt-hour, he said.

Entech makes its money in the turnkey construction of the solar energy project, and was helped by a $1.5 million BPU rebate, Bryan said. But New Jersey now is moving away from rebates, to a more market-based mechanism to power such projects.

Our Perspective:

This is a big step. We have clients in Vineland and I have read the story about this proposed conversion.

This makes perfect sense. Solar is a true Clean Energy Alternative that can help support Vineland’s Municipal Utility sustainability.

Should you like to know more about the proper financial structure needed for these initiatives, you may call 856-857-1230 or email george@hbsadvantage.com.

We will show you how to properly structure the deal and take advantage of all the Federal and State initives that will lower your ROI.

HBS….Tomorrow’s Clean Energy…Today!

Written by Robert Redford

America is on the verge of a renewable energy gold rush. Hundreds of applications for wind and solar projects have been filed on public lands. I think this is long overdue. We need sustainable energy to help us reduce global warming pollution, and we need it fast. But if we don’t handle this boom carefully, unspoiled wildlands will get trammeled in its wake. Right now, we have an opportunity to start the clean energy era off right.

It begins with agreeing which sensitive areas should remain undeveloped. Wind and solar power are pollution free, but they are not impact free. They leave an industrial footprint on the land, and some pristine places would be forever altered by their presence.

That’s why my friends at NRDC got together with Google Earth and started mapping out public lands where renewable development is not appropriate. Some of the spots colored in on the map are obvious–national parks, wilderness areas, and national monuments where energy development is already prohibited by law or federal policy.

But the map also illustrates places where development should be avoided, even if it isn’t illegal. These include the hundreds of state parks that visitors rely on for hiking and other recreation. They also include proposed wilderness areas being considered by Congress, such as the 9.5 million acres of stunning scenery in Southern Utah that I hope gains protection through America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

The remarkable thing is that even when you set these areas aside, there is plenty of land to develop solar and wind projects. The state of California recently did a similar mapping process and found that when it removed all the environmentally sensitive lands, California still has renewable potential of about 500,000 MW–that’s greater than the state’s peak demand.

But we can’t begin the new energy future by only saying where we can’t build renewable projects. We also have to agree on where we can. The lands best suited to wind farms and solar plants are those that have already been disturbed. Up and down the Rockies, there are hundreds of oil and gas fields that are now defunct. In my home state of California, there are thousands of acres of old farms that went bust. And now more than ever, there are private lands that have been carved up for subdivisions that never got built.

These already distressed lands may not satisfy all renewable developers. But hopefully, with so much public land available, they will make reasonable compromises–like not building in a bighorn sheep migration path when they can gain access to other lands instead.

I see two persuasive reasons why the environmental community and the renewable sector can work in unison. The first is credibility. People support renewable projects because they think they are green, and that includes sustainable land use. The second is urgency. Our nation needs to begin the transition away from dirty fossil fuels now in order to stave off the worst impacts of global warming. Controversies and lawsuits over siting will only delay the process.

We spent the last eight years locked in a battle with an administration that sparked rampant oil and gas drilling on our lands. Those days are over. Bush is gone, and Americans recognize the need for clean energy. We have a fresh start, and we have the chance to get the balance between generating sustainable power and caring for our lands right from beginning.

Our Perspective:

This can be a very sentitive topic. If thought out and done properly it will benefit all.

Let us know your thoughts?

Lawmakers allotted $100M in July for the program. It’s been stalled in Harrisburg.

Way before “going green” became the crusade it is today, Collegeville contractor Jon Costanza built one of the first solar-powered homes on the East Coast.

That was in Haverford in 1972.

He has waited since then for the industry to catch fire and believed, in July, that the Pennsylvania legislature had at least struck the match.

It had approved Gov. Rendell’s $650 million Alternative Energy Funding Act, which allotted $100 million for a new solar initiative. The Pennsylvania Sunshine Program would provide rebates of upward of 35 percent to homeowners and small businesses to offset the cost of buying solar systems, much as New Jersey does.

With Sunshine’s birth, “we immediately started hiring,” Costanza, president of Sunpower Builders, said last week.

One big problem: Funding for the program still has not materialized. That has delayed the installation of possibly thousands of residential solar systems and the hiring of countless people to do that work, just as Pennsylvania tries to recast itself as a leader in green technology – both as a consumer and innovator.

“If the incentive money doesn’t start flowing, we’re going to have to start laying off instead of hiring,” said Costanza, whose Sunpower Builders now has 12 employees.

While lauding Rendell for the Sunshine Program, Costanza’s daughter Kira, who works in the family business, said: “Until we see those dollars going into the rebate program . . . it’s just words.”

She said that about 40 contracts between Sunpower and potential customers sit in a drawer while the Sunshine funds remain stalled in Harrisburg.

At Heat Shed Inc., twice as many contracts are on hold as customers wait for Sunshine help, said Catherine Neil, who, with her husband, Charles Reichner, owns the Quakertown company.

In their barn sits more than $200,000 worth of solar panels, and on their answering machine is a new message saying they are not taking any new customers right now.

At Center City-based Eos Energy Solutions, formed in June 2007, two part-time employees would go full time and four additional hires would be made as soon as Sunshine funds became available, said Andrew Kleeman, managing partner.

“We just need to get the ball rolling,” he said of the Sunshine Program. “It’s been a long time coming.”

The wait could be nearing an end. At least partially.

The Commonwealth Financing Authority, the state agency that is tasked with floating bonds to finance the program, is next scheduled to meet April 13. A $100 million bond issue is on the agenda for consideration by the agency’s seven-member board, said executive director Scott Dunkelberger. Three members are from the Rendell administration: the secretaries of Banking, Budget, and the Department of Community and Economic Development. The others are appointees from each of the four legislative caucuses.

“I’m optimistic,” Dunkelberger said of the chances of the board’s voting in favor of issuing the bond.

But not all of that $100 million would go to the Sunshine Program, he said. The authority intends to float a number of bonds over time to finance the $500 million portion of the $650 million Energy Funding Act for which it is responsible, Dunkelberger said.

Next week’s bond vote, he said, is to cover the cash-flow needs “we see for the next six to 12 months.” How much will go to Sunshine, he said, will depend, in part, on how many applications are received by the Department of Environmental Protection, the administrator of the program.

DEP’s Web site has registered more than 4,600 requests for information about the program, said John Hanger, the governor’s acting secretary of DEP. (Guidelines are due out in about a month.) A New Jersey program in effect since 2001 has paid out more than $253 million in rebates, grants, and other forms of funding for 3,689 solar projects that have created a total of 76 megawatts of installed capacity, according to the state Board of Public Utilities.

Among those most “impatient” that the program is not up and running yet is Rendell, Hanger said. As someone who spent 10 years as head of the advocacy group PennFuture in “a huge battle” to get state money appropriated for solar power, Hanger said he “would have liked the bonds to be issued yesterday.”

“We have a program ready to go . . . one of the biggest solar programs in the country,” Hanger said.

He attributed the delay to the economic crisis that has rendered the bond market an unfriendly place until recently. He also noted that establishing guidelines for the entire Energy Recovery Act programs “does take some time. I have to emphasize here, we’re creating a program from scratch.”

Sunshine “will put more than a thousand Pennsylvania folks to work,” Hanger said, contending that the solar industry has the potential to be to Pennsylvania “what steel and coal were . . . in the 19th and 20th centuries.”

In general, Sunshine reimbursements are expected to cover up to 35 percent of the costs of project design, installation, and equipment, according to DEP. With those grants and federal tax credits, “we can probably reduce the sticker price of a solar system by about 45 percent,” Hanger said. An average 5-kilowatt residential system costs $35,000 to $40,000.

The state expects that $100 million would enable the Sunshine Program to last three years. One benefit of the funding delay, Hanger said, is that the cost of solar panels has dropped about 25 percent since November, so “the money will go even further than if this money was spent in July.”

Still, Craig Flaxman, 49, a restaurateur from Montgomery County, is making no commitments on proposals by Heat Shed to add a solar-electric system to his 25-year-old geothermal home in Worcester Township. Estimates range from $39,000 to $73,000, depending on the size he selects.

His frustration over the lack of Sunshine funds grows each day.

“Obama is out there touting alternative energy as the way to go,” Flaxman said. “So what’s going on?”