Renewable power sounds good on paper, but for many, it is only something to pontificate about. In reality, for individuals, families and small businesses, switching to renewable power often is not a practical or cost-effective alternative.

One state has taken steps to bridge that gap in desire versus economics. New Jersey residents now have the incentive to install their own renewable power generating systems, if they move quickly.

The Commissioners of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) recently announced the launch of its new Renewable Energy Incentive Program for 2009. The program—in which all ratepayers of BPU-regulated utilities are eligible to participate—provides incentives for on-site renewable-energy projects using solar, wind and biopower technologies.

Residential solar projects less than or equal to 10 kilowatts (kW) can receive a rebate of $1.75 per watt for ratepayers who complete an energy audit through the Home Performance with Energy Star Program. Residential projects that do not complete the audit will receive rebates of $1.55 per watt.

The program is not just for home-owners. Nonresidential solar projects that are less than or equal to 50 kW can receive rebates of $1 per watt.

Solar projects larger than 50 kW are not eligible for rebates. The solar rebate levels will be in effect for applications received from Feb. 3, 2009, through April 30, 2009—subject to funding availability. The rebate amounts are subject to change throughout the year.

Incentives for wind projects will be based on the estimated system production, and incentives for biopower projects will be based on system capacity. An additional rebate amount of 25 cents per watt will be available for projects that use renewable-energy systems or components manufactured or assembled in New Jersey.

Furthermore, Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are available for all renewable-energy projects and are calculated based on the electricity a renewable-energy system generates. System owners can sell or trade these certificates to electricity suppliers, who are required to buy and retire a certain number of RECs each year to meet their obligations under the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. RECs can help renewable system owners pay for their projects over time.