It’s no surprise that California dominates the renewable/solar energy market, thanks to a plethora of programs and incentives that aim to reduce the state’s dependence on fossil-fuel and other pollutive forms of energy by 33 percent by 2020.

California, which currently has 402 megawatts (MW) of solar energy installed, and another 443 MW pending, has been a clean energy leader since the beginning. Now, Wells Fargo & Company, is offering a special promotion that makes going solar even more affordable for Southern California homeowners.

A complete skeptic when it comes to “green” corporate behavior – which usually involves accruing greenbacks rather than dispensing them to benefit the environment, I found myself surprised and a more than a abashed by the fact that Wells Fargo’s move doesn’t appear to benefit the company at all (though correct me if I’m wrong).

Working through three California-based solar companies – Acro Energy, REC Solar and Verengo Solar – the giant banking firm, which got its foothold during the California Gold Rush, plans to offer $1,000 in incentives to every SoCal homeowner who takes out a home equity line of credit of $15,000 or more to install a solar energy system. The incentive also applies in Colorado through Dec. 31 of this year.

It is, as Wells Fargo Environmental Affairs Director Mary Wenzel noted, one of the many ways that the community-based financial giant can help customers and help save the environment.

Putting its money where its mouth is, Wells Fargo has also provided more than $2 billion in tax-equity financing to support renewable energy projects, which total about 4,100 MW, including solar photovoltaic systems at 10 banking locations in Denver. This, at a time when the Solar Energy Industries Association, or SEIA, is predicting a drying up of tax equity financing that will effectively kill a burgeoning solar energy marketplace.

Tax equity is where financial institutions like Wells Fargo step in to help small solar developers with few resources and no “tax appetite” (i.e., tax burden) take immediate advantage of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) provision in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, which provides renewable energy tax credits as a tax refund.

Unfortunately, getting these refunds moves at the typical glacial pace of most government programs, so ARRA also offers a cash grant in lieu of the ITC. But this expires in at the end of December, 2010, leaving a lot of small solar developers and solar projects out on a limb, financially speaking.

In Newsweek Magazine’s initial Green Rankings issue (2009), Wells Fargo ranked first among U.S. banks and insurance companies, and 13th overall, as one of the “greenest” corporations in America – a ranking that had nothing to do with the firm’s financial health, though that looks pretty solid, too, in spite of a persistent recession. No cause for schadenfreude there.

Source: Solar Calfinder.

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