After two suspensions and a reprieve from the governor, the Long Island Power Authority's home-solar energy rebate program is back in business, with $8.3 million in new funding.
But it remains uncertain whether the program, which was delayed a week from its expected Dec. 1 restart, will be funding systems soon enough to rejuvenate an industry that was forced to lay off workers last month.
Solar installers say it takes four weeks to get pre-approvals from LIPA to start work once contracts are drawn up. For some, that means new work won't start until next year.
"My guys are not working right now, December is a wash and January probably will be, too," said Kevin MacLeod, owner of KPS Solar, a Bay Shore-based installer.
Dozens of regional installers reacted with relief last month when Gov. David A. Paterson announced federal money targeted for a large-scale solar project would be redirected toward LIPA's home-solar program.
The October suspension of the LIPA rebate effectively shut down new home installations because LIPA helps fund tens of thousands of dollars toward the $20,000 to $60,000 cost of systems.
The program also had been suspended in September until more funding became available.
This year has seen a record of more than 1,100 new solar customers - more than in the first 10 years of the program combined. All told, 3,498 customers had received LIPA rebates.
Because the $8.3 million to restart the rebate program now is coming from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, it has several new strings attached, LIPA said in explaining the delay.
Applicants must certify that a house isn't a historic structure, that the installer will properly dispose of waste from the job and that a building permit has been issued, installers said.
Vanessa Baird-Streeter, a LIPA spokeswoman, said the authority had tried to restart the program "without the necessity of another form and another review," but there was "no way around it."
Al Harsch, a sales executive for GreenLogic Energy, a solar and renewable energy company in Southampton, was hopeful the new funding would revive the market.
"Obviously, if the program kicks back in you might see some hiring," he said.