By Alex Kuffner, Providence Journal

Thirty residential solar projects have been awarded financing through a state program that aims to expand the use of renewable energy by homeowners.

The board of directors of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation on Monday approved a total of $173,709 in grants from the state Renewable Energy Fund for 25 solar electric and five solar hot water installations around the state.

The grants, which are equivalent to between 25 percent and 31 percent of the total project costs, are coming from the fund’s small-scale solar program, which is funded through a surcharge on all electric ratepayers in the state.

The program was started in 2013 and aims to help stimulate Rhode Island’s residential solar market, which has lagged behind activity in Massachusetts, Connecticut and other Northeast states. Last year, three rounds of funding totaling $505,567 were handed out. The grants supported 89 projects with total costs of $2.1 million.

The first round of funding in 2014 was awarded to:

  • Newport Solar, which will install 61.15 kilowatts of solar electric panels on 11 homes.
  • Real Goods Solar, which will install 53.6 kilowatts of solar electric panels on 11 homes.
  • Sol Power, which will install 13 kilowatts of solar electric panels on two homes.
  • Entech Engineering, which will install 1.5 kilowatts of solar panels on one home and solar hot water systems at five homes.

In his application, Doug Sabetti, owner of Newport Solar, said the grants are important to his business.

“This program has helped me grow my business and has allowed me to expand my employment to enthusiastic individuals who otherwise may have had to move out of state to pursue a career in the solar industry,” he said.

Two more rounds of financing from the small-scale solar program will be awarded this year.

This article was originally published in the Providence Journal