updated 3/16/2006 10:25:54 AM ET 2006-03-16T15:25:54

More than 400 applications for customer-installed solar energy projects that could produce up to 1,900 kilowatts of renewable energy were approved Wednesday by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission.

The "Year 3" projects can come on line as early as July 1, according to Bob Balzar of Sierra Pacific Power Co. and Nevada Power Co.. The two utilities administer the state's solar power demonstration program, marketed as SolarGenerations.

Customers who install the panels can earn $3 per watt of electrical capacity, or up to a total of $5.7 million in rebates. Those eligible include homeowners, small businesses, public buildings and schools.

The latest projects approved by the PUC must be completed by June 2007 to be eligible for rebates.

The state Legislature created the program in 2003, and so far Nevadans participating in the program have installed photovoltaic panels that generate 378 kilowatts of solar energy. Rebates have exceeded $1 million.

Customers also can earn credits on monthly electric bills if they generate more power than they use. Up to $4.8 million could be paid to second-year participants whose applications were approved in 2005.

Photovoltaic panels have been installed on 42 homes in northern Nevada and 25 homes in southern Nevada, and another 121 second-year projects are under construction.

Balzar said 19 contractors representing more than 400 customers are involved in the third-year projects. Residential rebates are capped at 5 kilowatts or $15,000, and small businesses, public buildings and schools can earn rebates for up to 30 kilowatts, or $90,000 per installation.

The rebates cover about 30 percent of the costs for installing a photovoltaic system. Customers also could be eligible for federal tax credits.

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