The U.S. Department of Treasury said Friday it's now accepting applications for a program for renewable energy project developers who wish to forgo a 30 percent investment tax credit in exchange for the equivalent amount in cash.

The Treasury department's announcement came three weeks after it released guidelines and a sample application to help companies prepare to apply for the grant online (see application website).

Project developers have been waiting for the government to start processing applications and giving out money ever since February this year, when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created the program.

The program is meant to inject financing into a business that has found it difficult to line up money to build renewable energy generation projects.

But the financial market crisis has sidelined tax equity investors who in the past would invest in projects to make use of a 30 percent investment tax credit. If the investors aren't making much money, then they aren't likely to see a lot of value in taking a tax write-off.

The Treasury department expects to dole out $3 billion to about 5,000 projects generating power from solar, wind, biomass and other sources, the government said.

The U.S. Department of Energy, which knows more about renewable energy technologies, will help the Treasury department to review the applications.

The department promised to give out the cash within 60 days of receiving applications, but project developers must first complete the projects and put them into service.

Projects that have been installed since Jan. 1, 2009 are eligible. There is no cap for the amount each applicant could receive.

The grant program is meant to help projects that are up and running during 2009 and 2010. The government would consider projects that aren't finished by the end of 2010. The guidelines spell out more deadlines. 

Although renewable energy companies were grateful when the government first created the program, some worry that the government might not dispense the money quickly enough to stimulate market demand (see Reality Check: How Much Impact Can the Feds Have on Solar?).

The Solar Energy Industries Association is now lobbying for a one-year extension of the program.