Eco-Living Magazine

SOLAR ENERGY 101: How to Afford Solar Electricity in Massachusetts

Posted on the 17 August 2012 by Derick Ajumni
Massachusetts is no California when it comes to the number of sunny days in a year, but the state is rapidly muscling its way to having one of the biggest Solar industries in the United States. Late 2010 records indicate that more than 2,600 PhotoVoltaic systems had been installed. This saves 22,500 metric tons, and over 1 million metric tons of annual CO2 emissions over the lifetime of the panels (MassCEC data). Recent data from the State Department of Energy Resources indicate that Massachusetts now continues to generate 129+ MegaWatt of solar energy enough to power 157,500 New England homes (The Boston Globe - May 2012). 

There are over 200 solar energy firms in Massachusetts with an additional 1,300 others venturing in to grab a share of the market. This conglomerate employs roughly 14,000 installers, manufacturers and miscellaneous staff.

The number of sunny or cloudy days doesnt matter. What matters is  how serious the residents make sure renewable energy projects get done. This sharp "Boom" in solar energy growth in Massachusetts as of 2007 is supported by strong incentives, and policies that curb the upfront installation costs both for commercial and residential installations within the state. Also, the high energy costs in New England make Solar installation very reasonable, and the drop to almost half the price of PV panels helps the cause tremendously.

So what actually makes installing solar in Massachusetts affordable? Well to start with there is what we call the 'State Renewable Portfolio Standard' or "RPS" that requires utilities to produce a certain amount of their power from renewable sources. This makes it easier for a home owner to negotiate installing solar with their current utility company. Then there is the 'State Renewable Energy Credits' or "SRECs" - in order to comply with the state RPS, utilities trade SRECs for physical cash - but what is an SREC? An SREC is generated when 1,000kWh (1MWh) of solar energy is produced and consumed. So realistically a 10kw solar system will generate about 12 SRECs/year, and its value depends on supply and demand in the market at that time ($300/SREC in Massachusetts).

There is also 'Net Metering' which when arranged with your utility company helps record unused energy the PV system produces in the day that is back fed into the grid for electricity credits which can be used at night. There is also a long list of Rebates and Tax credits a business or residential install could benefit from on the DSIRE website. 

All these incredible points make it super easy for a business or individual to afford solar in Massachusetts. Installations can also qualify for the Commonwealth Solar II program which offers tremendous savings.

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