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Solar in Massachusetts (MA)

State of Solar in Massachusetts

In the early 2000s, Massachusetts was one of the leading states in the initial solar energy revolution that began sweeping across the United States. The industry has grown tremendously since those early days and Massachusetts continues to be a pioneer, ranking in at No. 6 for Solar Growth and often providing some of the most aggressive payback period for homeowners in any state.

While many other municipalities have joined in and are now embracing solar, Massachusetts continues to promote the technology and experience some of the highest growth due of positive public policies and a solar friendly grid which helps promote renewable and other forms of distributed power.


Does Your Home Qualify?


In Massachusetts alone, over 14,582 residents identify as being involved in the solar energy industry within some capacity. MA is home to over 500 companies and estimates claim these numbers may double over the next 5 years. Because of install and equipment price declines of nearly 55% over the last 5 years, the regions solar production is quickly approaching 2,000 MW of generating power. In fact, it is estimated the growth will continue to increase at an increasing rate and quickly top over 3,000 MW of capacity within the next few years.

 

Solar installations in MA*Image source: seia.org

 

Massachusetts legislatures recently debated some of the issues that accompany such explosive growth and are currently looking at ways to address the explosive growth. Currently there are minimal effects on the public utility grid, however, officials are concerned that as the State approaches 3,000 megawatts, a majority of energy might be installed in places where the grids are not able to handle such large amounts of energy generation. This would be due to an excess of energy being produced which is higher than the current demand.

Unlike other solar states, Massachusetts' summer climate is much milder than southern states and this issue remains a great concern, especially in the higher elevations of the State and along the coastline. Comparatively, these areas require less energy usage during hot summer months when solar produces a bulk of energy. Energy events are less common which means the supply of energy might exceed the grid’s capacity to carry the energy outside of localized areas.

This can cause grid strain and utilities are looking to enact measures that give them the authority that temporarily suspends net metering in order to prevent overcharging of power lines. (*in southern states, energy usage spikes higher during hot summer days than in these effected areas- these are called “events” and oversupply has a higher threshold).

If you are considering solar today, do not let this deter you. In fact, 2018 is expected to be one of the best years for solar in Massachusetts and local legislators are hoping for this to occur. In 2016 the Legislature and Governor passed An Act Relative to Solar Energy in order to continue promoting a homeowner’s ability to install solar on their home. This legislative action raises the cap of solar energy allowed in the State to the maximum load that the grid may handle (raising from 5% to 8% of total state energy usage coming from Solar Energy). The act was passed with a bipartisan measure which recognizes the positive effects that solar energy has on both the environment and economy of Massachusetts, especially smaller town or suburban area surrounding Boston.

If you are considering Solar Energy on your home, and live in Massachusetts, below is a list of the various benefits, laws, and incentives to take action now. As the State approaches the 8% threshold, many of the economic benefits may be reduces so therefor, we recommend speaking with a licensed solar expert to consider taking action as soon as possible.

Noteworthy Massachussets Solar Incentives:

  • Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC): A SREC is essentially a certificate which can be purchased by local utilities in order to offset their requirement to purchase and promote solar energy within their operational grids. Every new solar system installed can submit to this program which allows homeowners to register their certificates with a broker or auction house and sell the certificate every year for up to 10 years from the date of system commissioning. Currently (as of December, 2107), a SREC accounts for roughly 1,000 kWH of energy produced in a Calendar Year. A single SREC is valued at $310. Example: If you install a solar energy system that produces 8,000 kWh per year you will obtain 8 SRECS. This has a current market value of $2,480 per year (this figure does not include auction or broker fees).
  • Solar Arrays are exempt from Property and Sales Taxes and will not add to your assessment.
  • Many municipalities or grid operators offer up-front Rebate Programs for choosing solar. These include:
    • City of Taunton: $1.50 / watt up to $4,500
    • Concord Municipal Light: $6.50 / watt up to $3,125
    • Chicopee Electric Light: $.50 / watt up to $2,500
    • Town of Hudson: $1.25 / watt up to $6,000
  • Several Loan Guarantee programs or State Approved Mortgage programs that may sometimes allow homeowner to easily barrow the funding to have a solar array installed. Incentives include reduced interest amounts or some guaranteeing instruments.
  • Personal Income Tax Deduction from State Taxes what can be up to 30% if installed by 12/31/2019.

These incentives can be combined with several Federal Programs that include the same 30% tax credit that many homeowners are currently allowed to take.

As one can imagine, Massachusetts is a very serious state when it comes to cleaning up the environment and promoting the use of renewable and distributed energy products. As the State approaches the 8% limit, many of the programs are set to be reduced or simply expire, making 2018 to be the year of solar according to several industry insiders.

When you combine these incentives with the low cost of installing solar and various financing options, there are several scenarios where solar will make the best sense for Massachusetts homeowners.

Sources:

https://www.seia.org

https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/talking-points/2017/10/03/solar-industry-turns-heat-mass-legislature/BZeUw5mPeVkLo5KISQMsUI/story.html

http://www.mass.gov/governor/press-office/press-releases/fy2016/governor-signs-comprehensive-solar-legislation-into-law.html

http://www.srectrade.com/srec_markets/massachusetts

Massachusetts SRECs

How Massachusetts SRECs Work

If you are a homeowner and are considering having a solar energy system installed, you’ve probably seen the term “Solar Renewable Energy Credit” or “SREC”. Although not a widely known concept, if you choose to install a solar array, understanding SRECs is incredibly important.


Does Your Home Qualify?


Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC)

A Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) is a certificate that confirms your solar array has produced a specific amount of renewable energy in a year. Because many state energy distributors are required to purchase or offset a percentage of renewable energy each year, the SREC is a certificate they can purchase in order to contribute to this requirement.

When you have a solar array installed, the contractor should register the system with the grid operator and file the details of your system. This is the start of the process.

Depending on the amount of energy that your system has produced each year, you will be given number of SREC certificates (1,000 kWh = 1 SREC). They are usually electronic records; so don’t expect an actual paper certificate. Each certificate has a value and can be traded as a commodity. The sale of SRECs takes place in SREC Auctions handled by SREC Traders (again, your solar install company should help register for this).

SREC Value

The value of the certificate is based on the penalty the distributor would otherwise have to pay and the market, or number of certificates available at a given time. As you would expect in any free--supply and demand market--the more certificates available, the lower the price you will obtain for that SREC.

Because of this rule, the more solar that is available in your state, lower the SREC price will be. The price will affect the solar payback period and you should speak with your installer or SREC broker about current a pricing before to making the decision to install solar panels.

What about Massachusetts (or your state)?

Massachusetts initiated their first SREC requirement in January, 2010. The initial goal was 400MW and then increased to 1,600 MW in 2013. (*For reference, the average home uses 12,000 kWh of electricity per year. 1 MW of solar typically equals the usage of 125 to 145 average American homes.)

The idea was that Massachusetts wanted to spur solar growth and by subscribing to a renewable portfolio standard the Massachusetts SREC market was born.

The Massachusetts SREC and solar market is widely viewed as one of the most stable and prominent SREC markets in the United States. When you have a Massachusetts SREC, that certificate is equal to 1,000 kWh of annual production. The average 6kW solar energy system in Massachusetts will produce roughly 7,000+ kWh per year and you therefore, have 7 SRECS which are currently valued at approximately $300 each or $2,100 annually (as of 12/14/17).

The amount is typically paid quarterly as the various auctions operate on that schedule.

By installing a system and “opting in” to the SREC program via your installer or broker, you may collect and sell SRECs for 10 years from the date of your first day of operation.

For up to date information on the Massachusetts SREC Market, please visit:
https://www.mass.gov/service-details/solar-carve-out-current-status