Joe and Terry Buttaro have had solar on their roof since the 1980s when they had the opportunity to participate in a solar hot water heating experiment conducted by their local power company. By the 2000s, their old collectors were showing signs of wear and tear, and they were itching for the moment when more modern collectors would make sense for them.
“For many years the cost of the upfront investment on a solar electric (PV) system was very high,” says Joe, “When we learned that the costs of solar panels had dropped dramatically, and were eligible for state and federal tax credits, rebates, and renewable energy credits, we knew we needed to learn more.”
A powerful suite of incentives makes Massachusetts the sixth biggest solar market in the United States, with over 200MW of solar installed across the state, 129MW of which was installed in 2012 (http://www.seia.org/state-solar-policy/massachusetts). The 235 solar companies in the state employ over 4,500 workers. Massachusetts is on track to meet or exceed its goal of 400MW of installed solar by 2017.
Homeowners like the Buttaros are eligible for a 30% federal tax credit, an additional $1,000 state tax credit, a state rebate of up to $4,250, and participation in the state’s Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) program. SRECs are a market based program where homeowners are paid for the carbon-savings of their system (in addition to their actual kWh savings by offsetting grid electricity). Utilities in Massachusetts are required to purchase a minimum amount of solar power as part of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and the SREC program allows individual homeowners to sell their solar credits to utilities.
When all added up, the combination of strong incentives and excellent pricing on equipment means that homeowners like the Buttaros can realize as little as a 5 year ‘simple’ return on investment for their solar array.
To Lease or Not To Lease
The availability of strong incentives for solar has caused lenders to catch the solar bug as well. By purchasing the equipment and then leasing it to homeowners for no money down, solar lease companies can benefit from all the state and federal solar incentives while also charging the homeowner for the power produced by the solar panels. For homeowners that want solar and do not have the upfront capital, this may be a fine arrangement, but when you look at the numbers critically it is a far better financial deal long-term to own your equipment. Solar PV arrays are long-lived systems that will have positive financial effects for 40-50 years, paying for themselves many times over in their useful life. When a homeowner leases a solar array, they receive none of these benefits.
The Buttaros realized this financial paradox quickly when they started looking into solar again. “We contacted many solar energy installers looking for a system that would be right for us. It wasn’t until we met [ReVision’s NH Sales Manager] Steve Condon that we were sure we would get what we were looking for. As we proceeded with the process, Heather Fournier became the ‘go to girl’ helping us with all the necessary paper work. When installation day came, we got quite a show! The guys were great.”
To date, the Buttaro’s system has generated nearly 100% of the electric needs for their home. But solar power is more than just energy savings, according to Joe. “The solar installation does everything it was supposed to do and even makes our home look better. I wish we could’ve done this 30 years ago.”
Join the Buttaros and ReVision Energy on June 1st for a solar open house at their home, 8 Souther Lane, Salisbury, Massachusetts from 10am to 12pm.