Brunswick, Maine - Solar Hot Water and Solar Power

A recent 4.8kw grid tied photovoltaic solar array installed in tandem with a solar hot water system in Brunswick, Maine.

Efficiency Maine has announced changes to the Maine solar rebate program – new program guidelines, forms, requirements, and qualifications for participation – which go into effect tomorrow, Wednesday April 11th 2012.

The program is an effort by the Trust to re-envision the program in light of the Maine Legislature’s failure to renew the Solar/Wind Law and Solar State Certification program that was funded by an electronic ratepayer system benefit charge (SBC). The revised solar rebate programs establish parameters for ensuring the remaining SBC funds collected prior to December 2010 go towards cost-effective renewable energy installations under a new set of guidelines.

The changes to the rebate program are significant – after April 11th, Maine’s solar incentive program includes new rebate amounts and calculations, new criteria for determing cost effectiveness, and new criteria for solar qualifications.

What Does This Mean for Me?

The most obvious change for solar buyers is the change in actual rebate amounts. The rebate amount calculations are now more complicated, as they use a formula of $500 for each 1,000 kWh (kilowatt hours) of modeled production of a system in its first year, with a cap of $2,000.

Let’s walk through some examples.

Solar Photovoltaic (Solar Electricity)

The prior rebate as $1/watt up to $2,000. Now, the cap remains the same for residential projects, and commercial entities can get up to $4,000. The exact amount is determined by a modeled generated by PVWatts.

PVWatts is a calculator built by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that creates hour-by-hour performance simulations for solar electric arrays with estimated monthly and annual energy production.

PVWatts estimates that 1kw of solar in an unshaded location in Maine will produce 1,280 kWh of solar electricity in a given year – this is a fairly conservative estimate that we can use for the rebate application.

Due to the effect of system output, smaller solar electric systems get a slightly smaller rebate. Note, however, that an Energy Audit is no longer required so you also benefit by keeping about $500 more of the rebate than before:

System SizePredicted Output (kWh/yr)Old RebateNew Rebate

Once you factor in the 30% federal tax credits, solar electric systems in Maine pay for themselves in 10-12 years.

Installed System CostAnnual Energy SavingsTotal IncentivesNet InvestmentReturn on Investment
$9,600$512.00$4,480.00$5,120.0010 yrs
$11,520$589.82$5,299.20$6,220.8010 1/2 yrs
$15,360$786.43$6,608.00$8,752.0011 yrs
$23,920$1,224.70$9,176.00$14,744.0012 yrs

Solar Hot Water (Solar Thermal)

The great news is that most solar hot water projects will be eligible for a higher rebate under the new program. Projects that used to be eligible for $1,000 are eligible for up to a $2,000 based on their annual output (as modeled by Polysun):

System SizePredicted Output (kWh/yr)Old RebateNew Rebate
Apricus AP40 (60G/day)3,711$1,000$1,855
2 Wagner Euro C-20s (60g/day)3,623$1,000$1,812
Apricus AP60 (80g/day)5,199$1,000$2,000
3 Wagner Euro C-20s (80g/day)5,112$1,000$2,000
Wagner Euros are Flat Plate Collectors, Apricus are evacuated tube collectors. Differences explained on our solar hot water page.

What Else Has Changed?

In addition to the production-driven rebate amounts, the new solar incentive program puts new standards in place for solar installers in Maine. Specifically, installers must:

  • Have NABCEP certification for solar thermal and solar photovoltaic. ReVision Energy currently has the most in-house NABCEP certified staff of any solar company in Northern New England. See why this matters.
  • Become a Registered Vendor with Efficiency Maine. ReVision Energy already is a Registered Vendor through our participation with PACE.
  • Prove systems to be “cost effective” – that is, the net investment must be less than the estimate 20-yr energy costs of the existing system. We typically see a 6-7 year payback for our solar thermal systems, and as demonstrated above solar photovoltaic is around 10-12 years.

Got Sun?

Efficiency Maine has a bit of a tightrope to walk trying to please both stakeholders in the renewable energy industry and skeptics in Maine government, while also providing a valuable service to Maine residents. The new program does a good job of raising the bar for installers, but not unreasonably, while putting safeguards in to ensure that renewable energy systems are cost-effective investments for Maine people.

As always, ReVision Energy offers our customers a full-service experience, which includes navigating the now-much-more-complicated Maine solar rebate process and making an investment with clean solar energy as easy as possible for you.  Contact us for any questions about the new changes to Maine’s solar rebates.