Solar Project Returns Dividends for Massachusetts Homeowner
Solar Power | December 11, 2012 | Posted by Fred Greenhalgh
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Rising oil prices at his North Conway home prompted Kevin Cassidy to explore other options. The second home (primarily used in the winter) is well-insulated, but relies on oil for heat and hot water. So Kevin got in touch with ReVision Energy’s Dan Clapp, who took a look at the home to see what options made the most sense.
“Dan came out with his dog Bella Bluebird and surveyed the house. He asked me a bunch of questions about utility bills and took all the solar measurements,” Kevin says, “He even climbed up on the roof with a solar pathfinder to do a solar energy survey. What we discovered is that due to shading issues solar was not a great fit for the home in North Conway, but then we got to talking about our primary home in Amesbury, Massachusetts. After talking with Dan I discovered our Amesbury home offered a better opportunity to save on power bills and reduce our fossil electricity consumption.”
What a Difference a State Makes
While a 30% federal tax credit is available anywhere in the U.S. for solar installations, state rebate programs vary quite a lot. Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts all have state rebate programs (up to $2,000, $3,750, and $4,250 respectively), but adding to the mix in Massachusetts are state SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Certificates) which offer an additional, market-based incentive worth roughly ~$0.25 per kWh generated (about double the value of the average kWh saved on an electric utility bill).
The SREC program, which exists because utilities are required to purchase a certain amount of solar power to meet their Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requirements, means that a solar investment pays for itself very quickly in Massachusetts – as little as 5-7 years (compared to ~10 years in Maine and New Hampshire). This has lead to massive growth in the solar industry, with over 27,000 KW of solar installed by mid 2012, putting Massachusetts in the top 10 states for solar in the U.S.
Another result of this solar boom is that national companies which offer solar leasing have invested heavily in Massachusetts, which has both good and bad effects. The good? Many homeowners can benefit from a 0-down lease, which offers a solar installation for no upfront cost, but paid for monthly for a bit less than it costs for their current power bill. The bad? Over the course of 20 years, those leases offer a much better deal for the solar company than the homeowner, as all of the state and federal incentives, electricity generation, and SREC benefits all go to the solar company instead of to the homeowner.
As Kevin started looking around, it quickly became clear that system ownership offered by ReVision was a significantly better deal than a solar lease. “I was surprised to find out that two of the national installers were only interested in leasing a system,” Kevin says, “Another local company pressed us to lease at first but when I insisted that I only wanted to purchase because I feel purchasing is a better investment they sent me a proposal. However, after considering the other options and doing some additional online research I found that ReVision had offered us a very fair proposal. Because of the deal we received from ReVision and the feedback I had seen on their web page, we felt good with the proposal and decided to move forward.”
Boots on the Roof
Before the panels were ready to go up, Kevin needed to complete some other roofing projects such as moving a vent stack and re-roofing the south-facing side so that the roof system will be maintenance free for 30+ years. Then came the paperwork.
“We needed to get approval from the Mass CEC, a typical slow-moving government agency. The approval process dragged on for 6 weeks as we got them all of the data required. [Exeter Office Manager] Heather was instrumental in pushing this forward and keeping us up to date on the status. The install was actually the easiest part of the process. Chris, Chris, and Bill were very professional and extremely hard working and took the time to answer all of my questions and explain the fine details to me while they worked. The install took 3 days and could have probably been only 2 if I left them alone!”
Now that the system’s installed, Kevin is happy knowing that he is doing his part to curb climate change and saving money at the same time. A handy iPhone app lets him see his Solectria inverter’s system production in real time, including historic data and overall environmental footprint.
“Nothing beats the pleasure of looking at my meter and seeing it spin backwards,” Kevin says, “ReVision has been a great company to work with and I’m proud to actually own the source of my solar electric production. I look forward to decades of free electricity from the sun!”