A maze of options and incentives, going solar can be confusing!
Our in-house Design Associate, Michele Brooks, and her husband Chris, recently began exploring the options for installing a solar PV (photovoltaic) power system on the roof of their family home in Magnolia, Massachusetts. Here’s what they have learned about going solar in our neck of the woods.
WHAT WERE YOUR MOTIVATIONS FOR GOING SOLAR?
The positive impact on the environment was, of course, an important factor. However, the initial motivation was to reduce our extremely high electric bill. Also, since the Federal Tax credit, currently at 30%, will begin a gradual step down in credit value at the end of 2019, the timing was right. For Massachusetts residents tax credits are offered at a $1000 maximum.
HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHETHER TO LEASE OR BUY?
We originally planned to lease the panels over the span of 20 years but after learning that we would still pay a utility bill and a bill from the solar company at potentially an annual 2.9% payment increase, we decided to purchase instead.
Among other concerns, leasing the panels can negatively impact selling your home down the road. You can transfer the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to a new homeowner as long as the person meets the companies credit requirements. If the buyer defaults before there is a signed transfer agreement between all parties, then the seller is responsible for their default!
An added benefit for owning the solar panels is that there are rebates, tax & renewable energy credits and incentives, plus SREC*► income for which only the owners of the panels are eligible.
As far as reducing your utility bills, this can be accomplished with Net Metering**► which can be taken advantage of by the owner of the solar panels. Leasing contracts clearly state that all credits now and in the future benefit the Solar Company only.
PURCHASING & INSTALLATION – HOW DOES IT ALL WORK?
We interviewed three solar companies. All were turnkey operations – they retail and design the system as well as pull the local permits and organize the installation of the panels. A few of the solar companies offered financing. We chose instead to open a home equity line, with a better percentage rate which we plan to pay down with our future estimated tax credits.
What to Expect from a Solar Co.
• Evaluation of your roof by a field technician to determine if repairs should first be made
• Calculation of the quantity/type of panels that will fit on your roof
• Installation of the 20-25 year panels
• Maintenance of the panels during the warranty period
*SERC (Solar Renewable Energy Credits)
This mechanism allows the utility companies to pay their customers to produce clean energy that they would otherwise have to produce. In turn, the power providers can show that they have directly or indirectly generated the percentage of clean energy federally required of them.
Net Metering allows residential customers who generate electricity from solar power to feed electricity they do not use back into the grid essentially causing the electric meter to run counterclockwise or backward. The electric company is required to pay you retail price for that electricity.
Thinking of going solar?
A STEP-BY-STEP guide
• Incentives – explore your options, from local and federal agencies to regional power providers
• Solar PV Installers – ask for evaluations to help determine your choices
• Lease or Buy – learn the pros and cons of each and research your loan options
• Calculate the Cost Benefits – decide what makes the most financial sense in your situation
Find Out Even More
SITES WE LIKE:
• Works to connect the millions of Americans shopping for solar, to the thousands of solar providers
• Boston-based firm with a national reach
• Initial funding for EnergySage from the SunShot Initiative through Department of Energy (DOE)
• Free to consumers
• EnergySage is paid a small fee by the pre-screened solar contractors with the winning bids
(Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency )
• Funded in part by (DOE)
• An extensive database, sortable by State
• Use the advanced filter to hone in on your particular options