Massachusetts has proven itself to be a solar leader for years. One could argue the Commonwealth’s policies and practices have influenced other states because the country is rapidly working towards a similar goal: to become a world leader in renewable energy generation. Three years ago the nation reached one million solar installations, but in May, the U.S. passed the two million installation mark. The installations produce enough electricity to power over 12 million homes.
Nearly half of the solar electricity generated was produced in California. Other solar leaders included Arizona, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Of the 50 states, Massachusetts was ranked 7th for solar energy production. From 2010 to 2018, the state produced 2,465 megawatts of solar energy, enough energy to power 416,697 homes.
Converting to solar energy is a movement, and people are beginning to notice what it can do for themselves and their communities. About 1% of the world’s total energy production stems from solar power, but in the U.S. alone, solar power generates 1.6% of the country’s total energy production. Across the country, over 90 cities, 10 counties, and two states have established 100% clean energy goals, incorporating all forms of renewable energy – solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower. Six cities in the U.S. — Aspen, Burlington, Georgetown, Greensburg, Rockport, and Kodiak Island — have already reached their goals.
The industry’s growth comes from the falling cost of solar energy and the paybacks or incentives that homeowners and business owners receive. Some solar system owners use their credits as an additional source of income. Depending on your location and the installer you select for your PV system, those who invest in solar tend to get a quick return on investment (ROI). The average solar power system has a lifetime of 25-30 years, while high-efficiency systems often produce significant energy after 40 years. Residential ROI’s can take as little as five to seven years.
Solar growth and paybacks
Since the passage of the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) in 2006, solar has experienced an average annual growth rate of 50%. It rewards solar electric homeowners a 30% deductible from federal income taxes, but the ITC is going away. Here are multiple ways solar investors save money with solar energy:
Massachusetts awards PV owners with a 30% tax credit of the total project cost from federal income taxes. After installing your solar system, you’ll receive a credit when you file your income taxes the following year. However, the 30% Investment Tax Credit is going away at the end of 2019, so now is the best time to go solar to maximize your investment.
Net metering is a billing arrangement that measures how much energy you pull into your home, as well as how much excess energy you send back into the grid. Net metering policies vary from state to state. Some states offer no net metering at all. In Massachusetts, if you are a National Grid, Eversource, or Unitil customer, you qualify to net-meter. Some homeowners use the money to pay other household bills, and some use the credited kWh on days their home isn’t producing enough energy to help zero out their bill throughout the year.
The Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program is an incentive program that offers a fixed compensation rate for the energy your solar system produces so that the lifetime revenue for your solar energy will be known from the start. Additionally, SMART offers incentives for battery storage. Combined with the 30% federal tax credit, the additional incentive for installing a battery with your solar system helps pay for a significant portion of the battery. And to top it off, the state provides a personal tax credit of 15% of your total system cost, up to $1,000, when a Massachusetts resident purchases a solar system.
In additional to state incentive programs, some states grant tax credits to help ratepayers switch to solar. Massachusetts offers residents a tax credit of 15% of their system cost $1,000, whichever is less. This decreases the initial cost associated with your solar system installation.
A 40-year triumph delayed
So why did the feat take 40 years to accomplish? Besides the years filled with common misconceptions and threats to pricing, analysts say that the milestone was late due to the drop in Tesla’s, or SolarCity’s, share – 650 megawatts in 2016 to 352 megawatts in 2017. CEO Elon Musk promised to create low-profile solar roof tiles at production volume by mid 2019. Tesla began accepting $1,000 deposits for solar tiles in May 2017, but the company wasn’t even close to mass production at that point.
Musk said that ongoing delays were due to “the need for more testing.” But analysts drew their attention towards how Tesla dramatically changed their solar sales strategy in the years succeeding their merger with SolarCity. Musk invested $500 million of Tesla’s stocks into solar. But in 2018, Musk closed about a dozen SolarCity residential solar businesses, cut 9% of his workforce, dropped the door-to-door sales channel, and terminated partnerships with big-name retail companies like Home Depot. Tesla’s residential solar program continued to decline, dropping 38% in residential installations.
The company hoped to increase solar sales by cross-selling Tesla vehicles with residential solar and battery products. In April, Tesla was working on “version three” of the prototype, but hasn’t yet released a practical product for New England property owners. Now, Tesla is focusing on getting sales online or in Tesla galleries, showcases, and information centers. For people who do not need a new roof and want to install solar, traditional solar systems are definitely more accessible and come with a quicker return on investment than current solar tile technology.
The delay could have also stemmed from some of the largest rooftop solar installers in the United States, such as Vivint Solar, who often give the solar industry a sour taste. Across the Boston area homeowners are becoming increasingly frustrated with failing Vivint solar systems and gruesome customer service. Local customer reviews reported them as “terrible,” “bogus,” and that Vivint even “makes the cable companies look great.”
A customer from Plymouth, MA had his solar panels installed by Vivint in July 2018. Nearly a year later and he’s still waiting for the system to work. Another customer had a similar problem in Dighton, MA. Six months after she signed a contract with Vivint she commented, “I still don’t have them on. All this while neighbors around me, with other companies, had theirs installed after me and are receiving solar benefits. After their refusal to remove them from my home I have no choice but to take legal action.” Vivint’s 20-year contract keeps customers locked in while paying more for a sloppy solar experience. Lawsuits have been filed in New Mexico, Nevada, and California.
But data analysts indicate that the solar boom isn’t over yet. The economics for solar energy and solar storage remain dominant. Electric rates will rise alongside inflation, which means that ratepayers will be spending way too much on borrowed electricity. The average Massachusetts’s homeowner spends approximately tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars on electricity over 20 or 25 years. But homeowners who use solar energy pay a mere fraction of that before incentives in the same duration of time.
It’s easy to see how switching to solar can generate massive savings for you in the long-term. Despite the government’s eventual removal of the Solar ITC, the solar industry is projected to reach three million installations by 2021, and four million by 2023.
Our Cleaner. Smarter. Solution.
During the industry’s conquest towards two million solar installations, RevoluSun began its push in the solar movement. Massachusetts has the fifth highest electricity rates in the country, but solar provides substantial energy savings while contributing to a fast-growing green economy.
We started our journey in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 2006 and expanded to Massachusetts in 2012. By 2015, our company grew significantly and project installations increased by 21%. By 2016, we experienced company growth yet again, completing 74% more projects than the previous year. Today, RevoluSun has completed more than 1,200 solar installations throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Our mission is to fuel homes and businesses with reliable and sustainable power. We exceed industry standards with our full-service, locally operated team of professionals. We focus on providing customized design for aesthetics while supplying the highest efficiency solar products in the world. Our customers equate our name with quality installations, superior products, and excellent customer care. RevoluSun is committed to advance the solar industry and take care of your energy needs. Make sure when you go solar that you’re choosing the right company.
Without a doubt, the solar industry is growing. But with the reduction or elimination of the Solar ITC, you should consider going solar now to receive maximum benefits. Click here to get a comprehensive, no-cost in-home assessment to learn about how much money solar can save you.