Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is Solarize Medfield?
Solarize Medfield is a part of Solarize Mass, a joint initiative of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and the Green Communities Division of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER). The program is designed to promote the widespread adoption of small-scale solar electricity within a community.
On March 17, 2016 MassCEC announced that Medfield had been selected to participate in the 2016 program. Solarize Medfield uses community outreach and group purchasing to reduce the installation costs of solar electricity.
Through the program, Medfield residents have access to solar education events, low or $0 down power purchase agreement or lease options, and competitive tiered pricing. With tiered pricing, as more home and business owners sign up to go solar, the price reduces for everyone! It all adds up to a unique opportunity for residents to help make Medfield greener while saving money at the same time. New England Clean Energy was chosen as Medfield' s Preferred Vendor in June through a competitive bidding process and the enrollment period is from July through December 2016 (specific end date TBD).
2. Why participate?
Solar is a clean, renewable source of energy that promotes American job growth, supports domestic energy independence and lowers our Greenhouse Gas emissions by replacing electricity generated by coal or gas. In most situations, the simplicity and proximity of solar electric power, coupled with current financial incentives, makes it less expensive than utility power. Solar power is reliable, noiseless, safe, and adds value to your property without increasing your property taxes.
The Solarize Medfield program is offering significant savings over current market prices for solar electricity by using our Preferred Installer - New England Clean Energy. In addition to significantly saving money on your utility bill you will be helping your community’s local economy, promoting the use of sustainable energy and helping the planet reduce its overall carbon footprint!
3. Why is this a good time to go solar?
Installing solar electricity for your home or business has never been more cost-effective than it is today, and solar electricity will save you money compared to utility power. The incentives and rebates that are currently available from the State of Massachusetts, along with the federal and state tax credits offered, make this a particularly attractive time for solar. With group purchasing, the Solarize Medfield program adds another incentive, which can lower installation costs further. According to the MassCEC, there are currently more than 36,000 solar systems installed in the Commonwealth.
4. What are the state and federal incentives available for solar electricity?
Right now there are several state and federal incentives available, making solar electricity very attractive.
Incentives at installation:
State incentives – The Mass Solar Loan Program reduces your annual interest rate 3% below the typical rate charged by your lender. This interest rate buy down is available to all Massachusetts residential solar system owners regardless of income. The loans range from $3,000 to $35,000 with standard 10-year repayment terms and $500 maximum closing costs. As of December 16, 2015, the maximum interest rate for a Mass Solar Loan is 3.25%.
To qualify, solar PV systems must be connected to the electricity distribution grid, and homes must have had a residential energy audit within the past 5 years, or have one scheduled at the time of loan closing. You can schedule a home energy assessment at www.MassSave.com or by phone at 866-527-7283.
Eligible consumers with annual household incomes below $80,241 may qualify for a reduced loan principal once the project is complete.
Depending on your credit score, your lender may also be eligible for additional incentives to help you go solar.
State income tax credit of 15% of the installed cost, up to a maximum of $1,000. Residential solar electric systems are exempt from state sales tax.
Under Massachusetts law, solar panels are exempt from local property taxes for 20 years after they are installed.
Federal incentives – You get 30% of the initial cost as a credit against your federal income tax for the year you install the system. Currently you can carry forward unused credits for a limited period of time.
You may want to consult a tax professional about how these incentives apply in your situation.
Ongoing state incentives:
With Net Metering, you become a supplier of electricity to the grid whenever your panels generate more electricity than you use. Each month, Eversource provides a credit on your bill for that electricity, lowering your electric bill. Through net metering, you are receiving the benefit of every kilowatt-hour of electricity your panels generate. If you use the electricity in your home, you save by not paying Eversource for that electricity. If you don’t use the electricity when it’s generated, Eversource will apply it to future months when you use more electricity then you generate from your Solar panels. If you find your Solar panels regularly produce a credit of electricity on your utility bill there are some options for you to either donate or give these credits of electricity away.
Solar Renewable Energy Credits are the renewable energy attributes of the electricity your system generates. For the first ten years your solar electric system is in operation, for every 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) you generate, you create one solar renewable energy certificate (SREC), which you can sell to Massachusetts utilities and competitive electricity providers. You get credit for every kilowatt-hour, even though you may consume some, or all, of it.
Prices are market-based, but may range from about $200-285 apiece (after commission). Transactions are typically handled by an SREC broker (or “aggregator).
5. Do I need to use the designated installer?
If you want to take advantage of the Solarize Medfield volume-pricing discount, you need to use the selected Installer. Of course you are free to get other bids from, and use, other solar electric installers. If that is the case, your project will not be eligible to participate in Solarize Mass, but all of the same state and federal incentives will be available to you (except for the volume pricing discount).
6. I got a phone call from a solar installer. Was that the official Solarize Medfield installer?
New England Clean Energy is the only installer for our program. Other installers may very well call you and try to sell you a system. They are not always clear about the fact that they are not the official installer. New England Clean Energy will not call you unless you have requested that they do, by contacting them directly or filling out the form on the Solarize Medfield website.
7. How can Solarize Medfield lower installation costs?
Solarize Medfield uses community outreach and group purchasing to reduce the installation costs of solar electricity. Specifically,
A community-led marketing and outreach campaign lowers the cost of doing business fo the selected installer. In other words, it lowers the cost of finding new customers.
By creating a large volume of business for a single installer in Medfield, the installer is able to provide volume discounts that increase as more people participate in the program.
If enough people participate in the program to reach the trigger points, the price will continue to drop for everyone in the program, including the early participants, so it will be important that we all spread the word and help sign up more people.
8. What are the requirements?
Eligible solar projects must:
Be located at residential, commercial, or other private property in Medfield.
Have sufficient solar exposure to participate - it is recommended to have at least 80% of the ideal to participate. Again, the best way to find out for sure is to sign up for a free, no obligation assessment.
For roof installations
The roof should be in good condition and be structurally able to accommodate the additional load of the solar panels. Your roof should have at lease 10 years of life left in it. If your roof shows noticeable deterioration, or needs additional structural support, these conditions will need to be addressed before installing solar panels. The installer will help you make this decision. While it is possible to replace a roof after solar panels are installed, it will be an added cost to the roof replacement cost. Most solar electric systems last around 30 years, so take that into account.
For ground mounted systems
If your roof is not suitable for solar panels, you may also consider a ground mounted solar electric system. It doesn’t have to be placed right next to your house, but rather can be situated in the sunniest spot on your property.
SolarizeMass Program Requirements
To receive the Solarize Medfield volume pricing, you need to commit to the program (sign a contract) by a date to be determined once a contract is signed with the Selected Vendor.
9. Before I go to the trouble of a home assessment, how can I tell if I have a good solar roof?
Clean Energy has a “video game” called Good Roof Bad Roof that tells you how to evaluate a roof for solar.
10. I’m not sure I like the look of panels on my home…
One of the choices offered by New England Clean Energy is all-black panels, which blend right into a dark roof. Even the regular panels tend to fade into most roofs. And of course many of us think they look beautiful anyway! To get an idea what panels look like on a Colonial home, or a gambrel roof, or even a historic home, visit New England Clean Energy’s searchable photo gallery showing some of the systems they’ve installed.
11. My best roof faces southwest (or southeast). Can I still participate?
Generally, yes. It could impact project economics, but it may be less than, for example, shading or whether the roof structure needs reinforcement. A combination of sub-optimal orientation and shading may make solar electricity no longer financially viable. However, there are no hard-and-fast rules for what is or is not feasible. The best way to find out is to sign up for a free, no obligation assessment.
12. I have some shade. Can I still participate?
Yes. Even if the shading on your house reduces your system’s output below 80% of ideal, you may still choose to participate, but the project will likely be less financially viable. Again, the best way to find out is to sign up for a free, no obligation assessment.
13. How much does it cost?
There are two options for participating in Solarize Medfield – you can purchase and therefore own the system or enter into a lease or Power Purchase Agreement. There are several tiers of pricing (see our Pricing tab), with the savings increasing for everyone as more contracts are signed.
14. What is a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)?
A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is when you allow a third party to put solar panels on your roof. You agree to purchase the solar power created on your roof from this third party at a certain agreed upon rate that may be lower than your current electric rate, typically for the next twenty years.
15. What is the difference between a PPA and a Lease?
PPA’s and leases work very similarly. The only real difference is with a PPA you are paying a specific kilowatt-hour rate for the amount of kilowatts the system produces. With a lease, you are leasing the equipment, which in turn creates the kilowatt-hours of electricity.
16. How can a lease or PPA system be offered for little or $0 down?
A third party owns the system on your roof and receives all rebates, tax credits, and SREC credits. You pay them at your agreed upon rate for the life of the agreement.
17. What if I move?
The SunPower panels lease is transferable to the next homeowner. Many people find it appealing to purchase a home that has reduced utility costs.
18. What happens at the end of the PPA term?
At the end of the agreement, generally 20 years, you’ll typically have 3 choices. 1) the panels will be removed at no cost to you. 2) You can purchase them at some mutually agreed upon price. 3) You can extend the life of the agreement.
19. Is it better to purchase a system or choose a PPA?
There is really no right or wrong answer to this question. Ultimately, it is what is best for each individual and their circumstances. Many people prefer to purchase the system, thus gaining the advantages of receiving SREC payments and tax credits, and potential home resale value. A PPA is generally better for people who don’t want to invest in the system up front. It is also a great option for people who do not have the tax liability to take advantage of the Federal (30%) and State (15% up to $1,000) tax credits. The third party will receive those and incorporate the incentives into the PPA offer. The solar installer will be able to help you decide which option is best for you.
20. When would I receive SREC payments?
If you purchase and own the system you will be eligible to earn solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) that can be sold – in addition to the money you save by using the electricity you produce. There will be a delay between electricity generation and payment for SRECs. SRECs are “minted” on the fifteenth day of the first month after the quarter in which they are generated. So if you finish generating 1 MWh in the second quarter (ending in June), they cannot be sold until October at the earliest. Your SREC broker or “aggregator” will handle the sale for you. If you choose to wait for the annual state-sponsored auction, it could be even longer. But once you start receiving payments, they should come at regular intervals.
21. What is the effect on my property value and taxes?
Imagine two identical homes next to one another, one with solar and one without. It is not hard to imagine that the house with solar would sell for more because it costs less to operate. An article in the New York Times describes a California study that found the premium paid for homes with solar electricity was roughly $5.50/watt, or about $17,000 (which was roughly the installation price of the panels, at the time). A follow-up study from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab described in this article found that among the California homes studied, the resale value increased about $5,900 for each kilowatt that the home’s solar array could generate. You can access the full study here. Although the experience of the California market may not apply exactly to the Medfield market, it does seem likely that the solar panels will add to a home’s value.
Although solar panels may affect the value of houses, they will not affect property taxes. Under Massachusetts law, solar panels are exempt from local property taxes for 20 years after they are installed.
22. What regular maintenance is required?
Your solar electric panels should be mostly maintenance free over their 25+ year life. You can hose down the panels once or twice a year, but since most panels are tilted, this is not really necessary, as Mother Nature does this for you with rain and snow. Removing snow is not recommended since you risk damaging the panels. It is better to lose a few days of production in the winter (when output is low anyway) than to damage the panels. In any event, snow slides off the panels much easier than the roof because the surface is smooth tempered glass and as soon as part of the panel is exposed to the sun, it starts to heat up and the snow melts off (so be careful what you place beneath your solar panels).
23. What if I have a backup generator?
If you have a backup generator, you can continue to use it as before. If you want to install a backup generator, you would do that as if there were no solar electricity. The solar electricity is wired separately into your electrical panel, and for safety reasons, is designed to automatically disconnect in the event of a power outage. When grid power is restored, the inverter will automatically reconnect and synchronize to the grid and your solar electricity will come back on.
24. Will my solar panels keep producing electricity during a power outage?
No. The solar electricity is wired separately into your electrical panel, and for safety reasons, is designed to automatically disconnect in the event of a power outage. When grid power is restored, the system will automatically reconnect and synchronize to the grid and your solar electricity will come back on.
25. What is the impact on my carbon footprint?
A 5 kW system should produce about 6,000 kWh of emissions-free electricity per year. This will reduce your annual CO2 emissions by about 4,800 lbs (based on the current New England fuel mix). This is equivalent to driving about 6,000 miles less, planting half an acre of deciduous trees, recycling 1,400 pounds of waste instead of throwing it out, or using 5 fewer barrels of oil.
26. How about the energy required to manufacture solar equipment?
According to information published in the magazine Solar Today in June 2012, a solar electric system in Massachusetts generates the amount of energy required to make and maintain it in 0.9 to 2 years. The energy life-cycle analysis was estimated by the Brookhaven National Laboratory.
27. Is solar really viable in New England?
Yes! Our available sun power here in New England is about 80% of the sunniest parts of the Southwestern US and is much greater than anywhere in Germany, one of the leading solar countries in the world. (Germany is about as sunny as Alaska!)
Well, if we’re only getting 80% of the sun here in New England, how can it be viable?
Economic viability is a function of the available sun power and local incentives. Massachusetts is one of the most “solar-friendly” states in terms of economic incentives in the form of rebates, tax credits, and net metering policies.
What about the cold?
Colder operating temperatures are actually better for PV! Although it may intuitively seem that the Arizona desert is ideal for PV, the intense heat decreases the efficiency of the modules. Cooler temperatures mean higher efficiency.
Will I still generate electricity on a cloudy day?
The electricity production will not be as high as on a sunny day, but your system will still generate electricity because there will still be some irradiance. Under a light overcast day, panels might produce about half as much as under full sun.
What happens with my solar array when it snows?
When it snows, the snow may cover the solar panels and affect the production of your system. However, in most cases enough sunlight will still be able to penetrate through to the modules, warming them and melting the layer of snow that is on them. Snow typically clears from your solar panels much sooner than other parts of the roof.
28. Do I have any other options if my roof isn’t good for solar?
As mentioned above, if you have enough open land you can consider a ground-mounted system
You can also install energy-efficient mini-split ductless heating and cooling systems through Solarize Medfield, which count toward the tiers and also save you money and help the planet
Sign up for an energy audit to improve your home’s energy efficiency by calling MassSave
Sign up for a community shared solar project like the ones offered by Nexamp and Relay Power.
29. Does it matter when in the program I sign up?
Everyone who signs up gets the final discount, no matter when in the program you sign up. So the first people to sign up, which will be at Tier 1, will still get the full discount of the final tier that we reach. But don’t wait. The sooner you sign up, the sooner your system will be installed and you can start saving and making money.