Assessing Residential Solar Energy Incentives & Costs

As a summer intern with Green Newton, I interviewed Craig Forman, the leader of Newton Goes Solar, to learn about residential solar energy incentives and costs. I hope you will benefit from reading this excerpt from my interview.

What are incentives for residents to go solar through Newton Goes Solar?

Newton Goes Solar provides free information, solar coaches and competitive pricing, and we all benefit because each solar installation equals taking a car off the road as long as you have the system. For the purchase of each residential installation, there are substantial financial savings. What’s more, a donation is made to Green Newton for every installation, which we use to give back to the community.

What are the homeowners’ short-term and long-term costs of going solar?

Our program has two options – a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and a purchase option – the cost depends on which one you choose. With a PPA, you simply sign a contract with a company that installs the system for free in exchange for a 20-year agreement to buy electricity from them at around a 20% discount. You save money each month with no out-of-pocket cost. If you purchase a system, there’s an upfront cost, but you receive 30% back in federal tax credits and $1,000 back from the state. For a typical $30,000 system, a $10,000 credit will come back on your taxes, lowering the cost to $20,000. Plus, for 10 years you can be in the state Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) program, which lets you earn and sell SRECs. A typical house generates $1,500 a year in SREC credits over 10 years, totaling $15,000. If you own a system, all electricity produced is free, and if more electricity is produced than used, you could even see a negative bill. That’s because Massachusetts has net metering, which means you get paid the retail price for excess electricity you’re providing to the utility company.

Will I still lose electricity in a power outage?

Yes. Systems will shut off during power outages for safety reasons and when power is restored, the system will automatically restart. If you haven’t already investigated the solar potential of your home, please request your free home assessment by visiting our web page at NewtonGoesSolar.org or calling 617-614-7892.

by Sophia Zhou, Green Newton summer intern from Newton North High School