Retired and Don’t Think You can Afford Solar? Think Again

By Ellie Goldberg
Advocate for healthy children, safe schools and sustainable communities. (

Wondering about installing a solar system? I’ve interviewed local homeowners to learn how and why they decided to go solar, how much it really cost and how much they are saving. How does it feel to be free of electric bills and rate hikes and join others to build a greener future?

The Mass Solar Loan Program provides a 30% subsidy for customers who are under 80% of State Median Income based on household size. For example, a couple would be eligible for the subsidy if their income is under $61,916. Almost all retirees qualify. Consult a tax advisor to see if you are eligible

“We moved to Massachusetts from Virginia about a year and a half ago. We had long been interested in solar energy but our home in Virginia was not suited to a solar installation. We were so excited to learn that our new home here in Massachusetts was very well suited for solar panels, and that with the Massachusetts Solar Loan program and its Income Based Loan Support component we could actually afford them. Without these loans and the other benefits of the Solarize Massachusetts program, we could not have afforded our solar panels. Now, they are installed and generating renewable energy.”

— M.C. Massachusetts Homeowner

SAMPLE PROJECT COSTS for a typical 5KW solar system for someone below 80% state median income:

$20,000 Cost of Panels

-$6,000 (Mass Solar Loan 30% grant)
-$6,000 (Federal Tax Credit)
-$1,000 (State Tax Credit)

That leaves $7,000 to finance under the Massachusetts Solar Loan Program for the full loan term. (There will be lag time between applying for incentive payments and tax credits and receiving the benefit of them, so plan accordingly.)

ADDITIONAL INCENTIVES. The program also provides a 1.5% interest rate buydown on the loan. For residents who quality as low income, the Massachusetts Solar Loan program reduces your annual interest rate 1.5% below the typical rate charged by your lender. Non-income qualified customers and customers qualifying as moderate income are eligible to seek market rate loans from participating lenders.

Residents who qualify as low or moderate income are eligible to have the Massachusetts Solar Loan Program pay a portion of their loan principal when the project is complete. An independent party will verify household income as part of the eligibility process.

THE FAST PAYBACK. Most eligible customers will find that the avoided electricity cost and production incentives through the SMART program (Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) — a long-term, sustainable solar incentive program to promote cost-effective solar development in the Commonwealth) will payback the cost in only 4 to 5 years. Then the solar system provides free electricity for the life of the panels — another 20 to 25 years. And, studies show that a solar system increases the resale value of your home.

Mass Solar Loan Program
Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s solar electricity page. Frequently asked questions, questions to ask your installer and typical pricing and equipment.
Updated Income Based Loan Support Thresholds

More information: Beverly Craig, LEED AP BD+C, Senior Project Manager, Low & Moderate Income Programs, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, 617–315–9370