It is a difficult time to take on any more challenges other than COVID-19. An invisible tyrant has taken us over. But at the same time, and of equal if not greater threat, is climate change. We need to retreat to combat COVID-19 virus. In contrast, with climate change, we need to take action and reach out. Let’s do both. We’ve got this. While you are in your retreat, you can study and learn what we can do to stop further climate change. This is a summary view of what it takes to install solar on your home. More details are available at the link listed below.
One of the best steps you can take to stop further climate change is to reduce your use of fossil fuels. Installing solar panels is a great way to move from fossil to renewable energy. The decision to do this can be daunting, but following are some tips and a process to use when considering solar.
Most of the panels you see on rooftops are called photovoltaic (PV) cells, which produce electricity. They work well in Massachusetts, as indicated on the maps below. These generate electricity for your home and integrate back to the electrical grid to feed electricity back through an inverter. You can also employ a large battery to store power when there is no sun. These batteries can serve as an alternative to a generator.
To mount these, in New England your roof needs to face south at a 40- to 45-degree angle. This angle matches the curve of the Earth or the latitude in our area (Boston is 42 degrees latitude). The site should be free of shade for six hours a day. So, just like you want to face the warm sun when you go to the beach, these panels work best when they squarely face the sun. If you have a great deal of land you can also mount the panels on the ground, facing south at an angle.
One of the best ways you can identify vendors in our area is through the online solar marketplace from EnergySage (www.energysage.com). This program takes a look at your home’s site online to ascertain if you can accommodate an installation. Then, with your approval, they match pre-screened vendors with you. These vendors will provide solar quotes for you that calculate the financial cost and benefits of the installation of their products. The quotes give you a great deal of detail and can be printed in a report showing side-by-side vendor comparisons. You should have each vendor out to your site to confirm the site’s attributes and the details that go into a quote. You also get to know the vendor a little, which will also inform your decision.
All the while, EnergySage provides an adviser for you to talk with about your choices. Plus, they independently evaluate each solar panel’s specifications related to performance, quality, durability, and warranty. Based on these characteristics, they give each solar panel one of the following ratings: Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good, and Excellent.
There is a lot to consider financially. The initial cost of a system is offset in Massachusetts by a $1,000 tax credit. Plus, there is a 26 percent tax rebate incentive from the federal government. If a quote starts at $35,000, it will net at $24,900 after these incentives. Systems can be purchased or leased. If you purchase the system, you enjoy income from electricity that is sent back to the grid through the SMART program.
The SMART incentives establish a payment value at the time of system interconnection that remains constant over a 10- or 20-year period. This eliminates the uncertainty of the incentive value of prior SREC programs. Knowing the incentive value in advance makes it easier for solar customers to determine the cost and payoff time frame for their system. Solar systems rated 25 kW and above are eligible for the 20-year payout. At or below 25-kW solar systems are eligible for the 10-year payout.
For an average home you will not pay electric bills over the life of the PV array (10 to 15 years), saving some $51,000 in electric bills. Plus, it will produce approximately $7,500 through a SMART electricity program. Typically, with a purchase you are looking at a six-year payback, at which point you start earning money. This creates a 13-plus percent gain on your investment. That is if you buy panels outright. Alternatives are that you can take low-interest loans, or you can lease the panels. There are programs where you have no initial money out of pocket for loans or leases, which have different paybacks. All of these options are spelled out on the EnergySage quotes.
Some historical areas are now allowing the installation of solar. There is solar on the Old Kings Highway (Route 6A) now and in historical areas such as the village in Sandwich.
The Cape is very vulnerable to the impact of climate change. The more we can take action to stop further climate change, the better off we will all be. Let’s take action.
Ms. Holt is a building, energy management and solar expert with more than three decades of experience. She lives in Sandwich.