Information on Solar PV for Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard
Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are quickly becoming an affordable way to offset electric costs. While Cape Light Compact (CLC) does not currently offer incentives or rebates on solar PV, we want to help inform our customers about the various options and financial incentives available for solar PV systems. The information below is meant to help you make an informed decision on whether solar PV is right for you.
Major Considerations for installing solar
How much electricity do you use on an annual basis?
A correctly sized solar PV system will produce enough electricity to meet your usage on an annual basis, while not consistently overproducing. You can see what your current electricity usage is using the Eversource Green Button. Before you install solar, you’ll want to make sure you’re using as little electricity as possible so that you do not need to pay more for a larger solar PV system. An easy way to do this is to take the easy, low-cost step of reducing your usage through an energy assessment by CLC.
Finally, don't forget to account for planned electricity usage increases, such as installing heat pumps or an electric vehicle charging station.
What is the age and condition of your roof?
Solar panels typically last 20-25 years, so you will want to make sure your roof is less than 10 years old so that you don't have to pay to uninstall and reinstall panels to replace your roof a few years after installing your PV system. Solar panels can help preserve asphalt roofs, but may cause moisture issues with cedar shake roofs – talk to your PV installer about ways to mitigate issues with cedar roofs.
A southern exposure is generally the best place for PV panels, but you don't need a perfect roof orientation for a PV system to pay itself off - east or west is OK too. However, generally, north-facing panels won't produce enough to pay off in a reasonable time frame. You should also consider if you're willing to trim or cut down trees if they cause shading.
Outright ownership can increase the value of your home. If you plan on moving soon you may want to be careful about installing solar with a long-term lease or power purchase agreement (PPA), as you may be required to find a buyer willing to take over the PV system lease, depending on your contract.
Are you considering adding a battery during your solar installation?
If you are planning to add a battery system to your solar installation be sure to check out the Compact's ConnectedSolutions program. This program allows the Compact to discharge your battery into the grid during periods of peak electric consumption in exchange for a yearly incentive. Customers who enroll in the program are eligible to use the zero interest Mass Save Heat Loan to finance the battery portion of their installation.
Financial Incentives for Solar
Net metering allows you to only pay your utility for the net amount of electricity you use in a month (if you use more than your PV system produces), and requires the utility to issue you a credit on your electric bill for any net excess electricity your system produces over the course of a month (if your PV system produces more than you use). This means that, the more electricity you generate at home with your PV system, the less you have to pay for from the grid. On a monthly basis, you will either receive bill credits (called “net metering credits” (NMCs)) near the retail rate for any net electricity exports or be billed for the difference between your usage and your solar production. Your NMCs can accrue on your utility account from one month to the next, which can help zero out your bill on an annual basis despite seasonal production and usage variation. These credits are set at the approximate retail rate of electricity, but don’t match up exactly. Keep in mind though that this won't offset things like fixed charges, some line item charges, or third-party supply rates. You can assign all or a % portion of your NMCs to another account within the southeastern Eversource territory if you choose to via a Schedule Z form from the utility, which you can find here.
Net metering works separately from other incentives, such as SMART. Remember, Eversource will generally not cash out your accrued NMCs, so don’t oversize your system!
Find more information at these links:
The SMART (Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target) program is a tariff-based program designed by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), approved by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), and administered by the investor-owned electric utilities. The program is designed to compensate PV system owners for the value of the clean, renewable energy their systems provide, and to help make PV system ownership more affordable. Under this program, PV system owners receive a monthly check from the utility for the total amount of electricity produced by their PV system. The program includes various adders for low-income customers, addition of battery storage, etc.
Find out more about the SMART program at these links:
DOER's site with information about SMART - Features calculators to determine SMART value
SMART Program Page and Portal - See program updates and current incentive blocks
State & Federal Tax Incentives (only applicable if you own your system)
MA State Tax Credit: 15% of gross system cost, capped at $1,000, for primary residence only.
Federal Investment Tax Credit: The solar investment tax credit (ITC), now referred to as the Residential Clean Energy Credit, is a tax credit equal to 30% of the total cost of your PV system. This allows homeowners and businesses to apply 30% of the cost of their PV system as a credit when they file their federal taxes. The solar ITC will last for ten years, until 2033, when it drops to 26%. The ITC only applies if you buy your system outright (as opposed to signing a lease). The tax credit rolls over as long as the ITC is in effect meaning that you do not have to have sufficient tax liability to apply the full amount of the credit in one year.
Solar Financing models
Direct ownership: Cash purchase (with or without financing)
This option provides the greatest benefits and is the most cost-effective option, but requires cash on hand or a financing. In this instance, the homeowner or system owner keeps all the benefits, including all electricity produced, tax credits, and SMART incentive payouts. The panels are your asset and can add to value of your home until near the end of system life. Since you own the panels, you are generally responsible for any and all system maintenance not covered by applicable system component warranties.
Third-party ownership: Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)
In this model, a third-party owns the system on your roof and sells you the electricity produced by the system at an agreed-upon per-kWh price. The financial benefit is the difference between the PPA price and the retail value of electricity (or the NMC value). Although there is little or no upfront cost or self-financing needed, you will generally need strong credit. One potential advantage of this arrangement is that, if you have little or no tax liability, the system owner is able to monetize ITC savings and pass some of those savings through to you via the PPA price. Generally, the electricity rate is locked in for the term of contract (but watch for price escalators!). Maintenance is usually provided for in contract but be sure to check. Some PPAs can include a buyout provision at end of term. Keep in mind that a PPA can be a liability if you sell your home - make sure you understand what happens if you need to move. Always read the PPA contract carefully!
Third-party ownership: Solar Lease Agreement
This model is similar to the PPA arrangement and generally offers the same advantages and disadvantages but is structured slightly differently. Under this model, rather than paying a per-kWh rate for the electricity the system on your home produces, you pay a flat monthly rate regardless of the amount the PV system produces that month. Under this arrangement, you have more exposure to production fluctuation and system downtime, so make sure the contract addresses these issues and offers a minimum production guarantee that provides greater value than the amount you’ll be required to pay on an annual basis.
Want to support solar but can't install it on your home?
If your home just isn’t right for solar or it’s not an option financially, there are still ways to support renewable energy development.
Community solar projects are large solar PV projects (like a solar farm) where the net metering credits produced by the project can be purchased by individual customers. You can enter into a community solar off-taking agreement with a developer to purchase NMCs produced by the project. These off-taking agreements are purely a financial transaction (so are different than buying renewable energy through a supplier) but do help financially support renewable energy by allowing the project developer to secure financing. These NMCs are applied to your utility bill to reduce your amount due, but you will also receive a separate bill from the developer. The financial benefit is the difference between the amount of credits you receive and what you pay to the developer. Generally, financial savings are 20% or less. Read the contract carefully! Often, they are long-term, and may include price escalators and early cancellation penalties.
Renewable power supply
You can choose a third-party power supplier to provide the electricity delivered to your home by the utility company. Some third-party suppliers offer renewable energy content above what is mandated by the state. Make sure you understand contract terms and conditions including contract length and cancellation fees when entering into a supply contract.
CLC offers additional renewable content as part of standard supply options, and you can opt-up with CLC Local Green (with no contract). Our current standard power supply product matches customers’ annual usage with 100% Renewable Energy Certificates. CLC Local Green goes a step beyond, matching customers’ usage with either 50 or 100% MA Class 1 Recs, depending on which program you elect. This can be done regardless of if you have solar on your roof or are participating in a community solar project.
Massachusetts Residential Guide to Solar Electricity - This guide from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center offers detailed information about residential solar PV.
Eversource Green Button - Allows you to see what your annual usage is.
EnergySage - Good source of general information about solar. You can use tool to get quotes from participating installation companies or use their Calculators to help determine savings and ideal PV system size.
Cape Cod Commission - Solar Screening Tool - This tool, developed by the Cape Cod Commission, can help determine sites appropriate for large scale solar installations, that will limit regional impacts.