How to Use the Solar Calculator
The best way to learn about local rebates, your home’s energy potential, and your eventual return on investment is to use our ModSun Solar Cost Calculator (see above). Enter your home address in the box, then click Check My Roof. You’ll get an instant picture of your roof’s productivity, your average energy expenses, and installation costs in your area—whether you decide to buy or loan. We’ll also provide system size recommendations and information about rebates and incentives you may be eligible for. Just select More Info under each purchasing strategy to learn more, and then connect with a solar pro.
Purchasing Solar Panels in Boston, MA
With an average of 200 sunny days a year and the full support of the state as evidenced by favorable legislation and generous financial incentives, Boston is a great place to install a residential solar power system. Massachusetts was one of the first states in the nation to adopt a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). An RPS mandates that a certain percentage of a state’s energy is produced via renewable resources by a fixed date. Massachusetts has set an ambitious goal to have 15% of its energy come from renewable resources by 2020 with a 1% increase each year after 2020. While this energy can come from a number of renewable energy sources, there is a solar mandate that requires 1600 megawatts to be installed in the state by 2020.
Will My Solar Energy System Stand Up to Boston’s Severe Weather?
Yes. While Boston does receive substantially more rain with around 48 inches compared to the nation’s 37 inches average, your solar panels will still work in the rain. In fact, the abundance of rain in Boston may make your panels more efficient because the rain will keep them clean so that they can more easily absorb the sun’s rays.
In terms of winter, Boston averages 48 inches of snowfall a year. If that snowfall is light, you should have no problem with your panels. The bright white snow on your roof and the ground can actually make your system work at a higher capacity as it reflects the sun’s UV rays. If your panels become completely covered with snow though, they will stop working. In that case, your system will switch back to your traditional energy source from your local utility. If it doesn’t look like the snow is going to melt for some time, you may want to get a roof rake to remove the snow from your panels to get them working again and to relieve the panels of the weight of snow and ice. Use caution though as it can be dangerous to work on your roof during slick conditions.
Boston also experiences 103 partly cloudy days a year, but not to worry. Studies show that even long periods of cloudy weather only diminish the effectiveness of your system by 5-10 percent, so the effect will be nominal.
What Financial Incentives Exist For Residential Solar in Boston?
There is a 30 percent federal tax credit for homeowners that install a solar electric or solar water heating system in their home. This credit is applied toward any tax liability. If the credit exceeds your liability for the year, it can be carried over to the next tax year. In addition to the federal tax credit, the state of Massachusetts offers some great incentives that can make your new solar power system very budget friendly, including:
Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit: In Massachusetts, every Homeowner that purchases a solar electric system qualifies for a 15 percent state tax credit (up to $1,000) to use as a write-off against what is owed. If the credit amount is greater than a resident’s income tax liability, the excess credit amount may be carried forward to the next tax year for up to three years. Eligible technologies include solar water and space heating, and photovoltaics (PV). The original use of the system must begin with the taxpayer, and the system should “reasonably be expected to remain in operation for at least five years.”
The credit is available to any owner or tenant of residential property. For a newly constructed home, the credit is available to the original owner/occupant. Joint owners of a residential property shall share any credit available to the property under this subsection in the same proportion as their ownership interest.
Property Tax Exemption: It’s reasonable to expect your property value to increase after the installation of a solar power system. The general rule of thumb is that for each $1 in energy savings, your home value increases $20. Massachusetts law provides that solar energy systems used as a primary or auxiliary power system for the purpose of heating or otherwise supplying the energy needs of taxable property are exempt from local property tax for a 20 year period. This incentive applies only to the value added to a property by an eligible system. It does not constitute an exemption for the full amount of the property tax bill.
Renewable Energy Equipment Sales Tax Exemption: Massachusetts law exempts from the state’s sales tax “equipment directly relating to any solar, wind powered; or heat pump system, which is being utilized as a primary or auxiliary power system for the purpose of heating or otherwise supplying the energy needs of an individual’s principal residence in the commonwealth.” Massachusetts Tax Form ST-12 is available on the Massachusetts Department of Revenue web site. The form may be completed and presented to the vendor at the time of purchase.
Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) Program: SRECs are certificates earned by producing clean, renewable energy. As the homeowner, you can earn an average of $150-$270 for every $1,000 kWh generated. SRECs guarantee that income is paid out every quarter for 10 years.
Net Metering: Net metering is a system in which solar panels or other renewable energy generators are connected to a public utility power grid and surplus power is transferred onto the grid, allowing customers to offset the cost of power drawn from the utility. This is especially useful in Boston where you may produce excess energy throughout the summer that you can then use (in the form of credits from your utility company) during the winter months when your system is not operating at peak capacity.