Co-op Power has partnered with two local solar companies to help homeowners bring down the cost of solar electric by as much as a dollar per installed watt through volume purchasing of panels and inverters. The more people who participate in these groups, the lower the prices will be for everyone.

On Tuesday, August 6 at 12:30pm, Jared Alvord of Sunbug Solar and Zach Swan of Northeast Solar joined Lynn Benander and other Co-op Power Staff to host a live lunchtime webinar at the Co-op Power office with question and answer to explain how the two programs work. Co-op Power is partnering with Sunbug Solar and the City of Medford in Eastern Massachusetts to secure low cost installations for residents of Medford. Co-op Power is partnering with Northeast Solar to secure low cost installations for people within a 50 mile radius of Hatfield in Western Massachusetts. Co-op Power is partnering with a dozen other installers across the state to give other Massachusetts residents access to affordable installations.
According to the Mass Clean Energy Center, the state-wide average cost per installed watt for residential solar electric was $4.85 during their most recent round of incentives. Both aggregation buying groups have several tiers where the price per watt drops. For Northeast Solar, if the buying group can purchase 50 kW installed, the price can be as low as $3.78 per watt. For SunBug solar in Medford, if 200 kW gets installed, the price can be as low as $3.69 per watt.
Zach and Jared showed how an average 5 kilowatt home solar electric system could cost approximately $7000 after incentives, tax credits and rebates. It could pay for itself in 4 to 7 years. Both Zach and Jared encouraged homeowners to finance and own their solar electric installations. The return on the investment is about 18% annualized over the 20 year life of the system.  “Why give that away?” they suggested. 

Customers will receive an additional 2% discount on systems purchased through the Northeast Solar buying group if they join Co-op Power or if they’re already a member.

Both advised potential solar electric buyers to look very carefully at power purchase/solar leasing agreements. In most cases the third party installer takes most of the income generated by the system and passes very little financial benefit on to the homeowner. The homeowner can be bound by contract to unfavorable terms over the course of the contract. Some contracts don’t allow the contract to be cancelled upon sale of the house. Some have electricity price escalators that may require the homeowner to pay 4-5% more each year for their electricity, which will likely require the consumer to pay way more for their electricity than they would have had to if they did nothing down the road.

This is historically a good time to invest in Solar Electricity because the State has demonstrated its commitment to supporting the price of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) by buying the SRECs left over at the end of last Friday’s auction for $300 per 1000 kilowatt hour. As the state requirements for utilities to purchase clean electricity increases, that additional demand will bolster the SREC market. Renewable Energy Credits were created by the federal government to create additional funding for renewable energy systems. With these credits, a clean energy system can sell the electricity to one buyer and the green “credits” associated with that clean energy to another buyer. Government entitles can then require utilities and other businesses that produce green house gas emissions to purchase those credits. With that additional flexibility, more funding was available to support the development of solar, wind, and other clean energy systems. In Massachusetts, the state has created a special market for Solar RECs, that can sell at a premium price.

Co-op Power has watched this state mandated market closely and has been requiring the solar installers in their network to now overpromise what the SRECs will sell for. Right now, because there are more SRECs available than the utilities are required to purchase, the price is low, and only was kept to the floor of $300 per 1000 kilowatt hours because the State stepped in. It’s an important piece of the puzzle, but not one consumers can count on 100%.

Other things about solar electricity that were discussed in the question and answer session. Sunbug and Northeast Solar put aesthetics, quality and local economy first. Both offer a variety of equipment choices but lead with American Choice brand solar electric panels, made in USA and distributed by MA based company. Both lead with Solectria inverters also made in MA. They both also offer panels that have a 25 year warrantee, but are more expensive. American Choice and Solectria have 10 yr product, 20 year product warranties. Both Northeast Solar and Sunbug guarantee their installation for 5 years.
Sunnyboy Inverters are now available which offer system users 1500w of power storage and the option to enable their system to provide limited electricity to their homes during blackouts. Without this inverter, systems do not provide electricity to homes during a power shortage so that electrical workers are not endangered as they work to repair lines.
Dust should not be an issue on systems in New England. Frequent rain and snowfall will take most dust accumulation off the panels.

MA residents installing a typical 5kW PV system at the highest tier will offset up to 60% of system costs by the end fo the first year depending on the equipment used, electrical use and income. 

Residential solar electric purchases are exempt from sales tax. Property tax on added value of solar system also exempt.
An average residential solar array prevents over 6600 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering our atmosphere per year.