Mass Energize

EnergySage

I want to make my own safe and clean electricity with solar photovoltaics



About this Action

Solar panels have become very popular home in Wayland and elsewhere. You can see them in practically every neighborhood. At the time of writing (March, 2018 ), over 190 homeowners had installed photovoltaic systems on their roofs and in their backyard. They have effectively built their own power-plants, generating well over 2,000,000 kilowatt-hours (kWhs) of electricity every year! That is home-grown, safely-generated, clean electricity.

Solar panels are so popular because prices have dramatically decreased over the past few years and incentives have remained high, a combination that makes solar a “no-brainer” as an investment. Systems on homes with good sunlight can generate investment returns of greater than 15% with payback periods of 4 to 6 years. After that it’s all positive cash flow as the panels generate power for 25 years or more. It's like a small 401(k) on your roof! 

Also, many homeowners like the idea of generating their own power, contributing clean energy to the electric grid, and reducing their CO2emissions. This power can be used to help them transition away from burning oil and natural gas by recharging their electric cars and installing high-efficiency heat pumps for home heating and cooling. On top of all that, solar panels  increase the value of your home (source here).

If you're looking to keep on generating your ownn power while the grid is down, you'll have to wait a little while longer, though that time is coming soon (it just needs an economic battery system). Until then, if there is a power cut, solar generation is automatically shut down for the safety of emergency personnel.

We strongly recommend that you consider going solar asap for the following reasons:

1. In the tax year in which you install your system you get a federal tax credit of 30% of the total cost of the system. There is no $ limit on the credit and the cost of roof repair/replacement under the new panels may be eligible for the tax credit too. This incentive is still live for 2019, but it is not clear how long that will last.

2. There is also a State of MA tax credit of 15%, up to $1,000.

But let's not lose sight of the environmental benefits! Every kWh generated by a solar system means one less kWh produced by burning coal, oil or natural gas. That’s a really good thing for the planet. Solar power avoids 1 lb. of CO2 emissions for every kWh produced so a 5 kW system avoids 5,000 lbs. of CO2 emissions every year. Not only does solar power decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and help keep the Earth cooler; it also makes cleaner air for us to breathe by avoiding nasty pollutants such as fine particulates, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and ozone. 

About our promotion of SolarFlair. In 2012 and again in 2017-2018 (until February 28), the towns of Wayland, Sudbury and Lincoln partnered with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center on Solarize PLUS (*). The selected vendor for PV, SolarFlair, was thoroughly vetted by Solarize volunteers, the municipality, and a consultant from the State. They have been great to work with, and their installation have been top-notch. For this reason, MassEnergize decided to continue working with SolarFlair after Solarize ended. But, of course, if you would like to get more estimates for your home, we can still advise you (MassEnergize receives no momey from SolarFlair) and put you in touch with other installers.

FAQ

Q: How does solar power work? A: Solar electric systems, also known as solar photovoltaics or solar PV, convert sunlight into electrical energy through an array of solar panels that connect to a building’s electrical system or directly to the electrical grid. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) has some good background information on this here.

Q: How do I know if my home is good for solar? A: You can view your roof on Google Maps (click on the Earth box and enter your address) to get a sense for its orientation and potential shading from trees. South-facing roofs with little shade are best, but east and west-facing roofs work well too as long as there is little shade. Ideal roofs have long expanses of open areas but panels can be placed on smaller areas as well. Any installer you contact should be able to tell you on the phone if your roof is a good candidate. Some installers only want to work on the best roofs, but ultimately let it be up to you to decide if you want solar or not. In Wayland we have homeowners who went ahead even though their roofs would have been declined by some installers.

Q: What if my roof is old? Should I replace it before installing solar panels? A: Fifteen years is about the dividing line between installing panels on the current roof and replacing the roof and then installing panels. If you install the panels on the existing roof, the panels will protect the part of the roof on which they are installed. You can have the panels taken off and reinstalled when you decide to re-roof. If you decide to re-roof before installing panels, you may be able to claim the 30% federal tax credit for the cost of the new roof under the panels.

Q: Do I have to maintain my solar system? A: Generally the panels will sit up on the roof out of sight and out of mind, powering your home, even on cloudy days. There are no maintenance contracts to buy and New England weather will keep the panels pretty clean.

Q: What happens when it snows? A: Snow will pile up on solar panels, but the sun’s energy soon melts the bottom layer next to the panels and the snow will come sliding down quickly with a big whump. Snow guards are available to protect people and plants under the panels, and if squirrels chew your system’s wires, you can have critter guards installed.

Q: How do I get paid for the electricity my system sends to the electric grid? A: On the days that your system makes more electricity than  you consume, your meter will run backward. This is called net-metering. If you underproduce/overconsume over the billing period , Everource or National Grid will charge you for the total amount of kWhs (kilowatt-hours) for the excess used kWhs at the full residential electricity rate. If your system has overproduced, Everource or National Grid will not pay yoou back at the end of the billig period, they will put those kwHs in reserve. You can use up that credit during the darker months, when you won't produce so much. If at the end of a full year you still have a credit, you can "Schedule Z" it to any other electricity user in your load-zone. You can aks that off taker for $$, or donate it. More info here.

Q: How big should my solar system be? A: Since sellinng excess electricity isn't that straightforwward (yet!), it makes sense to have a system that is properly “sized” just to cover your electric bill. However, you may decide to install a bigger solar system with future added electricity use in mind, like an eletric car, or air-source heat pumps for heating and cooling. 

Q: What is the process of going solar? A: Generally a solar installer will ask for a copy of your electric bill and will prepare a proposed layout and financial estimate based on that and your roof space. Some parts of your roof may get more sun than others; you can change the layout to meet your needs. Once you have approved the design and signed off on the financials, the solar installer will handle the installation, checking roof structural support, pulling permits, obtaining equipment and scheduling the work. It may be a month or two until installation. Actual installation usually takes 2 days – electrical work and roof racking on day 1 and panel installation on day 2. After building and electrical inspections, Eversource or ational Grid will install a new meter and give you approval to power up your system.

Steps to Take

Daunted by all the quotes and estimates, keeping it all straight in your mind, or just don't have time for all that? We hear you! Try these simple steps to make it much easier:

1. Consult a Solar Coach. A number of experienced Wayland residents have volunteered to serve as coaches to help fellow residents understand and get through the process of installing solar PV. Email Kaat Vander Straeten at [email protected] They will have tips and recommendations for you.

2. Go to EnergySage (here), which will help you put your bid "out there" - installers will get back to you.  

3. Let us know how it went! Email [email protected] or contribute a story here.

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