Rooftop Solar

Over 280 homes, businesses, and municipal buildings in Milton now have solar photovoltaic systems (PV) systems and the number keeps growing. These are in effect private power plants, collectively generating renewable energy.

A Solar PV system provides free electricity long after you’ve paid for it. Systems can generate investment returns of greater than 15% with payback periods of 5 to 7 years. This means that you will have recovered the initial cost of your system through savings within 5-7 years and all the electricity produced is free for the remaining life of the panels, usually 25 or more years. On top of that, solar panels can increase the value of your home (here’s a way to make it count on the market).

Solar PV produces home-grown, safely-generated, clean electricity that contributes clean energy to the electric grid and reduces your CO2 emissions as well as nasty pollutants such as fine particulates, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and ozone. Every solar kWh means one less fossil fuel kWh. The electricity produced can be used to help charge electric cars and transition away from burning oil and natural gas by powering high-efficiency electric heat pumps for home heating and cooling.

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:

  1. Go to EnergySage , a clearing house for solar installers, to learn more about the solar installation process and solicit bids for your project - many installers will get back to you.
  2. Do you have a friend or neighbor with solar panels? Talk to them about their experience.
  3. Review the town’s solar checklist to understand the permitting process.
  4. Our partners at Green Newton recommend two installers: Boston Solar and Sunlight Solar
  5. Let us know how it went! Contact us or contribute a story under the “Testimonials" tab.

Why do we mention Boston Solar and Sunlight Solar? Sustainable Milton is not yet ready to endorse specific installers, but we are working on it! Our friends at Green Newton have received many endorsements about the quality of their equipment and installation and their exceptional customer service. Boston Solar has served Natick for a Mass Solarize campaign. Green Newton has worked with Sunlight Solar on their most recent solar campaign and were impressed with their low cost and quality service. Sustainable Milton does not receive money from these companies. Used them already? Used another installer? Let us know how they’re doing by leaving a Testimonial here!

Deep Dive

We strongly recommend that you consider going solar asap and cash in on the incentives:

Net metering: solar homeowners receive bill credits from their utility for the energy they are overproducing and sending back to the grid.

Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART): the State of Massachusetts pays utility customers a fixed rate per kilowatt hour (kWh) of solar energy produced for 10 years. For systems under 25 kilowatts (kW), the rate ranges from 19 to 31 cents per kWh, depending upon your location and utility. This is in addition to net metering credits. The state also provides higher incentive rates for low-income customers or those who install battery storage to pair with their solar panel system, making solar power more accessible to more customers in the state. 

The Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC)

Through at least 2025, the Inflation Reduction Act extends the Investment Tax Credit (ITC). Owners of new residential and commercial solar can deduct 30 percent of the cost of the system from their taxes. This applies only to those who buy their PV system outright, either with a cash purchase or solar loan). If you don't pay a lot of federal taxes, you can claim the credit over multiple years. There is no $ limit on the credit, and the cost of roof replacement or tree work related to the installation may be eligible for the tax credit as well. 

MA income tax credit of 15% coverage of the system cost, with a $1000 maximum credit amount. Also only for homeowners.

Sales tax and property tax incentives are two additional major Massachusetts tax exemptions for solar homeowners. Both of these tax breaks are attractive ones because they ensure 100% tax exemption from both sales and property tax payments which certainly add up over time.

Retirees or single earner families with lower incomes may qualify for Mass Solar Loan incentives and see even quicker payback.

FAQ

  • How does solar power work? 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. 

  • How do I know if my home is good for solar? 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.

  • What if my roof is old? Should I replace it before installing solar panels? 15 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.

  • Do I have to maintain my solar system? 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.

  • What happens when it snows? 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. Snow guards are available to protect people and plants under the panels.

  • What about critters? If you frequently see squirrels on your roof, you can add critter guards to prevent them from damaging your system wiring.

  • How do I get paid for the electricity my system sends to the electric grid? 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 you back at the end of the billing period. Instead, they will put those kwHs in reserve. You can use up that credit during the darker months, when you won't produce as 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 ask that off taker for $$, or donate it. More info here .

  • How big should my solar system be? Since selling excess electricity isn't that straightforward (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 electric car, or air-source heat pumps for heating and cooling.

  • What is the process of going solar? 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 National Grid will install a new meter and give you approval to power up your system.

  • What happens when the grid is down? If you're looking to keep powering your home when the grid is down, you'll have to add a backup battery system. Otherwise, if there is a power outage, your electricity generation will be disabled during the power outage.

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