At the start of his administration, Governor Patrick set an ambitious goal of 250 MW of installed solar capacity by 2017. That goal was met in 2013, four years early. While numerous programs and initiatives contributed to reaching— and surpassing—the goal, the rapid solar growth in Massachusetts was in large part due to the Solar Carve-Out Program (SREC I). SREC I was a market-based incentive program to support residential, commercial, public and non-profit entities in developing new solar photovoltaic (PV) installations across the Commonwealth.
This April, the Commonwealth launched its second Solar Carve- Out Program, SREC II. Built on the success of the first solar carve-out program, SREC II is designed to continue to drive Massachusetts’ solar growth and particularly provide incentives for smaller solar projects, building mounted units, community shared solar, solar canopies, emergency power and low income housing. The program grants solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) for homeowners and businesses that install solar electric systems through a non-competitive application process.
The Commonwealth hopes and anticipates that SREC II will encourage more projects that do not use new land. These projects include building mounted units and solar canopies. Building mounted units, such as residential and community installations, allow solar energy to be generated without taking up additional land. Solar canopies are exciting projects because they produce clean energy while preserving the functional use of land. In many cases, solar canopies are built above parking lots, so the land is simultaneously used as a parking lot and as a space to generate on site solar power. These projects are especially important because systems where the energy is used on site are the most energy efficient and take less from the grid.
SRECs are a strong incentive to go solar and make these kinds of projects more affordable. They provide the opportunity for solar owners to generate income from their installation and reduce its cost. Solar owners’ receive a certain number of SRECs, dependent upon the type of system, for every megawatt hour of energy their system produces. To facilitate more of the kinds of projects mentioned above, SREC II offers higher incentives to any projects 25 KW and under, (designated as part of “Market Sector A”). The division of projects into different market sectors in order to segment incentives based on project type is a new component of the SREC program.
Higher incentives for residential solar projects are helping correct the common misconception that solar is too expensive. Over the past two years, the number of residential systems has already seen a huge increase. In 2012, 2402 residential facilities were installed. In 2013, that number more than doubled, reaching 4987 installations over the two year period.
In fact, there are a number of ways to make solar more affordable. Along with SRECS, the state offers various rebates, tax credits and tax exemptions that offset costs. In addition, there is a Federal Tax Credit for 30 percent of system costs, a Personal Income Tax Credit and a Property Tax Exemption. If a homeowner decides to use a third party ownership model where they do not own the system outright, they can buy the electricity from their contractor – at a price lower than utilities’ retail rate – through a power purchase agreement.
There are many ways to use solar power and SREC II is making it more practical than ever to install new solar systems to reap both the environmental and economic benefits this clean energy brings. DOER is now accepting Statement of Qualification applications for SREC II eligible projects.
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