Solar

Location, Location, Location!

Everyone can purchase solar electricity, but only certain sites are good locations for solar generation.  How do you know if your building or parcel is suitable for solar development?  The Department of Energy, Energy Sage, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources all offer great guides for evaluating the solar potential of your property as well as the resources to guide you as you move forward with a project. Most residents being approached by solar vendors have advantageous siting based on satellite views or their work in your neighborhood.  

Don't Underestimate the Value of your Trees

When considering solar, don't forget the trees offer a host of natural services on your property and are also vital to helping us reach our 2050 goals because they are needed to sequester carbon. Consider their age (mature trees offer more benefits at a greater rate, particularly carbon sequestration), species (native trees and some species provide more value to the food web and biodiversity than others), contribution toward lowering your heating and cooling bills (through shade and wind protection), and stormwater management and erosion control on your property (trees drink a lot of water and their roots hold a lot of soil) as well as the value of solar.  We can't replace mature trees or their carbon sequestration services prior to 2050. If you need to cut a lot of trees, or key mature trees to make solar work, visit the electricity tab to explore how to buy clean electricity instead and pursue other decarbonization efforts discussed in these pages.  If you do decide to cut your trees, learn about how to repopulate your landscape with native plants from this site as well. 

Ownership Rebates, Incentives and Return on Investment

In general a viable residential solar project should break even in 5-7  years and continue providing energy and dollar savings for at least 20 years, making solar a very good investment.  With rebates and incentives covering as much as 45% of the costs of a project, many solar owners have quicker and higher returns. The resources above should help you identify your generation options as well as  provide good information on rebates and incentives that may apply to you.  As of this writing (2023) the Inflation Reduction Act allows for up to a a 30% federal tax credit for solar projects and the Massachusetts offers an additional credit of up to $1,000. Rewiring America  offers this calculator for estimating Federal tax credits. 

Lease

In addition, if you property is suitable, you may consider a solar lease, where you lease your roof to a vendor who owns and maintains the solar production.  In this case, the owner of the solar panels claims the credits and incentives, but gives you a discount on electricity. Be careful to read the fine print about the restrictions on the use and future sale of your property if you choose to investigate a leasing option.

Solar 101 Neighbor to Neighbor Event with Westford Climate Action, January 18, 2024