townhome in Odenton. Before deciding to go with MSSI, we considered other solar companies with an alternate business model, resisting the “halo effect” of a big name drop (Elon Musk) accompanying one lease model. Several companies we approached at home shows would not even consider installing smaller arrays within AA County, because it did not make good business sense *for them* given their leasing models. We must say: the purchase of high-quality solar panels (with a 25 year performance warranty) outright from MSSI made the most business sense *for us*; in addition to enhancing our property’s value as an asset, we retained the 30% federal tax credit; the Maryland Clean Energy Grant; Anne Arundel County property tax credit; Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs), and substantial summertime electricity savings. An added bonus has been BGE’s annual net meter “zero out”, when BGE performs a true-up of net negative/excess balances, converting the amount of net excess energy balance into a dollar value; on 5 April 2016, we received a check credit totaling $37.94. On 6 April 2017, we received a credit in the form of a check for $84.49. Some business models bundle roof replacement with solar panel installation; while we replaced our roof prior to solar panel installation, we contracted this work through a separate company, which MSSI had not recommended. Consumers who go with the “no money up front” options unwittingly forfeit these incentives, becoming essentially cash cows for the companies with which they sign leases, and will only realize their folly when 1) the low-quality panels cease to function optimally, but they still have to pay, or 2) the long-term lease is not conveyable upon sale of a property, creating a property liability. ... (more)
We had in-home consultations with two other companies before MSSI. From the outset, the owner treated us with courtesy and respect. Given several experiences of being treated as “lesser than” based on the prejudice of appearance alone, it was refreshing to work with MSSI; and we appreciated the opportunity to develop a rapport, finding salient points of commonality despite our outward differences. MSSI exceeded expectations not just on an interpersonal level, but on a professional one, as well. The solar array installation proposals from the other two companies utilized outdated, obsolete and unreliable solar equipment, and seemed slipshod, amateurish, inelegant and visually unappealing compared to the MSSI proposal. While on site, the owner of MSSI (a solar panel subject-matter expert in her own right) was the only one to inspect the attic space, which resulted in expansion of the initial 15-panel array proposal into an 18-panel one. The MSSI owner patiently and articulately made the MSSI business case, as we reviewed the proposals received from other companies, and asked the questions to which we required answers before making our final decision. While Ohio-based YellowLite had the same purchase outright business model, MSSI being based within the D.C.-Maryland area was a factor in our decision, as the impressive MSSI staff (not just the owner) was knowledgeable about the incentives available in various Maryland counties, and was able to achieve economies of scale, providing turn-key concierge service, taking the burden of applying for permits; local grants, and interconnection off of us as the homeowners. We also appreciated the MSSI owner being on-site the first day of the installation for seamless, consistent hand-off from the initial experience to the presence of the installation crew in the home. The crew was as professional and respectful as when the owner of MSSI first stepped into our home. As homeowners who work full-time, it was a relief to know we would not be acting as de facto general contractors. All we had to do was tape the construction permits to the window, as the MSSI staff was actively involved, attending to all matters related to the solar panel array installation, before, during, and after.
We made the best decision we could, based upon the information we had in 2015. Upon retrospect, the only pressure we experienced was from the 30% federal tax credit that was set to expire in 2015. It was our understanding the newest panel, the WINAICO WSP-305M6, was not available until February 2016. Had we waited until the availability of the more expensive 305M6 modules, we could have missed out on the federal tax credit, for which the U.S. Senate ultimately passed an extension on 18 December 2015. As a result, we went with the 300M6 modules which were available, as quoted within the MSSI proposal we had. We suspect other homeowners may have rescheduled their installations for 2016, while we felt obligated to have our installation move from 29 December, up to 22 December. As things stood, we recouped the majority of the 30% federal tax credit for the year 2015, only receiving an $88 carry-over tax credit for 2016 (so, we could have waited for installation until 2016). Another selling point which has not lived up to expectation has been the Maryland SRECs. The initial projections MSSI provided assumed a thriving market for Maryland SRECs. The market for Maryland SRECs, however, went through a downturn in 2016, a state of affairs which MSSI candidly addressed in a 15 October 2016 email. We have been unable to sell any SRECs yet, and are not close enough to D.C. to sell our SRECs for $490 per on the D.C. SRECs market. With respect to SREC accrual, we notice disparities in the SRECs reflected on the inverter unit (now at 10.398 (1 unit = 1,000 kwh), as of 6/2017); the SolarEdge application (lifetime now at 10.4 (1 unit = 1,000 kwh)) while the PJM-GATS system estimate lags behind at 8 kWh (1 unit = 1,000 kwh), as of 4/2017. Once PJM-GATS creates certificates for May and June we (finally) hope to negotiate the PJM-GATS system, taking our first meager 10 SRECs to market, and selling them for an appreciable sum.
Notwithstanding the 20/20 hindsight of our 2015 decision, we concur with everyone else that MSSI deserves the highest ratings possible. The “purchase outright” business model remains a solid investment, compared to the “lease buy-back” or “bundled roof and solar array” business models. Assuming commitment to “purchase outright,” if federal, state, and local incentives extend out in concentric circles, the 30% federal tax credit; Maryland Clean Energy Grant, and Anne Arundel property tax credit are the most immediate, with long-term electricity savings being next, and finally the issue of Maryland SRECs (and the confusing PJM-GATS system) arguably located the furthest out, the rise or fall of Maryland SRECs (and low user friendliness of PJM-GATS) never being within MSSI’s control. Between 2015 and 2016, or the 300M6 and 305M6 modules, we may very well be splitting hairs on what amounts to a “first world” problem.
If we had to do it over again, we would still contract with MSSI for solar panel array installation. We will keep MSSI in mind, as we may have the need to install another solar panel array at some point in the future. We wish everyone at MSSI (the owner, office staff, and installation crew) the nothing but the best; their knowledgeable design; quality workmanship, and follow-on aftercare continue to reap dividends.
Type: Residential Electric