The largest residential solar photovoltaic (PV) system in Central Massachusetts—and one of the largest in the state—is now finished and ready to generate clean energy in with its 180 solar panels. The ground-mounted, 45.9 kilowatt array was designed and installed by New England Clean Energy, which has installed over 300 solar power systems since it was founded seven years ago.
“The size of residential solar systems has been increasing steadily since we opened our doors—on average 30 percent a year since 2007,” said Mark Durrenberger, president of the Hudson-based solar company.
Durrenberger has noticed an annual increase in the average size of residential solar systems that New England Clean Energy installs—up 1.65 KW from 2012, for an average size of 7.8 KW. “Even though the Commonwealth Solar II rebate tops out at 5,000-watt (5 KW) systems, homeowners are installing larger systems to take advantage of the 30 percent federal tax credit on the system cost, and SREC income based on solar production,” Durrenberger said.
SRECs are Solar Renewable Energy Credits, tradable commodities that represent the clean energy that solar produces, where one credit is equal to a single megawatt-hour (MWh) of solar energy produced. Electric suppliers can purchase these credits to help meet their state’s renewable energy requirements (Renewable Portfolio Standard). Massachusetts has set the goal of reaching 400 MW of solar through its SREC program by 2017.
The New England Clean Energy customer (who prefers to remain anonymous) was compelled to install the ground-mounted system by current state and federal incentives, combined with a concern for environmental issues. “The system will cover the electrical needs for several properties, while also earning income through the sale of SRECs,” the Grafton, Mass. resident said.
To demonstrate how SRECs work in Massachusetts, Solar Power Rocks provides the following scenario:
"If you have a typical 5kw sized solar system on your Massachusetts roof, you’ll generate roughly 5 SRECs per year for the renewable electricity you produce. Now, if the utility companies do not hit their targets for solar electricity generation in a certain year, they now have to pay a fee of $600 per SREC for which they were short … Therefore, many utility companies would rather pay you, the homeowner, with solar panels on your roof less than this fee for your SRECs."
Solar energy has been growing by leaps and bounds throughout Massachusetts. Last year, $476 million was invested to install solar on homes and businesses throughout the state—representing a 210 percent increase over 2011, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
In fact, Massachusetts narrowly beat New York and Maryland for the #1 spot in the nation as the friendliest state for investing in a residential solar power system, as ranked by Solar Power Rocks in June.
“Residents and businesses of Massachusetts and the rest of the New England states are burdened with the highest electrical rates in the country,” writes Solar Power Rocks. “This has obviously provided an important reason to look for effective energy alternatives. Fortunately, solar power has received a good bit of legislative attention (and incentives), and Massachusetts’ leadership is encouraged to keep it in focus as they move forward.”