Making Solar Affordable
Kathy of Foxboro, MA: Solar Electric
“We have an opportunity to help reduce the negative impacts of fossil fuels and climate change in a real, practical way. My friends and neighbors are grappling with high electric bills. After receiving quarterly SREC checks, the overall cost of our solar panels and installation is nominal when spread out over the life of the system.”
Kathy Bellisle and her family started looking into solar back in 2008. It just made sense to her and in particular, she liked how it would have such a positive impact on the environment. But financially, it was still a very rough go. That is until in 2015, some seven years later, when it all started to look doable and she and her family took the plunge into Massachusetts solar options for their home. While her initial environmental motivation was still first and foremost, solar’s ability to truly impact her electric bill and pay her back simply tipped the scales to make something the family could actually do.
“It dropped to zero within a few months of installing solar,” she said. “We have a net meter and accumulate credit on our electric bill that carries us through the winter months when our solar panels produce less electricity. Last year we had to cut down a tree that was damaged in a winter storm and our electricity surplus and credit on our account went even higher!”
As noted, Kathy did have concerns about whether solar was a good investment. She wondered if the solar system would produce the promised electricity and about the quality of the panels, installation, and warranties. Today she has no regrets about how solar has impacted her life.
“Knowing the impact we are having on the environment is paramount. In a little over five years, our solar array has produced 40.113 MWh. This is the equivalent of planting 470 trees according to our online solar monitoring software,” Kathy stated.
Kathy confidently said back at the start she also did the research to compare leasing and buying for Massachusetts solar since leasing had been popular at the time. That analysis helped her realize that with a lease option they would still have an electric bill. Buying was simply a better deal. “Between the federal and state tax breaks, rebates and dividends from the SREC program, the return on investment on the original system was very compelling,” she said.
Kathy’s lengthy research and success with solar also made her curious about how else she and her family could take further advantage of their solar system. Through the Mass Save program, they found they could get rebates and 0% heat loans on very useful additions to their home. This eventually led to her installing mini splits for heating and cooling.
“And now we’re about to install a solar battery so we will have a way to use our clean solar electricity at night or when the power goes out. We had been thinking about a generator for years but didn’t like any of the options available. But Mass Save just began a program called Connected Solutions that will make this financially possible for us,” Kathy excitedly said.
She continued saying: “We are working with New England Clean Energy to purchase and install a solar battery. By tying it to our solar system the federal investment tax credit will apply and that is worth 26% of the total cost of purchase and installation. And then there is the new Mass Save Connected Solutions program.”
The Mass Save Connected Solutions program is a project where the state works with the utility companies to help stabilize the electric grid during peak power demand by tapping into battery storage. In exchange, battery owners like Kathy will receive payment from their utility company every time they tap into their battery storage.
“If we choose to opt-in for every request, we have the potential to make approximately $3,800 over the 5-year contract given the capacity of our solar battery,” Kathy said.
While the end results are well worth it, Kathy did have to go through the important process of finding the right installer. She said she started seriously researching solar options in 2014, where she looked through numerous Massachusetts state websites. Kathy eventually came across a spreadsheet of all Massachusetts solar companies organized by town.
Kathy quickly added, “I looked into each solar company listed, read their websites, and checked reviews. Since we were buying our solar panels I was looking for a company that had done a number of installations and had also been in business for a while. This was a long-term investment and since our panels have a 20-year warranty we chose a company that would be there if we needed service or if we had any questions.” And fortunately, it’s been a good decision.
“As you can tell, I like to do research, and the people at New England Clean Energy have answered all my questions and been very responsive. The people that I met during our initial inquiry and proposal are still there and they are helping us determine the best solar battery option for us.”
And as for solar in general, Kathy said going solar was one of the best decisions that she and her family ever made. “We have an opportunity to help reduce the negative impacts of fossil fuels and climate change in a real, practical way. My friends and neighbors are grappling with high electric bills. After receiving quarterly SREC checks, the overall cost of our solar panels and installation is nominal when spread out over the life of the system.”
Kathy finished her story with a great piece of advice: “Do your research. Understand all the tax incentives, rebates, and warranties. New England Clean Energy did all the paperwork that I needed to submit, but it did take effort on my part to make sure we took advantage of all programs to make it worthwhile financially.”