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Solar Panels: They’re Not Just For City Hall Any More

August 23, 2012

The hook in this Boston Globe story is that “Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino…is installing solar panels on the roof of his home to help promote a state program that makes it cheaper for residents to go solar.”

But that’s not the news.  The news of the day—and the occasion for the mayor’s announcement—is “a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday for a major new solar farm installed at the Drydock Center in the Seaport District. The 2,068-panel rooftop system was installed by Broadway Renewable Strategies and is now the second-largest solar array in Boston.”

But that’s not the real news either.

Here’s the real news, down in paragraph 8:  “Last year, a typical home solar system cost $26,000, according to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. The figure is now closer to $21,000 and continues to drop.”  That’s about a 20% cost decrease in one year, and it’s because of “plummeting costs for equipment, aggressive government incentives, and financing from installers”.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is over halfway toward its 2017 goal of generating 250 megawatts from solar power installations at commercial and residential sites.  Part of that success is the state’s clever use of market incentives in its program design.

The state’s Solarize Mass program requires solar photovoltaic (PV) installers to “include a tiered pricing structure, whereby the installed cost of solar PV for all home or business owners investing in solar PV through the program declines as the amount of contracted capacity in each town increases…[thereby]…ensuring that cost savings achieved through scale are passed on to the customer, and provide an incentive for residents and business owners to encourage their neighbors to consider solar PV.”

That “stick” combined with the carrot of state and federal tax credits available to installers helps to create markets with incentives for both the installers and their residential and commercial customers to adopt clean energy technologies.

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From → City Life, Politics

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