When it comes to sunshine, Massachusetts will always lie second-best to other more southerly states such as California and Mexico. Nevertheless, the solar energy industry is thriving in the northern state. Massachusetts is undergoing something of an unlikely solar power boom, where only California has a more healthy solar market than does Massachusetts.
Ernst & Young, one of the top four accounting firms that track the alternative energy industry, reported that Massachusetts was the only northern state to join the top ten solar power generation states within North America. Michael Bernier, a senior manager at Ernst & Young, claimed that it’s not about the amount of sunshine. Rather, it is about setting up an environment in order to enhance renewable energy projects.
The combination of traditionally high energy costs in New England makes the implementation of photovoltaic systems more attractive for both homeowners and businesses alike. Further, solar panel prices are falling – over the past two years, prices have fallen 50 percent. And lastly, solar-friendly state policies encourage homeowners and businesses all the more.
Over the previous two year period, solar energy-generating capacity within Massachusetts has more than doubled, according to the Department of Energy Resources. 105 megawatts (MW) are currently produced, which is enough to power almost 16,000 homes.
Solar installation organizations within the state of Massachusetts have more than quadrupled within four years from 2007.
By 2017, the goal for the state as a whole is to install 250 MW of solar generating capacity, which should be enough to power almost 38,000 homes. As of August 2012, a total capacity of 129 MW had been installed, so progress is more than well underway.
Rebates averaging at about $2,000 per installation are available through programs like Commonwealth Solar, which is funded via a state energy fund to the tune of $1 million per quarter.
Further, solar renewable energy credits are being offered within a market set up within the state. This gives solar project owners the opportunity to sell solar power to plant operators and thus helps to reduce greenhouse gases, providing state regulations are met overall. In turn, this helps to
reduce solar power costs even more.
Despite less than optimal sunshine, these types of policies have helped to make solar power an economically competitive source of energy.
Moreover, federal grants for business owners offer subsidies of 30 percent on the cost of installing solar panels. 30 percent tax grants were available for installations which began prior to December 31, 2011. For any systems installed after that date, but prior to December 31, 2016, the grant becomes a 30 percent tax credit.
As for industry-wide solar installation, a recent report by The Solar Energy Industry Association and the market analysis business GTM Research showed that some 27.1 MW of solar energy-generating capacity was installed in the first half of this year (2012) in the state’s non-residential sector.