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Your Solar Rooftop, Now!

By Mike Jacobs

Solar energy is booming across Massachusetts, and indeed across the nation! . Approximately 5,000 U.S. homes per month are getting solar panels. It is time to take advantage of a lot of new renewable energy policy efforts. Homes, businesses and churches around Massachusetts are now prime locations for solar panels.

The boom in solar installations comes to Massachusetts because of Massachusetts’s policies supporting renewable energy; a Federal tax credit enacted in 2008; and decreasing cost of solar panels as worldwide manufacturing has expanded in recent years. Additionally, in Concord, efforts by Town bodies, the Municipal Light Plant and the Sustainable Energy Committee have made installing solar easier and more affordable.

The effect of the several town, state and federal policies presently make a better investment for us to generate electricity on our rooftops than to buy it from some remote, centralized facility that relies on fossil fuel. This is the logical local energy choice.

Massachusetts has a goal for solar of 250 MW, which would require more than 35,000 rooftop installations, though many installations are larger and on the ground, as seen at the Concord-MCI facility. Massachusetts is supporting solar with both a 10% tax credit and a market for Solar Renewable Energy Credits (an approach that pays for solar electricity as a means to meeting state renewable energy targets) as well as a purchasing partnership underway in nearby towns Lincoln, Sudbury and Wayland.

The opportunity to add locally produced solar energy is not just a carbon-free energy source; it is a really good deal. With the various local, state, and federal supports, the rooftop solar is a good investment. These are paying back their owners with interest. Solar companies suggest in Concord the annual return on investment could be over 12%, but they do not include the cost of removing some tree branches or any decision to re-shingle the roof earlier than necessary to accommodate the solar panels. Actual results may vary, and help thinking this through is available from Concord volunteers.

Concord continues efforts to encourage homeowners to add solar. Last year the Town of Concord’s Comprehensive Sustainable Energy Committee (CSEC) held a Solar Fair on February 4, 2012 at the Willard School. The Fair included solar photovoltaic (electricity) companies and solar thermal (hot water) companies. Brian Foulds, a Concord resident and solar enthusiast, gave a presentation of the investment returns on rooftop solar. Over 200 people attended and solar installed in Concord has more than doubled, with 32 homes and 5 non-residential installations.

Looking ahead, we have a variety of options for action. 1. We can help more homeowners go solar with a group purchasing effort. 2. We can support Town efforts to lease land for solar development. 3. We can organize a group effort to plant a “solar garden” which is analogous to a community garden, as was done in nearby Harvard, using the roof of a church or other non-profit, in Concord or elsewhere.

None of this would be possible without the constructive support of Concord Municipal Light Board. The Light Board has directed the Town Light Plant to implement a number of policies to help homeowners pay for solar panels and complete the safe connection to the electric system. The stage is set for us to provide electricity to ourselves.

Come, learn more, and participate in this month’s Sustainable Concord Coffee on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 7:30-9 am, at the Harvey Wheeler Community Center. A panel of local experts will kick off a discussion on solar for homes, to start an expected busy year of Concord solar events.

Come, learn more, and participate in this month’s Sustainable Concord Coffee on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 7:30-9 am, at the Harvey Wheeler Community Center. A panel of local experts will kick off a discussion on solar for homes, to start an expected busy year of Concord solar events.

Mike Jacobs is a Concord resident and a member of the ConcordCAN! Steering Group.

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