What is Solarize Plainfield, Ashfield & Buckland
Solarize PAB is run with the help of Solarize Mass, a state program that started in 2011 and has aided 46 communities to install 2,091 photovoltaic (PV) systems with 13,394 kilowatts of capacity. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) run Solarize Mass.
Solarize PAB is a group-purchasing agreement. Plainfield, Ashfield, and Buckland have partnered with Direct Energy Solar, to install PV systems on homes and businesses in the three towns. The group-purchasing lowers the price for everyone by up to 20% below the statewide average for PV installations.
Why Solar is Affordable
Have you noticed as you drive around that there are more and more solar panels on houses and in ever larger arrays mounted on the ground? There are important reasons for this that include a number of factors such as demand, cost of solar panels and legislation that combine to make it easier and more profitable to purchase and install these systems.
Let’s look at the cost factor
With most new technologies – like computers for example – the first systems are expensive to produce and limited in their capacity. The first computers filled large rooms, cost millions of dollars and produced fairly simplistic results albeit very fast. Today you can get faster and more complex results for a few hundred bucks on an iPad. Solar photovoltaic panels are no different.
The chart on the right shows the dramatic drop in price per watt from 1978 when solar PV was first introduced to today and into 2020. Notice also that the price is very close to the point where it will be equal to the cost of electricity generated using natural gas. When this happens it will be more cost effective to purchase solar generating equipment (panels, inverters, etc.) than to purchase electricity from the grid. Any changes in the price of electricity such as we have already seen will only bring that moment closer.
What is the influence from legislation?
As solar PV has gained recognition and acceptance, various Federal and state sponsored legislation and programs that have helped incentivized people and businesses, have come and gone. Some like cash rebates that served a purpose during these early stages have been phased out with low interest loans taking their place. An important piece of legislation, especially here in Massachusetts, is called Net-Metering and is designed to compensate solar electricity producers for the electricity that is going into the grid. Net-Metering was first established in Massachusetts in 1980 and was revised in 2008 to increase the allowable capacity (or size) of net metering facilities that use renewable resources to create energy from 60 kW to up to 2 MW, increase the value of the credits for electricity generated by these facilities from the wholesale rate to nearly the retail rate, and allowed net metering customers to allocate net metering credits to other customer accounts. These latter improvements have spurred a dramatic increase in solar installations. In addition to net metering, solar producers also receive SREC’s (Solar Renewable Energy Certificates) for every 1,000 killowatts of electricity produced that can be sold into the energy market.
Why demand is increasing
The above mentioned factors are driving demand to levels that were not anticipated and demonstrate not just their effectiveness but the reality that solar generated electricity is going to rapidly increase as a percentage of electricity generation. This trend will have an overall positive effect on electricity prices since solar does not have a fuel component subject to market influence.